A memoir by Katy Edwards
It was one of the first bikinis to be created and sold on the Gold Coast and yes, it was a yellow and white polka dot bikini, just like in the song.
As a swim-wear fashion model I’d scored it at wholesale price after a parade job at Surfers. Worn with a golden tan, it really looked great. But believe it or not, I was rather shy about wearing it in public – I mean it showed off a whole lot of skin and was extremely daring for a seventeen year old in nineteen sixty-one.
The day was perfect and the boat-load of young holiday-makers from the Coolangatta Beach Houses was in fine form. We’d barbecued at Tipplers on South Stradbroke Island, had hiked and swum, flirted and sunbaked some more – with baby oil of course to make the skin bubble and boil. Then, tired and happy at dusk boarded the boat to cruise back through the bay to the Gold Coast.
The final adventure for the day was “Boom-netting” behind the boat. This meant hanging on to a net mesh sling contraption that was attached to the back of the boat and wallowing in the wash with a few others. The boat stopped frequently to allow one to climb back on board and be replaced by the next group waiting eagerly for their turn. Great fun and not done any more, for rather obvious reasons.
I really needed to catch the last of the suns rays and boost this tan though, for in those days we literally cooked ourselves to a crispy brown oblivious to the damage we were incurring for the future. The boat stopped and started, stopped and started over and over again, giving everyone a turn.
Then it was my turn. It never occurred that this was a highly dangerous exercise. Workplace Health and Safety would be horrified! Very few were watching as I carefully descended into the water. Most were exhausted and sleepy after the day’s excitement, resting up for the night’s disco raging ahead. This suited me fine.
I hung on tight to the thick ropes, exhilarated by the frothy wake and the cool rushing water. But the force of the wash caught me unawares. It was so strong. I gripped the ropes with both hands. Two others lay wallowing in the boom net, enjoying the experience, laughing and rolling around. We passed the area that is now Sanctuary Cove, heading south. The water was deep and turning from rich blue to black as the sun settled down on the horizon.
Suddenly the captain, (if he could be called that) put on a burst of speed, having lost time from continually stopping and starting. It was then that I looked up to see, not one, but everyone – about forty guys and girls crowding above me on the stern pointing, laughing and yahooing. What was up? No! What was down?!
My itsy,bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polka dot bikini bottoms were down and around my ankles!
Shrieks of mirth from the boat. Rush of hot embarrassment, unnoticeable no doubt as I was already lobster red from sunburn. How stark white my stripe of untanned butt must have appeared.
Twisting around I grabbed the disappearing strip of cloth with one hand and in doing so released a white and interesting piece of anatomy from my bra cup. “Help!” No-one wanted to help. “Stop the boat!” I pleaded over and over again. But the driver was unrepentant. There was no way he was going to stop again. Thank God these were the days before videos and mobile phones.
We were now in the Nerang and crossing the mouth of the bar. I was cold and I was hot. I was scared and embarrassed. I wanted to vanish into oblivion – but the game was too much fun for the spectators.
Then, “Shark!” someone yelled. Fear rushed over me. My fellow swimmers took off at top speed and scrambled aboard with the help of many hands. I stayed, frozen with fear in the cold water, hoping the froth was covering my never-seen-before regions. On and on we ploughed, the enthusiasm of the crowd unabating. “Climb on board,” the guys were shouting.
“Shark” someone else kept yelling. Knowing the machinations of the male mind I didn’t really believe the shark alarm. In retrospect it could have been valid and I would have been in serious trouble. As it was, embarrassment was my total concern. NB – these were the days before nudity was the norm.
The last half hour of this ordeal has faded from memory, as tends to be the case with life’s most horrendous experiences. I do remember, though, the relief as the craft berthed at the Labrador jetty and I was able to loosen my vice grip on the ropes and haul my undies to their proper position. Towels had been thrown down and welcome hands, mainly female, helped haul my exhausted bod back up on board.
I never wore a bikini again, except for on the cat-walk, in all my life!