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Steve Cooney becoming acquainted with Uluwatu many mornings ago. photo: Albe Falzon

Steve Cooney: Flashback to First Session at Ulus, 50 years ago

From Tracks November 1971 issue.

Many of us are eagerly following the travel updates to determine when we will be able to return to Bali. The distinctive scent of clove cigarettes, the tropical swelter and the sparkling lines of the Bukit Peninsular will overwhelm the senses when we land on The Island of The Gods. Imagine what it felt like for a 15-year-old Steve Cooney when he arrived half a century ago. Cooney was the wunderkind who travelled with Albe Falzon, Rusty Miller and David Elfick to shoot the fabled Bali section of ‘Morning of the Earth’. Below is the reflection on the trip that Cooney wrote when he returned from Bali. It appeared in the November 1971 issue of Tracks.

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For the untold stories about the making of ‘Morning of The Earth’ check out the current issue of Tracks. Also check out the meticulously curated coffee-table book and remastered film, which both celebrate 50 years of MOTE. Keep an eye out for updates on big-screen showings of the 4k remastered ‘Morning of The Earth’.

Steve Cooney’s original Tracks story. Note: The two questions at the bottom of the story were part of the original article from Tracks Nov’ 1971.       

As soon as you got there and unpacked your gear and sat down for a minute and looked around, you started to slow down. You’d kind of sit back and just be really pleased with yourself just doing nothing and it was really good.

It was just unbelievable. Nobody had surfed there before. You had to walk through all these places. The first time we went there, all the old natives showed us the way, it was really funny.

We arrived at this place, you know, we caught these little beamos out for three miles, no it was more than that, about six miles, and then we got off these little tracks and the guys were all stoked ‘coz we gave them money, you know, and everything like that – it was just incredible, and we had a coconut kid … a guy who used to carry our  coconuts … But the only time we ever took him to carry our coconuts, he said he had to go back ‘coz he had to go to the temple before we reached the place, so we had to carry them ourselves. We got off the beamos and walked about two miles through these little tracks and things and you come to it, and you’re looking down about 150ft straight at the waves, you know.

Rusty Miller and Steve Cooney on the edge of the Uluwatu reef and the frontier of surfing history. Photo: Albe Falzon

When we got there it was high tide and the waves were hitting up against the cliff and I thought – oh no, we’ve blown it, you know, because it’s not looking really good. So we went down through all this incredible bush, you know. If you touched the bush it kind of stuck to you – it’s kind of all prickly stuff, and we got to this track that kind of goes down a hole in the ground. It was all kind of rocky, you know that sharp barnacle rock. We climbed down this hole and into this really giant cave with sand on the bottom, and we went out and it wasn’t really good because it was really sloppy. So we just waited for a few hours till the tide went out and then the waves were about six or eight-foot and so hollow – incredible. We were just surfing with the turtles.

The locals used to come crowd around. They’re like little children. They really just dig doing things in a fun way. When we were out surfing – because they’d never seen a surfboard before – when we caught a wave they’d all cheer and stand up on the hill. They’d all cheer until we finished our wave and when we pulled off they’d stop cheering and wait for someone else to catch a wave. It was just incredible. After we’d been there awhile, they started to get on to selling things. They used to bring us sweet potatoes, melons, and things, and we used to have to give them bread for them.

Do you really like travelling?

Yeah. And I’d like to come back.

Do you think the adventure of surfing trips is the best thing about surfing?

No. I think that just surfing is the best thing about surfing. You know what I mean. Just riding the waves.


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