Life Threads – Surfing & The Ocean Final

I took this photo the day after we moved into our house in June 2011 and it captures so much of what Yanchep has been for us. The kids looking out to a rainbow over the ocean – a little bit of wonderment and awe and some symbolism of a fresh start. Its been all that and more.

That said, if you told me 10 years ago that we would be one day living in Yanchep I think I would have laughed. Yanchep?… Does anyone actually live there?!

It just felt so far away – from everything – but then we did it. We bought a house and moved. We didn’t know much about the local community, but we did know that we loved the beach and from the upper level of our home we could see the ocean – not panoramic ocean views but enough to say ‘hmmm nice…’ I had never lived in a home with actual ocean views before and with such proximity to the water, so this was a whole new experience.

Now each morning I could look out and see the ocean – see waves – chop – flat blue water, white water on the reefs – but what I discovered is that being able to actually see it makes all the difference. You see we lived in Butler for 9 years, just a couple of kms from water, but we didn’t go there a heap. It was out of sight out of mind a lot of the time.

The Lagoon – a daily drive by

One of the things I committed to from the day we moved in was doing ‘ocean drive bys’ on our way into Yanchep and on the way out. You can go a slightly shorter route to & from our home thru the back streets, but even when I’m running late I still do the ‘lagoon drive by’ either in or out.  It is enriching to the soul every time – just to see the ocean in all her various moods – calm and placid, raging and wild, it doesn’t matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s me on ‘big Mal’ with Brett, Mark & Cal on one of the best days of 2017 (Photo Corey Kirwen)

Coming to Yanchep was a chance to really get surfing again. I knew there were waves up here, but didn’t realise just how many good spots there were. There are the two well known breaks, (yeah… those ones…)  but also a couple of lesser known but equally fun waves on their day. My favourite is just a short walk from home and when its good – its very good. And when you drive past every single day you are generally in a position to not miss out. Even though I’m well past 50 now, I’ve probably been surfing more than ever – proximity to water – friends in the area – and a pretty quiet winter with work meant I got wet more often that ever before.

As well as great waves, there are a great local crew. I’ve enjoyed living somewhere you can actually get to know the guys in the water. Some days when the surf has been average I have paddled out anyway because I have seen the cars in the carpark and realised who is out there. Sam gets to surf around older blokes who encourage him and push him – and sometimes give him lifts home.  Its a great vibe.

Sambo learning to surf at Club Cap

In our first years in Yanchep we were still homeschooling, so we would take the kids down to the old Club Capricorn to teach them surfing. I never pushed Sam into surfing, but fortunately he’s taken to it, so we get to do something we both love together. That’s a cool thing! Now he spends many afternoons down at the beach getting home just after dark and usually forgetting that its dinner time… but that’s fine with me.

At the start of 2017 – Jan 1 to be precise – I launched into a new experiment. I began taking daily photos of the beach and set up an Instagram / Facebook page called ‘yanchepbeaches365‘. This meant I now took the time every single day to observe the ocean more carefully each day – to be there – to notice and to share it with others. The simple act of being present at the beach every single day has been a really valuable practice both for enjoying it, but also meeting more people in the area. What began purely as a personal experiment has enabled me to enjoy the ocean in a new way and also make friends – ironically social media has connected me with the people in my community rather than keeping us isolated…

Occasionally we ponder the whole ‘moving house’ thing, but then we ask ‘to where?’ It feels like we have found paradise. Last year we considered moving back to Quinns Rocks to allow the kids to be closer to school and to minimise the drive time, but the overwhelming decision after weighing things up was ‘we’d all rather do the drive and live in Yanchep than come back to suburbia.’

Medewi

This was also the year of my first overseas surf adventure since the Philippines back in 1989. Danelle took a team to the Bali Orphanages we are involved with while I headed off to Medewi for some time alone and hopefully some good waves. I was a bit nervous going on my own to a new break and just launching in, but Medewi is a very easy, friendly wave so it turned out to be a lot of fun and very easy to manage. Danelle and the kids joined me after 4 or 5 days and hung out for another 4 days and we all had a great time.

So this our life now. I remember travelling thru the Philippines a long time ago and up into Bagiouo where we met the ‘mountain people’ – people whose lives were based around their physical location. Living by the beach and having it as an integral part of our everyday experience. I never thought I’d be here as a 10 year old Irish kid obsessed with soccer, but 40 years of getting wet and enjoying the natural environment of the ocean has made us ‘ocean people’. Its just who we are now and I doubt that will ever change.

Life Threads – Surfing & The Ocean IV

From the hills we moved to Butler in 2003 and suddenly we were within 3kms of the coast yet again. Surfing began to happen with greater frequency and knowing the ‘Alkimos’ was directly offshore I felt it was time to buy a boat (as you do…) in order to get to some of those less crowded waves…

I began with the ‘Queen Mary’ – a tiny 12 ft fibreglass dinghy that lasted 6 months, moved to a 15ft half cab with a dodgy hull that almost sank but was sold on eBay as scrap, and ended up with a sensational 17ft runabout (see pic)  that gave us lots of good times. The Alkimos (name of an old shipwreck with a reef nearby) was- 2kms off the beach – and we did have some great waves in those years (along with many ‘near miss’ boat stories…)

In that time I also had a go at fishing, snorkelling and scuba, but none of them grabbed my heart like surfing did. By this point in life though I was becoming aware it wasn’t just surfing that I was into – it was the ocean. There was something magnetic about the sea that I just couldn’t escape.

I dunno where you meet God, but I have realised that he seems to show up pretty regularly at the beach. I think he likes it too.  In my early years the beach was a place I went to surf – and if there were no waves I would come home. In my 30’s and 40’s the beach was taking on a new significance and I would often just go there and sit… and hang out… a spiritual place.

We lived near Quinns Beach where there were no waves of any significance but I still found myself often at the beach enjoying something I couldn’t articulate. I knew that when I got stressed or tetchy I just needed to go and ‘get wet’ and the world would look different.

It was generally the Alkimos or the odd trip to the Spot where we got waves during this period. I loved the trips to Alkimos, but it was a fickle wave and too much wind could really screw the whole thing up. That and it being a half day event to launch a boat, surf and then clean up took the shine off it a bit. The Spot was busy and it was difficult to find an uncrowded wave so I never really took to it. In the end as life got busier, the boat got used less and less and inevitably cost more and more, so it was sold and replaced with a camper trailer that would be our home for 6 months as we travelled Oz.

Heading North

I reckon its every surfer’s dream – to hitch up a caravan and go surfing around the country for an extended time. We had just paid off the mortgage and were debt free with some money in the bank, so this was the opportune time to do a trip of this nature. In April 2009 we hit the road with a Jayco camper-trailer in tow and a 7ft mini mal strapped to the roof. While it wasn’t a surf holiday, I will confess that the old GQ Patrol did seem to have an inner urge to travel down any dirt track that looked like it could spawn good waves. We took off North and scored a few waves in Exmouth, even a few in Broome, before a long drive thru the NT and far north Queensland saw us not surfing until we arrived in the Gold Coast.

Lennox Head

Pambula – and no one else in sight

From there on we found waves all down the NSW coast, often empty or uncrowded and generally pretty good. My faves were Lennox Head and Pambula beach, but the whole NSW coastline is beautiful and we could have spent 6 months just in this section of Australia. By the time we got to Victoria we only had 4 weeks left so there wasn’t time to hang around and wait for the Torquay area to fire up. We had to keep moving.

The Toilets at Cactus

Cactus Waves

Fortunately we had the good sense to stop at Cactus, an iconic Aussie desert wave and we spent a couple of nights there. I’m glad to say I got to surf it, as it really is a million miles from anywhere and a pretty special wave. We spent one whole day in the rest of South Australia… and then sprinted for home, slowed only by spending our final week in the Busso area and getting home in October and back to reality. It was a different reality to the one we left as during that time away we had suffered a $250K loss and were now well in debt, but that’s another story.

For the next two years I basically worked my arse off to try and get rid of debt. Danelle took up homeschooling and our life hit a new rhythm. We lasted another couple of years in Butler before seeing a house in Yanchep we loved the look of. It was just 300m from the beach and kinda ‘Cloudstreety’, a ramshackle, quirky beach house made of timber and stone and we had fallen in love with it. In June 2011 we made the best move of our lives.

Life Threads – Surfing & The Ocean III

Getting a job really messed with my surfing!

The time I had during the day for surfing while studying Phys Ed at UWA now no longer existed. It was ‘after work’ and weekends now and that meant I surfed less. Work really is a problem for those who love to surf… What to do?…

My first year of teaching in Wagin saw me surf maybe half a dozen times in total, but returning to Perth the following year allowed me a chance to get back into it. By 23 years old I had acquired the knack of being able to know pretty intuitively just what the waves would be like at Trigg and Scarborough often without a drive down. There was no ‘seabreeze.com’ or surfline to keep us informed. Just the old ‘phone in’ surf report which was out of date as often as it was updated.

 

Filipino Friends from a Trip to Catanduanes

Also at 23 I convinced two friends to come with me on a surf trip to the Philippines – a little island by the name of Catanduanes. We read about it in a Tracks mag and it looked like absolute paradise. Remote waves in warm water and no crowds… Well two out of three aint bad. We flew to Manila, got a plane to the island and then a 2 1/2 hr jeepney ride up to the town, followed by a trek thru the jungle, before we got to the lookout and saw 20 blokes in the water trying to catch tiny 1ft waves… We were just a bit devastated! We spent the week at Puraran and while the waves did show up for a couple of days, the best surf was probably at Maroubra in NSW, when our flight home got re-routed and we had to stop over in Sydney for half a day. We grabbed our boards and a cab and surfed winter waves in boardies for an hour before getting back on the plane. The lesson was that if you go on an overseas surf trip you need to make sure there are other things than just surfing.

As an interesting note I recently connected on Facebook (30 years later) with one of the small boys in the pic – ‘Genesis’ was 5 then. Now he is 35, surfs, leads a church and runs his own business – a cafe – in Virac Catanduanes. Maybe one day Sam and I will get back there.

The Fun-bus

I have been privileged to work jobs where I can get paid to surf. Its probably as close to ‘going pro’ as I have ever come! But as a youth worker and a Phys ed teacher I regularly ran camps for my kids where we would take off to Lancelin or down south in search of waves.  I owned a 9 seater Nissan Urvan that we packed to the gills and used for down south missions. Those were good days and the waves always seemed to turn it on for us. My favourite class while teaching at Scarborough High was Thursday morning surfing, where the students met me at the beach at 8.30 and we surfed thru to recess time – I still remember thinking ‘And I get paid for this!’

In my early 30’sI took up a job as the youth pastor in a church in Lesmurdie – the hills of Perth. When the they first called and asked me to consider the role I laughed and said ‘God will only ever call me to work in churches within 3km of coastline’. I half meant it. Oddly enough Lesmurdie ‘felt right’, so we moved from the house we had just built in Karrinyup 3 minutes from the beach and perfectly positioned for a lifetime of city surfing… and headed for the hills – 45 minutes from water. That really did feel odd. The Lesmurdie years were a fantastic time, but I could feel like I wasn’t ‘home’.  I would take Thursdays off and inevitably find the car being pulled back to the coastline in search of waves. I still surfed on holidays, but not so much during this 8 years.

As a result I started to become a bit more cautious and careful. Because it was a long time between surfs it took a while for the confidence to return and the courage to come back. I remember well being on holidays in Busselton and going surfing at Indijup carpark. I was 38 years old, it was a sizable day and I got held down by a couple of heavy waves in a row and came up gasping for air. It was a scary experience and while I had been through plenty of ‘hold downs’ in my younger days I was now conscious of my lung capacity declining so I paddled in and began to climb the steps to get out of there.  Half way up the steps I stopped, turned around and paddled back out. I had that realisation that I was letting fear shape me and it wasn’t a pattern I wanted for the rest of my life. I knew some stuff was well beyond my capabilities but I wasn’t going to wimp out of the stuff that I was still capable of. It was a significant decision and one I have made again several times since.

So began the challenge to find my identity as a slightly older surfer – a bit less capable – less fit and less adventurous… but still desperately passionate for the experience of the ocean that comes with surfing.

Life Threads – Surfing & The Ocean II

In year 12 I bought my first brand new board – a 5’ 9” ‘thruster’ by a backyard shaper called Wayne Winchester. In 1981 Simon Anderson changed the landscape of surfing with his 3 fin boards so I wanted to get off the twin fin and into the new thing. The ‘Winnie’ (above with my brother and the twin fin) was my pride and joy and it rode some great waves over its 3 year lifespan. I was starting to head down south by this stage, so the odd 6-8 ft wave got ridden on the chunky little 5’9”. It also got front seat of the car one day ahead of my girlfriend. Not such a savvy move as it would turn out…

Turning 17 and getting a license changed everything. Suddenly Lancelin was ‘just up the road’ and down south became a real option. In year twelve we discovered Edward Island at Lancelin and the left behind the Island. My Mark 1 Cortina did many a trip to Lano punctuated with 3 or 4 stops to refill the radiator. Not surprisingly that car’s engine had a short life and it was sold to a wrecker around 6 months later. From there I moved on to the red Galant that did its fair share of surf trips with a few less issues!

The Galant

We made our first trip south in Easter 1982 and I realised I had entered a new realm of surfing. In that time you could still camp at Indijup Carpark and there were still a number of waves that didn’t get surfed that often. Better days indeed…

I learnt a valuable life lesson on the first trip – and that was to never judge the size of the wave from above. As kids we had heard about the big waves ‘down south’ but had no idea what we were in for. As it turned out there was a sizable swell that weekend and for some bizarre reason we picked North Point as our first port of call. As we watched the waves from the top carpark we got super excited for our first ever surf in this place. It looked amazing and we guessed it to be a fun and manageable 3-4ft, but when we got in the water it turned out to be more like an angry, vicious 6-8ft and well beyond our capabilities. We came in with tail between legs and realised that we were a long way from Trigg… and while we might have been ok surfers in chest high beach breaks, this was a vastly different scenario.

North Point…

My teen years were the ‘push the boundaries’ years as we sought out ‘big waves’ and paddled into stuff I wouldn’t even consider today. That said I was never into the really heavy stuff. It just scared me. I wish it didn’t, but once it hit 6-8ft I was at my limit. The biggest waves I ever rode were at Southsides at Margaret River – around 8ft – or maybe that’s just what I remember… ha… While big waves weren’t my thing, a 3-4ft day at Indijup Carpark with a couple of mates was as close to heaven as I could imagine.

Indijup Carpark

In those teen years there were many, many surf trips with friends, sleeping rough, eating rough and trying to live up the image we had of ourselves (albeit poorly) as ‘surfers’. I remember well sleeping a Friday night in a half built house in Lancelin and being woken by the tilers in the morning because they wanted to start work… I guess you do those things when you’re a teenager…

My best surfing memory of that era was a solo surf at Hole in the Wall up at Lancelin – a 45 minute paddle from shore – but a magic wave on the right day.  On a 38 degree day I drove up from home and paddled out on my own. (Nope – I didn’t and still don’t worry about sharks) There were perfect 3-4 ft waves and I had to myself for 4 hours, before the muesli bars I had stashed up my wetsuit sleeves ran out, the seabreeze arrived and I had to come in for food.

In those days I was a surfer and a basketballer. I was a much better basketballer than surfer, but somehow surfing grabbed my heart more than basketball which is probably why I have never stopped surfing, whereas basketball ended just before I turned 40. As any surfer will tell you, there is a spiritual element to being in the water and something mesmerising about riding waves that is very different to a competitive team sport. In Breath, Tim Winton describes how Pikelet felt watching surfing for the first time : ‘“How strange it was to see men do something beautiful. Something pointless and elegant, as though nobody saw or cared.”

Of course we all cared that someone ‘saw us’, because we all wanted to be good surfers – to be noticed. In those early years surfing was largely about the thrill of pushing yourself into new spaces, of growing in courage and conquering fear. It was also about being part of a subculture and seeking to live up to the image we had of ourselves. That bit is not so inspiring but it was a reality – and still is for many – fitting the image… As the years have gone on the ‘courage’ aspect has faded, as has the need to be a ‘surfer’ while the ‘one with nature’ aspect now plays far more strongly.

In that time of life I only went to the beach when there were ridable waves. I wasn’t into the ocean for its own beauty, and I never went ‘swimming’ or just hung out at the beach. If I wasn’t catching a wave I was doing something else. The ocean was a wave machine and not much else.

That I had come to love surfing was something of a miracle anyway. Having immigrated from Ireland, I grew up with a dad who didn’t surf and had little interest in surfing. I also grew up not learning to swim until late primary school and I only discovered the beach when we came to Australia in 1974.  Irish beaches were hardly inspiring and it was rarely warm enough to get wet anyway. Unlike my son Sam who has been to Exmouth, down south, Bali and done a whole lap of Australia I thought myself fortunate if I scored the occasional morning at Ocean Beach Denmark while on holidays. Other than that my surfing was kept to the local beachies in rain, hail or shine. Until I got a car my breadth of experience was very limited.

That said I do remember at 12 years old convincing mum and dad that Margaret River was the place to surf and that they should let me surf there. I had read about this place in surfing magazines and wanted to go.  I had little idea of what I was in for. With my first ‘real board’ I paddled out into a solid 6ft MR Rivermouth beach break with a piece of rope tied to my leg as a leggie. There was no one else surfing – in fact no one else anywhere on the beach, as it was a massive, chaotic day. Fortunately I got pummelled and pushed back in by the whitewater before I could make any headway,  because had I got beyond the break I doubt I would have known how to catch a wave, let alone how to get back in. Neither they nor I had any clue just how dangerous the ocean was at that point.

But that is one thing I have learnt – respect the ocean… or be prepared to suffer the consequences.

Life Threads – Surfing & The Ocean

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the various threads that weave together to form a life and I have realised that surfing and ‘the ocean’ have been a massive thread in my own 53 years on this planet, so I thought I’d write a collection of thoughts around that theme and see where it goes. I’m not sure what will come out of it, but I’m curious about the significance these things have in my life, so if you love either then read on…

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​I never really got into stamp collecting. I tried…

It was one of the things I did as a kid trying to find some ‘hobbies’. Apparently it was important to have ‘hobbies’. But stamps?… Nah… they just lacked the kinda energy I was seeking. The thrill factor was rather low even for a 10 year old… They were on a par with ‘pen-friends’.

But then suddenly surfing ‘happened’ when I was 11.

Well… when I say ‘surfing’, it began with a cheapo body board that I rode to shore on the Trigg beach white water. Instantly I knew that I loved the sensaton that came with riding something in the ocean. The body board thing lasted a few weeks before I graduated to a ‘GT foamie’ – a ‘coolite’ style board that I could actually stand on. It was an almost rectangular lump of foam with no hydrodynamic qualities at all aside from floatation. Apart from excruciating nipple rash the GT was a great starter and like many kids in the 70’s I rode that thing until my chest bled and my stomach was raw.

That Christmas I was given a new foamie – a ‘Little Ripper’, and it actually looked more like a real surfboard than the GT whose only real attribute was stability.

I took the Little Ripper to the beach on Christmas Day and snapped it on the first wave. That moulded polystyrene fin was a design flaw for a kid who was riding everything to the sand. As an 11 year old I was utterly devastated. So, I went back to the old GT until such time as I could score myself a real fibreglass board. That didn’t look like happening any time soon as mum and dad weren’t keen on me graduating to a new level of surfing. Fair enough seeing as how I had barely mastered the whitewash.

At 11 I wasn’t allowed to go the beach alone, but no one said I wasn’t allowed to go to surf shops buy a ‘real’ fibreglass board…  Back then surf shops actually sold surfboards…. No kidding…

The old Blaxell’s surf factory/shop was just down the road in Osborne Park and I would often cycle there with my mates and fondle the second hand boards, hoping… wishing… that firstly I could afford one and then secondly be allowed to use it.

Then unexpectedly my moment arrived.

Mum took off on a trip back to Ireland and dad was left ‘in charge’. I had seen a ‘bargain’ at Blaxell’s… Someone had snapped a massive mal and Tom had somehow morphed it into what where actually two kneeboards, (although I wanted to believe they were surfboards). For $15 each my mate and I bought a half each and we thought we had won the lottery!

It was about the same size as the GT, but made of fibreglass – a real board – and I could afford it. Those were its only endearing qualities. It was a total pig.

There was no consultation with dad – I just bought it and brought it home – this mutant lump of fibreglass, foam and resin that I was soon to realise was completely useless. I tried riding it once down at Trigg, but the only wax we had were a few old candles and I discovered quickly that they weren’t going to be adequate. The board had no shape and precious little flotation or maybe I was just a newbie with no clue. Probably a bit of both…

That board got locked in the shed for a few more weeks until I traded it for another equally mutant lump of fibreglass that was 6’ 4’’ and looked a tiny bit more like an actual surfboard. It had only been snapped once and despite its many dings it still floated. $25 well spent… I felt kinda proud of that first real board and by 12 years old I was harassing dad for rides to the beach at every opportunity. These were given in exchange for weeding or picking up leaves in the front yard – no wonder I developed a passionate dislike for gardening… while I was weeding the offshore was turning to onshore…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Scarborough Beach Front 1975 – not sure whose photo this is)

That board lasted 6 months before it snapped and I dumped in the bin on the beach and rode home. Then Christmas came and it was time to get a better board… I was a real surfer now. I was reading surfing mags, wearing Golden Breed t shirts and talking surf lingo with the blokes at school. I cycled thru a few old single fins in this phase, before splurging on a 5’ 10’’ twin fin that saw me thru most of high school.

By year 9 I had made a surfboard trolley in metalwork which meant I was now mobile and able to make my own way to the beach. 5.00am starts on a Saturday morning were normal with 3 surfs the regime before heading back up the Scarborough Beach Rd hill on the treadly with the assistance of the sea breeze. Sometimes I’d go with mates, but often I was on my own. The bug had bitten and I was hooked.

Trigg Point in 1975 – Oceans Surf Contest (from www.surfingdownsouth.com.au)

Those were the days when we rode Trigg Point regularly and even got waves… The crowds were still there, but nothing like today. I remember some amazing days at The Point, but equally the whole stretch of coast from Scarborough to Trigg was our playground and occasionally you could find great waves when the sandbanks played nice. Attending a school where the bottom sports oval overlooked the ocean meant that we always knew when there was swell and offshores, so I may have spent more than the occasional school day down at the beach… In fact my dad’s decision to push me into Mrs Partridge’s Year 11 Business Studies class which was held during the last two periods of a Friday was probably the reason I improved quickly at surfing. (I even passed business studies…)

To be continued…

The Absence of Grace

Recently I was running out of stuff to watch on Netflix (serious first world problem…) so I decided to give Sons of Anarchy a go. I’d tried before but never got past the first episode. This time I did.

It began with curiosity and after a few episodes it started to lure me in as I got to know the characters and their relationships. After a couple of seasons I was intrigued to see where it would go, but not long after I found myself in ‘car wreck mode’. I knew I shouldn’t look any more but I couldn’t help myself. I had one season to go and I watched it to the bitter end – one of the longest, most drawn out and dissatisfying seasons of any show I have watched… and the final episode left me shaking my head in despair.

Only read on if you never plan to watch it – because I will spoil it for you.

Sons of Anarchy is at surface level about a fictional biker gang in a small town in the USA and how they live, interact with other gangs and do their thing – mostly gun running, prostitution and porn studios. Its a brutal world and the body count mounts with every episode.

But its also an intriguing depiction of the complexity and contradictions in the outlaw scene – a commitment to family and brotherhood, but an adherence to a ‘biker law’ that sees them even kill ‘family’ members who do the wrong thing. We see men frequently tell one another that they love each other, they kiss one another as acts of affection, but in a heartbeat they can turn and shoot that same person in the head.

One thing ‘Sons’ lacks is any portrayal of grace – forgiveness or redemption. Its a hard culture where ‘law’ rules, but eventually crushes those who seek to live by it. Sound familiar?

Thru all this the lead character Jax Teller is portrayed at times as some kind of Christ figure / saviour – leading the club out of gun running and crime and into legit business (porn… and prostitution).

The final episode sees Jax ‘give his life’ for the club as he drives in front of a truck after killing the last of his enemies and being tailed by 20 police cars. Before setting off on his ‘passion’ Jax is met by a curious homeless woman who pops up at various moments in the show. We don’t know exactly who she is, but she seems to be some sort of spiritual guide to him. When he leaves her the camera spends a long time paused on an image of what she was eating, stale bread and cheap red wine, arranged to look as much like a communion meal as possible – a last supper?

When Jax rides headlong into a truck the final image of the show is one of bread stained with wine on the road, as if to suggest he was the sacrifice and the saviour. Unfortunately it was a completely unbelievable scenario as the Jax of the previous 6 seasons was a brutal, vengeful tyrant – even if he did occasionally seem to wrestle with his demons. If he was intended to be a Christ figure then it was by someone who had little grasp of the real Jesus.

I don’t get affected much by brutality in TV, but you need a strong stomach for this show. I was more affected by the absence of hope and grace in a community that so desperately was trying to make things work. If nothing else Sons of Anarchy is a graphic depiction of where revenge takes you and its a very dark place…

 

Why You Should Listen to Your Mother in Law

It was around 15 years ago that we set out as a family to be missionaries in the new Perth suburb of Butler – known better by the estate name ‘Brighton’. You might remember the TV ads… ‘Brighton – Its what a community should be!’ We remember them well as we were the family in them – mum, dad, two blonde kids and a labrador…

I set off on that adventure ready to change the world, ready to break new missional ground and to chart a course for those who would follow. This blog was to be a journal of our learning. I read everything I could about mission and went to every seminar. I was the full bottle and if knowledge was the key then I couldn’t fail.

As we began living there I connected with everyone I could, went to places I wouldn’t normally go, hung out with people who I wouldn’t normally connect with and did anything and everything to make this thing work. It was hard work at times but we seemed to be making some progress albeit slow.

At the start of that time I remember well a conversation with my mother in law where I asked her ‘Hey Val – if you were moving into this suburb as a missionary what would you do?’ I was hoping for some ‘ancient wisdom’ – some gem of insight that just wasn’t available to a 38 year old. Her response was underwhelming to say the least.

‘I’d just live my ordinary life’ she said.

Really‘ I thought? ‘Really?…‘ That’s so lame! So boring… so unimaginative! Surely you could be more creative and innovative than that?!

I didn’t say that of course… I just ignored her and carried on with the stuff I had read in books and been inspired by at conferences. The books I was reading called for innovation and entrepreneurship – creativity and new initiatives. So I turned myself inside out trying to dream up new ways of connecting with people and doing things I wouldn’t normally do in the name of mission.

If I were to sum up the time in Butler it would be to say, I tried so hard to be effective in mission, but I just couldn’t seem to find my niche. There were some great moments and some good times, but no matter how hard I tried – and no matter how creatively I sought to implement all I was learning and thinking I never felt we got close to what we hoped for. I always felt out of step and for me it was a time of failure. (Danelle would see this very differently – but that’s another story and related to expectations)

In the last 8 or 9 years since leading Quinns and being less involved with the so called ‘missional scene’, I have found myself with fewer and fewer answers for how to ‘reach Australians with the gospel’ (or whatever language you choose to place around that idea).

I have also become increasingly skeptical of anyone who claims to have found ‘the key’. I think mission and more specifically evangelism is tough going in this context and there are no easy answers or ‘strategies’. Most days I feel a bit like someone who has run out of ideas – hope even at times – but the sense of calling to be a missionary is still as strong and as deep as ever.

That’s a bit weird I admit – feeling called to a task but then feeling completely at sea when it comes to pulling it off.

Around 7 years ago we moved to Yanchep – this time with no intent at all for any ‘SAS style’ missionary work. We just moved into a suburb we loved and began to live there because it felt like a beautiful place. And we have fallen in love with this part of the world – in fact we can’t imagine ever leaving.

And part of living here for me, has meant working – running a business locally and spending a lot of time at the beach, surfing and swimming. Its what I do.

And I found that after a while I was getting to know people – lots of people. This year I began taking daily photos of the beach – which obviously means being there every day – and this has catalysed more connections. Its hard now to walk the dog without stopping for a chat with someone. I’m better connected in my own community than I have ever been.

It wasn’t intentional or planned… it wasn’t a ‘missionary strategy’.

I just got on with living my ordinary life...

Ha… It only dawned on me a few weeks ago what has been happening. My mother in law had actually given me a gem of wisdom but it wasted on my 38 year old A type personality!

I find myself now immersed in a community I love, where I feel a deep sense of connection and where I have made some good friends. But the most significant bit is that I’m ‘not trying‘ any more. (That’s not to say you sometimes in mission don’t have to ‘try’.)

But I’m now just living my ordinary life and paying attention to what God is doing in the midst of that. From business to beach I find myself loving my life and the people I find myself around.

I’m actually convinced the real hope for mission is not a well thought out missiology or cleverer strategies, but a community of people whose hearts are centred on Jesus and who are willing to be his people in their everyday lives. It means coming back to helping people in their discipleship and devotion to Jesus, rather than starting with funky initiatives.

Over the last year as we been praying and chatting with our church crew we have been asking God about the idea of planting a church community up here and we are at the point now where it feels like its going to happen. Not quickly and immediately, but it does feel like we are planting seeds and watering them, waiting to see what will develop.

So after 15 years I find myself at this point again – excited and hopeful – wanting to see people know Jesus – but with a totally different approach to the exact same task. Fifteen years ago I felt confident, focused and sure of what I was going to do. Now I feel a different sense of confidence, a different understanding of focus and a much less certain agenda for what I think we will do.

But I’m loving life, loving how its shaping up and the possibilities I see in the future. So Hamo’s tip for today is ‘listen to your mother in law’…

Random information – did you know mother in law is an anagram of woman Hitler?

9 Days in Medewi

​It was a great time in Medewi over the last 9 days so for those who may be interested in what it was like here is both the short version and the longer spiel.

The short version

  • Medewi is awesome – if you like to surf or relax. If not you will get bored.
  • Bring booties or get your feet hacked on the rocks. Antiseptic cream is also a good idea.
  • You will pay surfing tax 200k ($20) to the locals – you get a T shirt for your $$ and (apparently) money goes to local surfing sponsorship
  • The Bombora Medewi Hotel is fantastic – can’t speak highly enough of accommodation, staff and location.
  • Local food is really cheap and decent – big night out for 4 of us was $30.00
  • BYO legrope – the hire ones are pretty worn and I snapped mine on a big wave – $25 to replace as well as a long swim in
  • The surf is crowded. Around 30-50 in the water most days. In busy season it’s 100…

The long version…

As a kid a pretty special surf trip was when I could harass the old man into taking us for a morning in Denmark at Ocean Beach when we were on holidays in Albany. If I got half a dozen waves it was a win and I savoured it for months to come. We never went to Exmouth, Margaret River or Bali, but then my old man didn’t surf. Sambo got lucky.

The 9 days in Medewi had me asking the question ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’ I could have had a blast at 23, but at 53 the body was working hard to get me where I wanted to go. Medewi is a little surf/fishing village on the west coast of Bali, around 3 hrs from the airport and reputed to be Bali’s longest left hander.

To be frank, I’ve never been overly taken with Bali. Humidity, shopping, busyness and general harassment at every turn has always left me uninspired. The cry of ‘but its so cheap’ doesn’t even really hold any longer. If you stay in the tourist areas the costs can mount up quickly as food is no longer cheap in the better cafes.

But Medewi won me over. It kicked butt on every count and I’ll be going back for sure – especially to the Bombora Medewi Hotel which was every bit as good as it claimed to be and actually was very well priced for the luxury accommodation and absolute beach front location. At high tide you could jump out of the pool into the ocean – not that you would…

So on this trip Danelle and the kids took off on Thursday as part of a school trip to the orphanages. I’ve kinda ‘been there done that’ and wanted to search out some waves on my own while they did their thing. I knew Uluwatu and the likes probably weren’t gonna be my kinda wave, but I’d heard that Medewi was a long, loping, easy wave that suited geriatric mal riders like I am now. So we went our separate ways for 4 days. She told me that if I got bored I could join them… ‘if I got bored…’ unlikely…

Bombora Medewi – great hotel

I went online, scanned the local accommodation and decided to stay at the top of the range Bombora Medewi for my 4 nights alone. Very new, literally right on the point break with a cafe overlooking the waves. For $100/night including breakfast it was about $60 more than the rooms 100m up the road, but… I decided to go in style… and there were no regrets.

Medewi is pretty much a surf break and little else. If you didn’t surf I don’t know why you’d go there unless it’s to chill and do nothing… I arrived in Denpasar the day after Danelle and the kids, got picked up at 6pm and we headed off for Medewi – hoping to get there by 10. It should have been easily doable, but a stop to change money (you can’t do it up there), another stop for a feed and then a 30 minute 4wd detour to get around a traffic accident saw us roll in with 5 minutes to spare at 9.55pm.

It had been a long day so I was ready to crash. While the room was really nice and the bed super comfy, the air con felt like it wasn’t working properly. I seem to be ‘that guy’ who scores the dodgy AC everywhere he goes! My last 4 trips to Asia have had us in rooms where the air con has been lame – not totally useless, but not enough to really keep you cool. It’s a pet peeve… but anyway…

I slept well and woke at 7.00am to what sounded like a wild storm, but was just the waves breaking on the shore 40m away. Bleary eyed I stepped out of my room to check it out. 3-4ft glassy peeling lefts… awesome! And about 40 people in the water… Not so awesome.. I can’t stomach big crowds at a break but I guess this didn’t give me a choice…

(Combined age on this wave = 113! BTW – I kicked out)

For some bizarre reason my inner grommie kicked in and I decided to have breakfast later and just hit the surf. That’s why I was here after all… I wandered next door to hire a board ($8/day) and left with a none too inspiring mini mal. It was right at high tide – the best time to surf Medewi because the rides are longer and the waves bigger. I wasn’t sure of the jump off spot so I just took a best guess. I pulled on the booties I’d picked up for $20 before leaving home, clambered across the big black rocks and began to paddle out. (Having seen the cuts many people have left the water with I can’t overstate how valuable the booties were.)

I sat in the inside section with the Euro tourists and learners for a bit trying to get my bearings, but it was slim pickings as the best waves were getting ridden from the outside and the others were smaller and hard to catch. I paddled another 100m out to the take off zone feeling the weariness all thru my body and splashed around for a bit, pinging a dodgy groin muscle and getting one or two crappy waves before calling it a day and paddling in, wondering if I would get bored after all… Thankfully I had brought a good stash of anti-inflammatories…

I wasn’t inspired at all by the first surf – while there were 40 people in the water it was a mix of absolute beginners, (yeah… very dangerous!) Balinese locals who caught and shredded anything that looked remotely like it might break, a few other old blokes and then the regular crew of international surfers chasing waves. It was the United nations every day in the surf with Swiss, Norwegian and Canadians even putting in an appearance along side the more expected Aussies, Japanese and Brazilians.

Having grown up in a world where surf etiquette matters I quickly realised I wasn’t going to get any waves if I held to that etiquette. On those first few days especially, 3 German girls dropped in on everyone and tried to catch anything that moved. It could have been carnage out there but somehow most people got thru unscathed and while I doubt drop ins were appreciated they were par for the course so you just sucked it up – and sometimes gave it back… I might have ‘gone blind in my right eye’ a few times…

I changed boards to a 9ft mal for the second surf later that day and began to feel a little more settled. By the middle of second day I was catching my share and enjoying the never ending wave with rides around the 200-300m mark if all the sections linked up. I felt like a fat kid at an all you can eat buffet – I couldn’t get enough and kept going back for more even when my body told me to stop.

It took me two days to pay my ‘surfing tax’. When I hired the board I was immediately accosted by local surfers who insisted I buy one of their T shirts for ($20) as a way of supporting the local boardriders. It didn’t feel like the purchase was optional, and I really didn’t want a shirt so I palmed him off. By the end of the second day I had bought one… along with virtually every other non-indo in the area. I’m told the Japanese pay $40 and some folks don’t even get a T shirt – they just get charged the $20! So I’m still not sure whether they are the ‘Medewi Mafia’ or the honourable custodians of a charity, but be warned, if you go you will be strongly encouraged to ‘help the kids’.

Apart from the surf there isn’t much to do in Medewi. You can get a massage $10/hr, hire a driver and go trek around (we paid $30 for 3 hrs) or you can do what I did and just chill. The coffee at Bombora Medewi is great as is the food so it was very easy to wile away a couple of hours just watching the waves.

The local cafes are all very well priced with a main meal around $4-7. Gede’s Warung (right next to Bombora) is cheap and serves good food, but be prepared to wait 45-60 minutes for your food if you aren’t the only ones there. Keep in mind too that indos don’t eat as much as we usually do so you might need a little extra.

Markets mmmm….

We slipped up to the night markets in Melaya one evening and had some very good local food – I might have overeaten a little… But then I love an Asian food market and I’m always up for trying some local specialities. I believe there are some near Medewi so I’ll keep that in mind for next time.

The crew at Bombora tried to fix our air con but to no avail. It was kinda tolerable but just a bit annoying. With two days to go I mentioned it to the manager so the next crew wouldn’t get saddled with a dodgy air con and we were promptly upgraded to a bigger, nicer room with a fully functioning air con. Nice… Spent the last two days in a fridge with a bed!

Most days we surfed twice – once in ‘peak hour’ and the second later in the day when the wind had come in and the crowd had eased. 8 or 9 good waves was what you’d expect in a couple of hours, along with another 8 or 9 where some clown dropped in on you, paddled in front of you or just got in the way. After paddling back 300m 8 or 9 times I was pretty knackered, so on every wave after that it was harder to find motivation to paddle back out.

There were days where the crowds were frustrating and the drop ins infuriating, but once you accepted it as how things were you could relax and enjoy it a lot more.

On our final day I was pretty weary and had to drag myself in for an early surf.

Got a nice one to go home on

After 2 waves and a few more drop ins I decided that I would take the next good wave in – whether it was 5 minutes away or an hour away. I didn’t have to wait long. A set came and an Aussie guy deliberately paddled in front of me on the first wave – nice pal… But the second wave was bigger and no one else was left out there so I got it. It was my longest wave of the trip – probably 300m or so. All the sections linked up and I finished up 50m from the beach and paddled in.

Always better to leave on a high!

As we were about to leave Allam caught my attention again. He had been taking pics of me all week and trying to get me to buy them. I told them I didn’t want them as I look like an old fat guy who can’t surf! But with rupiah to burn at the end of the trip and feeling generous I bought his collection and hopefully helped him pay some bills.

We left at midday and I had to call Sam out of the water at 11.30! It was that kinda trip!

So – Medewi rocked. If you’re a good surfer and enjoy intense, challenging waves then you will probably get bored, but if you like to cruise, relax and surf very long waves then you will love it.

Did The Catholics Get it Right?

I’ve often cited one of the benefits of ‘being Baptist’, (or any kind of free church) as the idea of freedom of conscience – the ability to think for ourselves and hold different / dissenting opinions on various issues. There is no central ‘rule’ in Baptist churches and no one person who calls the shots. The ‘church’ doesn’t tell us what to think or do and if they try to we usually get gnarly about it. For example, our church (QBC) has no official stance on same sex marriage. The upside of this is a decrease in the level of control exerted over people – a lessened call to conformity. No one gets shoved around or forced to comply with a theological position they don’t hold.

I have always felt for Catholics whose church makes decisions and decrees and then expects it’s members to toe the line.

But this week I was reflecting on the weaknesses in our own system. When no one gets to call the shots then everyone gets to frame truth their own way. When there is no recognised authority then in an increasingly individualised world we often find that authority in ourselves. We become our own reference point – our own best guide. You have to admit that is a bit scary…

While I am attracted to the freedom of this perspective I’ve also become disturbed by the conclusions it allows people to reach and it has prompted me to consider the value of the ‘Catholic’ model – placing authority in the church – being willing to submit to the church’s authority. That’s a big call I know…

Our approach assumes people read scripture, listen to God and discern his mind on issues, and when we come together we practice communal discernment. It’s a great idea…

The truth is we are more often driven primarily by the winds of culture and sometimes – not that often – by what we see the Bible saying – if we can read it diligently enough and coherently enough to make sense of it. Honestly – I don’t think more than 20% of people do this – and I’m being generous.

The Catholic way assumes that some people are able to read the Bible much more capably than others and that they are then able to discern a) what God is saying b) what is best for the church. It assumes that on our own we will likely veer into a ditch of misinterpretation and misapplication. It then expects it’s members to accept the statements the church makes. In our current climate the Catholic Church is clear on its stance on same sex marriage – but if you’re a catholic I’m guessing no one sought your opinion or input!

The problem with the Catholic way is that when the bloke/s at the top (because it’s not gonna be the women) gets it wrong then everyone gets it wrong for a very loooong time! There is minimal opportunity for grass roots questioning and dissent. And history has shown that we do get doctrine wrong sometimes.

Ok so there is no perfect method but lately I’ve found myself veering somewhat back towards a church that is willing to take a stand and call it’s constituents to fall in line. Why? Not because I want to retard individual thought but rather because I sense we have lost the ability to submit – to think communally and to allow someone we disagree with to speak for us.

In an increasingly individualised world I sense we are going to splinter theologically into thousands of pieces unless we are willing to allow ‘the church’ to speak for us in some way. I’m not sure how that plays out – and I honestly I don’t like the thought of having my own freedom impinged upon – but I can’t help but wondering if we are going to end up tripping over our own autonomy and finish up in a place of mass confusion.

Nuance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I opened the envelope and sat down at my desk to cast my opinion (because it isn’t a vote – its an ‘opinion poll’), but as I was about to tick a box I hesitated. Because ‘Yes’ doesn’t say all of what I want it to say… and then ‘No’ doesn’t tell the full story either. I came back 4 days later and ticked a box but it wasn’t without some frustration.

The problem for me was that I only get to choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and unfortunately then I get to be defined by my choice (It seems to have become a defining issue) but I can see both sides of this argument and depending on the day and the conversation I am in, I can lean either way.

Its not that I don’t have strong convictions – I do – but rather that it is a complex issue and ‘yes’ or ‘no’ just doesn’t do it justice.

If I go with my Christian convictions based on how I read the teachings of the Bible in regards to human relationships then I will vote ‘no’. (I believe its God’ original intent for men and women to be together.) The fallout from this is that some will see me as bound to the teachings of a book that carries no authority for them and that has no relevance to a 21st C secular society. At best I may be perceived as lacking in my ability to think – perhaps a product of a religious system that prevents me from free thought. Or at worst I may just be cast as a homophobe and a bigot – and no one wants to be that… a modern day leper.

Then if I take a step back and look at what it means to live in a secular society where everyone has a right to their say and where we cannot assume any priority based on Christian heritage I can see a case for the ‘yes’ vote and a number of Christians have argued this case quite articulately and convincingly. It means equal rights for all and people get to choose their path – wherever that leads. If I take this tack then some of my Christian tribe will see me as a sellout – as having a ‘low’ view of the Bible – of caving in to cultural trends. At best I will be seen as out of step with the rest of the church community, or at worst I will be a false teacher and a heretic – one to be disregarded in future conversations around issues of this nature – the guy who lost the plot on the gay marriage issue…

You see ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ just doesn’t allow for any nuance whatsoever. When I say ‘yes’ I do so meaning ‘XYZ’, but I am concerned about ‘ABC’, or when I say ‘no’ I do with similar caveats and concerns, and if you are a Christian and can’t say that I’d suggest then maybe you haven’t grappled with the issue sufficiently.

I don’t expect my friends who aren’t Christians to share my wrestle – there is no need to consider faith issues when you don’t hold the Bible in high regard. That said, I do expect respect and to be taken seriously. I’m happy to offer my thoughts and reflections on the subject and to explain the challenge that this subject is for many people of faith. I’m even happy to have a good spirited argument about the issue – but I’m not happy to either use propaganda to demonise others or be defined myself by propaganda. The plebiscite was always going to be problematic, because campaigns call for propaganda and propaganda requires an enemy to fight against. So far the propaganda machine is doing its job well and managing to create ‘us’ and ‘them’ (whichever side you are on)

Likewise I would hope that my Christian friends would see the bigger picture of what it means if one group (the Christians) get to dictate the tone for society. Our own God allows us to choose our path – whether that is in line with him or not. Christians are as entitled to their say on this issue as much as any other group in society, but not more than any other group.

Increasingly I have felt the pressure increase to ‘get with the program’, ‘wake up’ or ‘see the light’ – and that’s from both sides. When you treat me like a moron and try to win me over with crass arguments, fear or manipulation then you insult me and I find your campaign weak. Unfortunately this is what it has come down to so often.

I expect most of my friends who aren’t God botherers will vote ‘yes’. (I’m not sure why you wouldn’t as it is the way our society is heading). But for my Christian friends who may vote either way, my great hope is not that you will ‘get it right’, but rather that whatever you do it will be done in a spirit of love and respect. Whether you are perceived as ‘progressive’ or ‘regressive’ the call from Jesus to love those who disagree with us and seek to live at peace with everyone is stronger and more powerful than the call to get the right answer to a vexed question.

I’m not going to tell you which box I ticked in the end but you’re welcome to have a guess…