WHEN DID YOU FIRST SENSE THE CRACKS?
Shane Herring: At the end of ’92. Marching powder ’92 in Hawaii.
Sandra Herring: First sensed the cracks… in about late ’94, early ’95. Drinking too much and he was spending too much money on god knows what.
Brett Herring: He changed his surfing to snap it up more. And when I was against him at the ’94 Curl Curl Classic – ha ha. That’d do it, The Spillane Brothers and the Herring Brothers in the final.
Russell Lewis: Saw the partying at the Coke presentation.
Nick Wood: His down year, didn’t make the cut-offs. Had to be mentally tiring. Couldn’t make it back.
[Shane: “Yeah, me and Nicky talked a little bit when we sat around. I lived above him, late ’90s, 9/11 days.”]
Pauline Menczer: Again, the part that stands out is France. In my head I see Sarge, Powelly, Shane, partying non-stop.
Greg Webber: In Japan when he threw a marker pen at the wall when our sponsor Yasu asked him to sign 10 or 20 of those little white, gilt-edged autograph cards. And I was in the room when he did this, so I thought oh my fucking god, you spoilt little brat. That was not the polite shy person who he was previously.
[Shane: “No recollection, sorry Greg and to Mr Japan.”]
Scott Crawford: A later Coke Classic at Queenscliff, against Kong. I don’t think he even caught a wave. We were very disappointed. But there was also something else. I was working with his Uncle Gary at the time and with Brett, who was doing a carpentry apprenticeship and labouring with Gary, Brett being a first-year apprentice. I saw Gary lose his mind one day. Shane had just signed a big contract with O’Neill and there was a house for sale in Howard Ave. That’s where the investment had to go. Gary said to me, “You’ll be staying there with Brett, taking care of it, taking care of Shane’s Mum when Shane is overseas. This is for his retirement.” Shane paid for her operation for a serious brain tumour out of his Coke winnings. She’d had the operation before the victory. He didn’t buy the house with the O’Neill deal. He was so close to buying it, but Shane was partying too hard. Uncle Gary, I can remember him getting mad at work. “Scotty, Shane’s got the whole world at his feet, fuck fuck. I love these little shits, but why aren’t they more like you?” Well, the answer was I wasn’t going out much. I wasn’t partying. Gary left us on a work site moving bricks. Brett hated his apprenticeship. The big boss came. The big boss yelled and said Brett’s attitude stank. Brett got up, laughed in his face, and walked down Military Road. It makes for a funny Australian vision, but it’s a story of similar brothers when you put the Kong heat in there too. They got to a point, stopped. Shane could’ve won the Title if he pulled back. He only needed to apply himself 20 per cent more but still be the mischievous boy. Twenty per cent is all he needed. [Shane laughs]
Wayne Ryan: When he wasn’t enjoying life, being pulled pillar to post from locals to sponsors. I grew up with him, mentoring in his happy years. He didn’t do a proper apprenticeship. O’Neill grabbed him out of school. He wasn’t grounded, straight into the big leagues. Didn’t know up from down. I remember reading papers about Santa Cruz. He got through four rounds and they said, “Shane Herring USA”. No one knew who he was.
Terry Day: Straight after the Coke contest, within a week. The week after.
Justin Crawford: When he came back from the long trip from Japan to Hawaii. We were all following him, hoping, but we all came from broken families. Dee Why. So we knew there’d be mischief away. What I think, he didn’t have the confidence in Hawaii, already down another road.
Peter Daniell: He wasn’t with me at that stage. He’d gone to Webber. He’d gone to Hawaii first year to compete. Through Stretch (Stuart Cooper, Kelly’s friend) or someone, I was told Kelly said he saw Herro walking down the street with a case of beer and said, “He’s gone.” I felt really, really sad because of his Dad’s path. Ninety-two, maybe.
Monty Webber: When we drank together and I saw he had what I had… alcoholism.
Greg Day: I really don’t recall.
Jeremy Byles: Don’t know how much, he was partying. The time we were in a high rise in Honolulu with (tour mate name withheld) and Shane and him lined up five rails and then I remember us driving around Honolulu in that hire car with Led Zep cranked on 10 and a couple of days later (same tour mate) won the Sunset contest.
[Shane: “We were party boys but were never on it during heats. I want to stress that.”]
I don’t remember seeing Shane that much (after ’92) really. Brazil maybe, grovelling those contests, surfing pretty good still, requalifying for the 44 so it must’ve a year later. He was surfing alright. I never saw him surf that bad in those times, always pretty good.
Andrew Kidman: When I stopped seeing him sober.
Mark Rabbidge: Cracks always appear and no one knows why. A few bad results come but cracks are there before.
Derek Hynd: Between Nick Wood and Shane Herring sits little remembered rookie pro, Marcus Brabant. Seventeen-year-old Brabant easily made the quarters of a French tour event and looked destined. He didn’t have the panache of Wood or Herring, but tactically and vertical surfing wise had the key – easy ability to score well. A night celebrating on the piss after reaching the quarters because of (name withheld) and presto, never got through another heat. Ended up fucked up, back home and in trouble with the law.
WHEN DID YOU SEE IT FALLING APART?
Shane Herring: Have to be end of ’92, the fourth-place finish didn’t upset me but going into ’93 I was still falling apart and it stayed that way until I left, which was actually a good thing. As I said, an explosion that came and went – and it was fun.
Sandra Herring: That nightmare started in ’95, ’96, ’97, he started having a lot of mental health issues and a lot of friends tried to help but nothing was working. Mental health breakdown.
Brett Herring: Orr yeah, one time at Elanora, ’95 or ’96. I was on the verge of leaving Sydney. I’ve got a picture of it, first place he lived out of home. He was a different person. Powelly came to visit. Next day, he just wasn’t… and he’s been That Shane ever since. Two different people. I missed a lot if it but then I got out of Sydney in the last half of the ‘90s so missed even more if it.
Greg Webber: In Hawaii one morning at about 10am when I was on the sand near Sunset and I saw what I thought was some old drunk or stoned dude trudging through the sand towards me. It was a clothed-but-messy Shane after a night on god-knows-what. Everyone else in the Rocky Point O’Neill house were either surfing or filming. That’s when I realised that this is not going to be easy for him to handle anymore.
Nick Wood: On tour, when you see some things radically coming off, apart, you see confidence shot.
Scott Crawford: That heat with Kong. He just sat out there. I knew. So did the rest of us.
Terry Day: That week (post-’92 Coke win). He’d been so disciplined.
Justin Crawford: I’m one of his friends. I’ve got to see a lot of different shapes of Shane. When did I see it? Ongoing, finding clarity amongst mayhem. That’s been the struggle. I probably saw it as he got in the Kombi after the win. I was young but I definitely saw it then. The endorphins, the heightened endorphins. His frequency was at Slater’s heightened level… then immediately leapt to the party at that frequency.
The full 20,000 word story is running in SW418, on sale now and available here.