HAVING A DIG
When I was 4 years old my love affair with the surf began. As I was walking out the front gate of our house with my dad a white station wagon drove past loaded with what I thought looked like jets.
"What are those Dad?"
"Surfboards, little mate"
Whatever they were, I thought to myself, I want a bit of that.
Not long after, as this was 1959, I saw the first images of Waimea, in the paper and on the telly, and I looked on, as everyone, did, in awe at the madness and bravery of those big wave pioneers.
I also made a promise to myself to do that one day.
The barriers were many.
I lived in near waveless Adelaide, but did live near the beach, so was blessed with early familiarity with the water. There I taught myself to swim, and even invented my own version of underwater rock running as I didn't have fins. On busy beach days, I'd dive to the bottom, and, as I was little, I'd pick up a rock and run around everyone's legs.
We moved to another waveless city, Melbourne, when I was ten, but luckily, we lived across the road from Port Phillip Bay, which had 3 foot wind chop if a southerly hit 50 knots, so there I learned to body, and later board surf (once I'd earned enough to buy my first board at 15).
I also paddled, dove, spearfished and generally gained a lot of water skills without really realising it.
Around that time neighbours moved in who did surf, and the eldest of them had a drivers licence.
I could finally get to the coast on weekends. Real swells were a revelation, but I was always doomed to be a weekend surfer. When I hit it, I hit it big time and made the most of the little time I had.
Once I got my own licence it was on for young and old, and began searching waves up and down the Victorian coast.
It's a coastline not short of swell and I was able, in a shortish amount of time, to get access to bigger and bigger waves so that, by the time I was 19 or 20, I'd surfed waves of up to maybe 12ft at Bells, Winki, Cape Schanck and began venturing tentatively "down south".
At 24 I went to France, Spain and Portugal, scored epic waves, and had a short taste of Hawaii on the way home. I'd had a taste, and wanted to go back.
It took another ten years, with trips to Morocco, Europe again, and Indonesia before I returned to the North Shore for a five week hit, with my wife Sue, in 1988.
I'll put my hand up right now and say I survived it more than performed, and I've fond memories of being plastered all over the bottom at Haleiwa at close out size with Avalanche rolling through to the Haleiwa peak, nearly getting knocked out as the lip drove me into my board attempting a late take off at 8 foot Jocko's, getting dragged what seemed like the whole distance from outside Sunset to Val's reef, underwater, snapping my favourite board at Gaschambers, and generally getting pasting after pasting with just enough good waves mixed in with the beltings to keep me coming back for more.
But one thing has and will forever rest in my Alzheimer's addled brain when the days to reflect on times past comes.
I surfed Waimea not once, not twice, but thrice on that trip, and even had the honour of being shown the lineup by none other than Keone Downing and James Jones after I paddled straight past them on my first surf out there, sat inside the boil, got totally launched, smacked, and belted and paddled back for more. They called me over, we got chatting, and they told me where to sit.
Making my first wave out there was bliss, but the highlight was a few days later, with the swell over 20', when I was dropped in on by Ken Bradshaw. I made it, Ken glared at me, and I've had a smile about that wave for the last eighteen years.
I managed another trip a couple of years later, had a couple more surfs out there, generally started to feel more comfortable, and then the kids arrived.
Haven't been back since, but I still like to have a dig, still get belted, still love what I see when the waves shake the water.
Have a dig, everyone. It's worth the memories.
Waimea, just before paddling out on one of those sessions..1988