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 ‘’ 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 Just the old ‘phone in’ surf report which was out of date as often as it was updated.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.

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