Narrabeen then and now… In the early 90s, Narrabeen was the epicenter of pro surfing. Everyone in the industry, all the way up to world champions came from there. As a grommet, watching that level of talent kept you pretty humble. If you surfed a wave really well, no one was hooting or carrying on, you just stuck your head down and paddled back out. You had encouragement, but it wasn’t like getting smoke blown up your arse, which is different to some of the kids from overseas, where they just get told how good they are everyday. It was very real growing up at Narrabeen. Most good sessions you’d see someone get bashed or sent in. I’ll always remember the regulators; getting pissed on, when they’d strap you up in the dog cage, or tie you up the flag pole. Localism was rife. Coming through those ranks was hardcore, and the boardriders was an insane breeding ground for pro surfers. Now the history of the club has been reignited with new kids coming up. It’s strong again and I feel like there’s been a resurgence of where we come from. Unfortunately, I feel grommets in general have gotten a little soft. Rather than going out and doing it, it’s more about posting it on social media. Back in the day you did your talking out in the water
The Search… Going on boat trips for a month up in Indonesia when you’re 13, molds you as a surfer. Rip Curl would often just put me on a plane and I’d have to land on my feet. You’d have to get street smarts along the way. I travelled with characters like Curren and Derek Hynd. Derek used to have me just turn up to places, on these crazy missions and have me ride all these on these long 9’0’’s, like at JBay, all the way down the point. He wouldn’t let me ride my normal shorty until I’d surf all these longer ones down, so that’s what I grew up with. He’d even ring up the shaper at Aloha, Greg Clough, and make sure they put two massive side fins in my boards, and one small back fin to try and give me that power base. The Search days were pretty sick, and having Curren, Davo and Powelly around was mad. Just mad.
Vices… I’m grateful for my experiences, it’s the best life you can have. You had to know how to surf and you had to know how to party. Being around your heroes when you’re young, you just want to fit in and do all those things, but when it comes time to stop, it’s not as easy as one may think. When I was on the tour, it was the Fosters ASP World Tour, and at every town it was that town’s week to shine. If you wanted to party you could party every week, all year. You can duck and weave and fly to the next spot and leave that all behind and start afresh at a new place, but it’s a crazy existence. The culture was about how good you could surf after how smashed you got. That’s how it was, last man standing. It was fun for ten-15 years but I wasn’t surfing as much. I was always hungover, missing surfs, and it didn’t do me any favours during those close heats. In the end, that lifestyle took me away from surfing. A part of me wants to talk to kids about this, but I had to do a lot of growing up by going hard and just putting myself out there. In the end, I think they’ve got to work it out for themselves, You’ve got to let them go on trips, dig themselves out of some holes and come through the other side, but at what point do you pull them up? To make five years clean and sober, I did a full live in rehab for six months. That’s the dedication it took. When they didn’t allow me to surf, it was really to get myself right. Eventually you get day leave. But the whole process took me out for six months. That was my third attempt, and it finally brought me back to surfing. It’s like having an injury you can’t see – you need to address what’s going on, take the time to recover. Being male and Australian, people think it’s a weak mentality to ask for help, but there’s help if you want it, and it’ll only happen when you get the balls to put your hand up. I started asking questions after I saw what Tommy Carroll went through. It was obvious that something had changed in him.
“Rather than going out and doing it, it’s more about posting it on social media. Back in the day you did your talking out in the water.”
Women… Meeting the old man and opening up the car door goes a long way.
Love… I just got married so this is a good one for me. Love is not all about you. Meet someone halfway. You get what you put into it.
Success… Is putting your head on the pillow at the end of the night and being proud of yourself. Think about your self worth: are you a good bloke because you’re in the top ten and you’re sponsored by Rip Curl and you’ve got a house on the lake? Those outer things don’t really cut it down the track, but you can’t really tell a 20 year old that… I couldn’t be told anyway, that’s for sure. Less chaos and flashy stuff is worth being more present in the moment.
Heroes on Tour… I think Tommy Carroll and Mick Fanning are the best examples. Of course Tommy’s done it all on land and sea, and Mick was with me for Rip Curl growing up. We were in the madness together, thick as thieves. They’re both madmen, mad as cut snakes, but they get the bigger picture.
Finding religion… I always had that kind of upbringing but it’s come into focus the last couple of years. It’s given me gratitude for my surfing. From my experience, there’s a connection out there. When you see a beautiful wave peeling off, or you’re inside the barrel, there’s a spiritual feeling. I have my best surfs when I’m feeling connected and just feeling. Grounded in yourself and your values. I’m not thinking, I’m just riding. It’s paramount for surfing.
The tube… Life would be pretty boring without it. I look at Kelly’s new wave pool, and haven’t really been sold on it. It would be great fun, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t just flick a switch and go ride a barrel, you have to find it, be in the right moment and the right time. Then the universe delivers it, and you ride and come out.
Loyalty… No matter what you’ve been through, you’ve always got surfing. It never let’s you down.