Ray at home in Noosa. Photos: JB
At Gordon Woods Surfboards in 1960.
First Point on his ten-foot three-stringer - always in perfect trim.
12 June 18
One of the grand men of Australian surfing, Ray McKeon was very possibly the first Australian to ride a finned “malibu” styled surfboard – although he’d never make such a claim himself. Big-noting just wasn’t Ray’s style.
Affectionately nicknamed “The Admiral” for his many years as a merchant seaman, Ray was one of south-side Sydney’s classiest young “toothpick” riders through the late 1940s and early ’50s, who really began to stand out as a stylish surfer with the arrival of the malibus Down Under in 1956. Ray had a head start after all.
As a seaman en route to the US, Ray was a regular visitor to Hawaii - his first time being when he was just 15 and serving on a troop ship in WW II (he’d bumped his age a couple of years to sign on) - and had his first rides on finned balsa ten-footers on Oahu’s South Shore around 1953. “I absolutely loved them, but I couldn’t bring one home back then as I didn’t have the dough.”
Moving to Sydney’s northern beaches around ’58, Ray worked as a sander in Gordon Woods’ new factory in Brookvale during his downtime between berths on ships and was among the first crew to regularly surf the breaks along the peninsula.
Ray and his gracious wife Joan retired to Noosa in the early ’90s and for many years The Admiral graced First Point. He was often first out at first light and was forever smooth on his 10’0” Mick Dooley three-stringer . . . and everyone paddled up to Ray to have a chat, he was such good company.
To know Ray was to admire him. He was a genuinely gentle and sunny person with a ready smile and a good word for everyone.
An old-school gent of the best kind, he will be missed by many. RIP Admiral
- words and photos by John Brasen
There will be a paddle-out this Saturday June 16 at 7am at First Point to celebrate Ray's life. Ray's family and friends would like to invite everyone along to catch a wave and say farewell.