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…
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.
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…