An insider’s look into the surfing scene near Perth

There’s nothing more relaxing than getting out on the ocean in Mandurah

Local surfer Ian ‘Wooly’ Macpherson wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s been surfing in Mandurah since he was a little tacker. If he’s not chasing the best break, he’s teaching others how to surf, coaching aspiring pro surfers and sharing tips on land at his surf shop – Star Surf + Skate.

Sure, the South West is known for its surf, but Mandurah has loads of popular surfing spots to rival, making it a perfect day trip for Perth surfers. And the best time to hit the surf is now! Wooly says ideal surf conditions occur between autumn and spring the best time due to large storms bringing swells to the WA coast.

We checked in with the local surfing legend to discover more about the Mandurah surfing scene and why we should all pick up a board and learn to surf.

How did you get into surfing?

I started surfing when I was around 9 or 10 years old at Avalon Bay. My parents’ property was a small stroll from Avalon and my mum was a swimmer, so we spent a lot of time at the beach during the 70s and 80s.

I started off on a ‘foamie’ – a small coolite surfboard made of polystyrene beaded-foam. I remember painting it with house paint so I wouldn’t get a rash. I soon progressed to a second-hand fibreglass ‘single fin’ board and found myself learning at the little rolling lefts of Falcon Bay.

When I was 12 years old, I joined the Mandurah Board Riders Club and I’ve been a member pretty much ever since.

What’s your favourite surfing spot in Mandurah?

Surfing scene near perth

My favourite spot is Gearies – named after a City Beach surfer, Ray Geary. He built a shack there and at 80 years of age, he still lives there today!

Gearies a wave that doesn’t break very often and needs a big swell to start to work properly. It gets very crowded with keen surfers these days, but I have very fond memories of days out there as a teenager surfing with just a few mates.

Tell us a bit about the Mandurah surfing scene

Mandurah has a great surfing community. According to veteran surfboard manufacturer Len Dibben, Perth surfers have been surfing in Mandurah since the 1950s.

The local surf club has been running since 1978 and I’m super privileged to be the first life member of the club.

Each surf break has its own custodians that ‘protect’ the break. I find that most breaks have pretty good order compared to some locations in the world that are a complete circus!

Mandurah has also produced many WA state champions and even a few surfers have gone on to surf in pro events, Chris Fullston and myself included.

Do you have any surfing comps in Mandurah?

Mandurah Board Riders runs a junior series over the summer months and a senior series over the winter. Surfing WA also runs a few state and national events in the City of Mandurah each year.

Why do you love to surf?

Surfing has made up a massive part of my life and has moulded me into the person I am today.

All the places I have travelled evolve around the surf and most of my work has been in and around the surf industry since I was a teen. The feeling of being submerged in the ocean, riding waves is unmatched anywhere in any other sport.

Mandurah has been good to me growing up and having the beach on my doorstep. The local community has been very supportive of my surf school and surf shop since we started.

Why should everyone learn to surf?

surf school near perth

Surfing is all about fun. Surfing increases your fitness, strength, balance and flexibility (we stretch before every class). Spending time in and around the ocean positively impacts your health and the more you do it, the more your confidence in the ocean increases.

What kind of surf lessons do you run?

surf school mandurah

Mandurah Surf Lessons runs surfing and stand up paddleboard (SUP) lessons for all ages. We always have around 6 fully qualified coaches on the roster and most of them work at Star Surf + Skate too.

Our SurfGroms program aimed at 5 to 12 year olds is a national program that makes up a big part of our weekend programs. We teach kids to understand how the ocean behaves and how to be safe while learning to surf. We also include some basics of first aid.

Beyond Waves is a female class we run for girls aged 13 years through to adults. It incorporates some mild yoga and stretches. We also socialise afterwards with a cuppa.

For surfers who are looking to improve their skills, we run a range of Intermediate (Frothers) and advanced (High Performance) clinics. I’m one of the Surfing WA elite state coaches, and we’ve developed a range of programs for surfers competing at a state and national level.

We also run beginner classes for teens and adults, which can be booked as a one-off class or across four sessions.

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Ian owns a true core surf store in Mandurah called Star Surf + Skate. It’s been in the same building along Mandurah terrace since 1998.

Star won the Surf & Boardsports Industry Association (SBIA) Single Door Best Shop in Australia award in 2019, which hasn’t been won by any other surf shop in WA since the awards began.

Ready to hit the surf? Give it a go in Mandurah!


Images by Dylan James O’Brien except for hero image by Bruce Ellis.

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