"Like riding a bike," says Shane of his infrequent surfs. “It takes a bit to find your legs but it's always there.” (Crawford)

Revisit: Shane Herring In His Own Words

Take Audience With Dee Why’s Prodigal Son.

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*First published in Surfing World issue #337, April 2013

At the end of 1992 Shane Herring was rated number four on the ASP WCT ratings. He’d beaten Kelly Slater in the first final of both men’s careers, had been world number one for more than half a year and, despite having faded from the Title race in the back half of the season, was still pegged by many as Australia’s best chance for a Championship as the New School era began to take hold. He was on six-figure contracts, enjoyed an international profile and was well loved as a cackling, good-natured kid with a bright surfing future.

Three years later, Herring was off Tour, broke and living as a recluse on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. For the decade that followed he suffered from an alcohol and drug addiction that would cost him friendships, work, his health and all his teeth. He spent time in and out of psychiatric facilities before checking into rehab in 2010 where he stayed for almost an entire year. Since then he has spent his time between his Mum’s garage in Dee Why and his girlfriend’s place at Chinderah on the NSW North Coast. Although he admits to enjoying his drink, he reckons he hasn’t touched drugs since leaving rehab.

Rumour and speculation as to the whereabouts and life journey of Shane Herring have long done the rounds in surfing circles and until recently Shane has been unwilling to talk. This interview was recorded at Justin Crawford’s hat and surfboard factory in the Byron Bay Industrial Estate on a drizzly Friday morning in late March. Shane had had a double shot espresso, a surf at Tallows, and a curry pie. He was sober as the tape began to roll.

Shane Herring today. Deewhyan for life. (Crawford)

SW: How did it feel to get out in the water today?
SH: Good. I got to my feet. (Laughs)

When was your last surf before today?
With Justin (Crawford) a couple of weeks ago. Justin’s my mate and he’s got these new boards coming out. They go quite well. They’ve got these big fins on the back and they’re bonzas based on kneeboards. They’re called Surf Cowboys. I was thinking about knee-boarding on the things (laughs). But they’re cool. You gotta squat down on them to make them work. I’m used to round noses and that sort of tail. Old bonzas. Mitch Thorson was the first person I saw ride one, in 91 in Western Australia. These ones are based on Crawford’s kneeboards. You gotta really squat down, you gotta have that low centre of gravity to get these boards to work.

Which is natural for you.
Well it is because I’m not very tall (laughs).

Are you enjoying surfing on these boards?
There was one wave where I was down very low and I went very, very fast. And I remember thinking, “You gotta be low on these boards, you gotta squat to get that speed.” It’s not too bad riding a shortboard with a keel and a couple of stabilizer fins. It’s not like you’re going out and doing aerials but you can go really fast.

You were saying today was a struggle for you.
Well, yeah. It was worse a couple of weeks ago because I hadn’t surfed for six months. I’ve probably had five or six surfs since then. It’s been good to get back in the ocean a little bit. It’s not really about trying for me now. There’s no looking into the beach for a judges tower thinking, “What am I gonna get? What am I gonna get?”

You’re not surfing for anyone but yourself.
That’s right. To get a bit of exercise. Not to be the best.

So how do you feel about your surfing?
It’s easy when you’re doing it. It’s not hard. Once you get your legs it’s like riding a bike. You go six months without surfing and it takes a bit to find your legs but it’s always there. And I don’t have to make an impression, I mean, I’d like to be impressive, everybody does, everybody wants to feel like they’re surfing well, we all want to be a little superstar but I’m too old for that shit. I’m 42. So I don’t feel like I need to be impressive. But my surfing, when I’m doing it and I’ve got my legs, it still feels good.

How would you describe your relationship with surfing these days?
Untidy and intermediate. Yes. Six surfs in six months is not very dedicated. It’s not the two surfs a day minimum you’re doing when you’re young, is it?

So going for a wave obviously isn’t the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning?
Well it has been lately because I’ve been dreaming of surfing a lot. It’s nice to have good dreams and… nice memories. It’s been a long time since I’ve had nice dreams and been able to remember good things instead of fucking shit. I tell you what, I dreamt about Andy Irons the other night. It was amazing. True story.

What was the dream about?
He was pulling in. It was radical.

You were surfing with him?
No, no, no. I was just watching it in my dreams. Yeah. I was just dreaming it. He was pulling in and it was like a camera in my head and I was just watching it. It was Hawaii. I hated waking up because I wanted to keep watching it.

And that made you want to surf?
I surf when I want to surf. I don’t have to do it. And I don’t like being told I have to do it. I do it when it comes around. I’ve always lived on the ocean. I’ve spent time inland but I can’t live inland. So it’s there and it happens when it happens. Since I finished with professional surfing and competing I’ve always lived near the beach.

“I USED TO WEAR MY BELROSE FOOTY JACKET IN THE SURF.
SURFING IS IN MY BLOOD.”

Shane likes to surf on his own time, and his own terms. (Crawford)

Do you watch the Tour now? Does it interest you?
Yes I do. I watch it on telly and stuff like that.

What do you think of modern surfing?
Well I’ll tell you what I think of modern aerials. There was Christian Fletcher and Matt Archbold aerials and they were real aerials. They weren’t twisting and turning. And so my comment on the modern aerial is that it’s easier to twist and turn than it is to do a real aerial. Martin Potter invented ’em pretty much and it was an extension of hitting the lip. Nowadays they’re doing the twist and I mean, well done Chubby Checker, but I consider a re-entry aerial better than a doonk doonk doonk and twist at the end of the wave. I’m not saying I don’t like it. I’m just saying it’s becoming too repetitive and common now. That’s my comment on that.

What aspects of modern surfing do you like?
Ry Craike I love. He’s a maniac. That thing Kelly did at Bells. That Gabriel Medina kid did something at Santa Cruz that was incredible. It’s not acrobatics when it goes to that extent. Joel Parkinson. He’s very stylish, so refined. He doesn’t fuss about like the rest of them. He creates time for himself on waves by being so smooth. Mick Fanning is just fast, fast, fast. Power. There’s a lot to like everywhere you look.

Is it fair to say you still love surfing?
Oh shit yeah. I love surfing it’s just that I don’t like doing it sometimes (laughs).

Well, let’s talk about where that love comes from then. When did you first feel it?
I stood up on the first wave I ever caught. And that was the moment. It was at Curl Curl. I was nine. My uncle Gary Balnave pushed me into my first wave. I thought it was six foot. It was probably only one foot (laughs). But it was gold.

Where were you living at that time?
At Frenchs Forest where INXS are from. So I’d carry my foamie on the bus down to Freshwater Beach, where my great grandfather watched the Duke introduce surfing to Australia, and where my grandfather used to watch Midget Farrelly wag school to surf, and I’d surf there. Not long after, Mum moved to Dee Why and I started surfing there. I’d catch the 180 to Dee Why for 35 cents and surf there. I used to wear my Belrose footy jacket in the surf. Surfing is in my blood.

When did you start to become part of the crew at Dee Why?
Well I was a Frenchs Forest boy so at first I wasn’t really accepted. There were two main hang spots, Crud Hill and The Rat’s Castle. Once you started hanging there you were pretty much accepted.

What’s the Rat’s Castle?
You don’t want to know (laughs). It was right on the beach there at Kiddies Corner. There were a lot of guys around at that time and everyone would hang at those two spots and if you were hanging out there you were considered part of the Dee Why crew.

How was the surf scene for the groms at Dee Why?
Fantastic. First and foremost there was the Point. Then we had the stormwater drain that’d make these beautiful lefthanders that would break all the way into Kiddies Corner. It was a full on semi big-wave left. And then there was Kiddies, in the basin and we’d surf in there and watch these waves out the back and aspire to get out there and surf with them. And the guys who surfed ’em ripped. Really fantastic surfers. So you wanted to surf where they were surfing. It was good for a kid to see that stuff.

And what about the scene on land? Dee Why had a reputation at that time for being a pretty wild place?
Dee Why was the lower class. No doubt about it. And the lower classes of society live with problems. Lots of problems. Dee Why is a lot of people living in a small space. We were fine though. The older fellas were protective. They’d scold you if you fucked up but for the most part they looked after us. I think it’s worse now. There used to be houses and community. And we’d all sit there on Jimmy’s corner and carve our names in the brick wall. Everyone knew everyone’s business. We just hung out and surfed and rode skateboards hanging onto the back of the buses and go all the way up the street. It was normal. All that stuff was normal kid’s stuff for that time.

At what point did you feel like you were beginning to surf well?
Phil Murray gave me a board called a Hoot. A Hoot surfboard with Jerry the mouse from The Tom & Jerry Show on it. It was a little single fin. And I was surfing the basin and I started doing these cutbacks. A guy came up to me one day and said, “Shane that bloke says you’re one of the best little basin surfers he’s seen.” And that stoked me out because I’d never even thought that before. And so I got my Hoot and then Phil was shaping for Terry Fitzgerald at Hot Buttered and that was my first sponsor until I started riding Daniels Surfboards.

Were you in the Dee Why Surfing Fraternity at this stage?
No I was in the Christian Surfers. Christian City Surfers. I’m a DYSF boy now, but I was with the CCS from 13 till 17. That was the staple for me.

When did you start getting noticed outside of Dee Why?
I got this thing called ‘Surfer of the Month’ in Tracks. It was a little square photo and I was doing a cutback on a Peter Daniels. I should never have got off those boards. Vee bottoms. I liked ’em. It was around that time I first started doing aerials and I remember my uncle saying to me, “What are you doing man? You’re supposed to surf on the wave.” But I was watching the Wave Warriors videos and I saw Christian Fletcher and Archy and Pottz and I thought, “That’s me.”

How was your life outside of surfing around this time?
I had a job as a milk runner, because my grandfather was a milk runner, and the boss called me Scum Fart. I had a job, I was doing school, I never wagged school and I was starting to think about being a pro surfer.

Did you party at all as you hit your teen years?
Yeah, we had ABBA parties and safari parties and there were parties every weekend but I was pretty serious around that time. Parties were a Friday night thing. I’d have a few but then I’d be… Bang! …up the next morning and straight back into the surfing.

“OH SHIT YEAH. I LOVE SURFING IT’S JUST THAT I DON’T LIKE DOING IT SOMETIMES.”

A freckle-faced blonde haired grom with a mad cackle, a nose for the ledge barrel and a searing frontside cutty. Early Dee Why years. (Crawford/Mcleod)

When did your surf career start to really take off?
My Uncle Gary was training me and getting me into it but things became more serious when I walked into Terry Day’s shop with Greg Day and my Mum, and I said, “I wanna go on Tour”. Terry had coached Wendy Botha and Damien Hardman and helped them to win World Titles that year. And Terry looked at Greg and my Mum and said, “Is it tangible?” I didn’t even know what tangible meant. I stood there and I said, “Tangible? I want to be a World Champion.” He just pulls out this sheet and hands it to me and that was it. I looked at it and it was a goal sheet, a sheet I had to write my goals on.

What did you write on it?
I want to be World Champion.

This is 87?
Yeah. And so Terry took me under his wing and I started training with Damien Hardman and Wendy Botha. Skipping, boxing, cardio vascular, all that sort of stuff. Solid training. Terry was a big influence in my life at that time.

What happened next?
I did my HSC. I wouldn’t say I passed with flying colours but I passed and at the time that was important to me. By then I’d done three to four years of solid training and I was ready to surf. I came 13th in the Opens of the Aussie Titles the year I’d left school and that’s when I was ready to go the next step.

When did you first start surfing Pro Tour events?
I won the Pro Junior Trials at Avalon and suddenly I got an invitation to compete at Santa Cruz for the Cold Water Classic at Steamer Lane. So I flew to Hawaii and then on to San Francisco by myself. I remember, I’m at San Francisco airport with five boardbags all by myself with no clue how to get to Santa Cruz and Renan Rocha comes up and taps me on the shoulder and says, “What are you doing?” I said, “I have no idea.” And he drove me to Santa Cruz with all his Brazilian mates and I’m hanging with them for the rest of the comp.

Did you know him?
Not at all. I had no accommodation, I didn’t know anyone and Renan just walks up and saves me. I didn’t know how to get to Santa Cruz and he gave me a lift.

And you went well in the comp?
I got through three heats in the trials and nearly made the main event.

Is this when O’Neill first noticed you?
I was invited to surf in the contest by O’Neill, that’s why I’d traveled there in the first place. I was riding for Quiksilver at the time but O’Neill wanted me to ride for them. So Greg and Terry sent me over to Santa Cruz and, truth be told, that’s kind of how I ended up going that way.

And after that contest you were officially on Tour?
After the Coldwater at Santa Cruz I went to the Bundaberg Pro at Burleigh and made the main event. Me and Powelly made the main event and that’s where it really started for both of us. I’d met Powelly at the Aussie Titles and he was younger than me but we hit it off straight away. We did very well in Australia and were on Tour after that. But we were broke. I remember by the time I got to Europe I had $100 left in my bank. I remember I was sitting in a hire car reading Stephen King wondering what I was going to do and the next comp I went in I won the trials and won two grand. I finished the year 54th.

How were you and Powelly accepted by the older crew at that time?
There was full camaraderie and it was like, welcome, welcome, welcome!

You’re telling me the most ruthless competitors of all time, Tom Carroll, Barton Lynch, Gary Elkerton, Damien Hardman etc. are saying, “Welcome aboard”?
We were just part of the crew. I never really got any of that cold shoulder stuff. I didn’t see any of that sort of shit. I mean, if you were in a heat with those guys, yeah, they were ruthless, but on land they were the guardians. They were the men.

1990 is your first year on Tour and it’s also Kelly’s first appearance on Tour. What did you think of him?
Unbelievable. Kelly Slater was unbelievable. I didn’t know anything about the bloke. He turned up at Hossegor and he had a seed or a wildcard or something and he just whipped everyone’s arses. He just blazed. And I honestly think Kelly was thinking at the time, “Well, this is easy.” He was a phenomenon. Very flexible. Extremely fit. The thing was, he lost a heat to Curren. And Curren that year had been surfing through the trials and he was untouchable. And so enigmatic. Back in Santa Cruz I remember I’d seen him in the competitor’s area and he had these sunnies on and was looking just like MP. And he wouldn’t look sideways. He’d just look at the ocean, timing his sets, timing everything… I mean, maybe that’s what he was doing? I dunno. Who knows what he was thinking? It’s true that was the year we all saw Kelly for the first time, but 1990 was all about Curren. And in that heat they had together Curren shut him down.

The year Curren won the World Title you finished 54th. And then the following year you finished 36th, inside the all-important top 44 and well on the way to living your dream.
I was 19 and I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing.

And at this time it’s well known and widely reported that the party scene on Tour, particularly in Europe and Brazil, is absolutely crazy.
The parties were next level. I’d drink. I’d take drugs. Not at anybody’s willing. I instigated that sort of thing and indulged in that behaviour myself. Some guys were into it, others weren’t. It was just a bit of fun.

Would you party on nights the contests were on?
Yes, because you were strong. You had no supervision. You had opportunity. It wasn’t the WCT now. It wasn’t the WQS. It was 50 contests a year. No coaches. No team managers. Racing from this place to the next. Half the time you’d sleep in the contest tent and go and get a baguette in the morning and do what you had to do to get by. And eventually people are inviting you to stay, local people. Then you start to do well and you start earning some money. And then you start to have fun, because you’ve got the stamina, you’re doing well and you think you can handle it. These days, it’s nothing like that.

How did drugs become a part of that party scene?
It wasn’t like we searched them out. Like, “I’m hanging for drugs! I’m hanging for drugs!” I’d get up in the morning, eat some food, go surfing, hang out, go surf beautiful waves again and then go party. If there were drugs there you took them. Coke. Acid. Whatever. You just didn’t think about it.

“KELLY SLATER WAS UNBELIEVABLE. I DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE BLOKE. HE TURNED UP AT HOSSEGOR AND HE JUST WHIPPED EVERYONE’S ARSES.”

Herring en route to his first and only elite tour win at the Coke Classic Narrabeen. (Joli)
It was also the first WCT final for his opponent, Kelly Slater. (Crawford)

Let’s talk about 1992, because this is the year the big push is happening. New School versus Old School. And the hype around Kelly Slater is huge.
Well that’s when Greg Webber made the Banana Board at the end of 91. Greg came up with the 

concave and he did so to combat the emergence of Kelly Slater and the slipper boards he was riding, very, very thin boards with a lot of lift in the nose. At Kelly’s first contest in Hossegor we saw that he was riding wafers. Greg knew I was surfing well and that I was fit and so he came up with these Banana Boards. They were incredibly radical with something like four inches of lift in the nose and tail. And in good waves I was just going up and down, up and down. I wasn’t doing aerials but I could surf them because I was super fit. And the judges would see me doing the turns and score it just like the olden days, MP knew all about it, and I’m sorry to mention his name. I don’t mean to be disrespectful.

I don’t think you’re being disrespectful by mentioning MP.
Well, he surfed the best to the criteria but he was better than that. Anyway, at first I liked the Bananas because I could do so many turns in the pocket. But the problem was the boards didn’t work if the waves weren’t punchy and hollow.

Okay, well let’s talk about that in a moment. Tell me first about the Coke Classic, the opening salvo in what was supposed to be a major generational shift on Tour. You and Kelly in the final of the richest surf contest in the world.
Yep, all me mates were there.

All your mates were there. Were you feeling like you were at the top of your game at this point in regards to how you were surfing?
Not at all. I was just surfing. Same as always. There was no thought process going into the Coke. I just felt like I was home. It was local, there were small waves. I was living at my Mum’s, I didn’t have a license so I was catching the bus down to Narrabeen to surf my heats. They put me on the front cover of the Manly Daily as the surfer who catches the bus to work (laughs). I beat Barton and Dave Macaulay. I beat Jeremy Byles. And suddenly I was in the final.

Did you sense that many people felt as though they were seeing the future of surfing in that heat?
Nothing went through my mind like that at all. I reached the quarter finals and all I thought about was winning. It was very small and it was just a shorey. I did a small air in the final. It was really very small, but it was just like winning boardriders to me.

Did you and Kelly talk during the final?
I don’t recall but he would have been spinning I think. I think he was going, “How did this little Australian drunk beat me!” He probably paddled out thinking he would beat me easily but he didn’t. I was very happy but they gave me a Coke can as a trophy. I would have thought it would be something a little more extravagant than that.

You won $33,000. Is it true you put five grand on the bar at Dee Why RSL after the final?
No. I bought 55 jugs and put sambuca shots in the bottom of 44 of them.

How was that night on a scale of one to 10?
Cripies. They wouldn’t let us in anywhere. So we went to the city. And we went to DCM nightclub and guess what?

You weren’t allowed in there either?
Well, I was allowed, I’d won the comp, but nobody else was allowed. So we just ended up at some pub.

So after the Coke win you took the World number one ranking?
And stayed there for six or eight months.

You were suddenly a World Title contender. Did you approach the Tour differently after that win?
No. And you know what I did wrong? I took the wrong boards to France. That year was a very small-wave Tour, so if I’d taken my Coke board to France there would have been no stopping me. It was a flat 5’10” single concave, very flat simple, simple, simple, outline. A very good small-wave board. But I took the Banana Boards and they just didn’t work. They all got stolen in the end. But there was another factor to consider as well.

What’s that?
I couldn’t surf Pipeline. If I didn’t win the Tour before Hawaii I wasn’t going to win because I couldn’t surf Pipe. I could surf Backdoor but Pipeline scared the shit out of me and there was no way I could do what Kelly was doing out there.

Why wouldn’t you put in the time out there if you knew it was a weak area?
It scared the shit out me. I couldn’t do it. Sunset wasn’t a problem. I was on the cover of Honolulu Today on my first wave I ever caught out there. In my first heat out Sunset Johnny Boy Gomes punched the shit out of me but I still loved the wave. But Pipeline I just never got comfortable with.

So at the end of 1992 after you’ve been world number one for half the year Kelly Slater is crowned World Champion. You ended up finishing fourth. At some point did you take a moment to think what you had achieved?
Not really.

You never thought to yourself, “I’ve finished fourth in the world, I beat Kelly in a final, this next year is the perfect opportunity for me to have a run at the World Title”?
No. Nup.

So when did this goal sheet that you’d written for Terry Day, the one that said, “I want to be World Champion”, cease to exist for you?
I just lost it. I lost that mindset because I was already living the dream. I didn’t think I was the best or anything. I was just travelling the world getting paid well to surf and that was enough for me.

In 1993 you finished 22nd, which is a significant slide down the ratings for a guy people are expecting to see challenging for a World Title.
At the end of 1993 one journalist said, “Well that’s where you should be.” Thank you very much. I didn’t care though. I’d made the decision to leave O’Neill and I was getting good offers from Billabong and Hot Tuna. So even though I’d slid down the ratings I was offered good sponsorship for 1994. I went with Hot Tuna.

Were you worried about your form in contests? Did anyone pull you aside or say anything?
I didn’t need to be pulled aside. I had 200 grand in the bank. I didn’t give a fuck what anybody thought.

At the end of 1994 you’d fallen off Tour. In two years you’d gone from fourth in the world to failing to requalify. How?
I got last in every contest.

Why?
Because I was drinking too much.

So the partying had become a problem?
It was starting to become… night out, feeling drowsy, over and out, go to the contest, not interested, fuck it. I was just worn out. I came 44th. Dead last on the CT. At the end of the year I looked at the Tour and thought, “Fuck it, I’m not going back.” I had a few hundred thousand in the bank and I went and lived in Elanora.

“I COULDN’T SURF PIPELINE. IF I DIDN’T WIN THE TOUR BEFORE HAWAII I WASN’T GOING TO WIN BECAUSE I COULDN’T SURF PIPE.”

Solo sessions just north of Byron. Enjoying the feeling of being in the water, unjudged. (Crawford)

Is there any stage during 1994 that anybody tried to help you see that you were throwing it all away?
Barton Lynch was very upset with me coming off Tour. He was upset with my career being over. Rob Bain was upset. Those guys really cared about me like I was a little brother. And I was upset that they were upset. I think they tried to help me to see but I was over it. I couldn’t really give a shit by the time it was too late. I had money. I could still surf. I still had ego and I had false illusions.

Did you feel you could make a life from surfing on your own away from the Tour?
When you surf on Tour, in contests, you’re always looking to the beach to see what they’re gonna score ya. The local surfer doesn’t care about any of that. But once I was off Tour I kept looking for the judging tower. It took me 15 years to get over that. I’m still trying to get over it. Feeling judged when I’m in the water. I always have to look over my shoulder. And that’s the feeling that comes with having a profile as well. Everyone is judging you. That’s what you think. It’s not like that now but it was brutal for me. I was out there thinking I was getting judged by every single person in the water. Now everyone’s out there going “Hey man, how are ya?” It’s like… relax man.

When did the sponsorship dollars run out? When did you stop getting paid to surf?
At the end of 95 it was all over.

How did you survive?
I lived off me own money. I’d never spent it. I had a big bank account. But that all burnt through in two years. A lot of it went up my nose.

Cocaine?
Started out as Coke. It eventually ended up as lower class drugs. Amphetamines. If you burn out your non-receptive receptor you’re in a bit of trouble.

Could you feel your health suffering at this time.
No. You don’t even know it when it’s happening. You don’t know until you get depressed and then they put you on psychiatry drugs and then it takes a long time to get off that fucking shit. When you get depressed you really fuck up. And that’s when they think you’re a harm to yourself and a harm to society. So basically don’t even go there. Don’t even take drugs. That’s why I went to rehab in the end.

When did you go to rehab?
Three or four years ago.

That’s a 15 year hole between coming off Tour and finally getting off drugs?
Yes. 15 years.

Are people reaching out to you during this time?
Of course they are, but I was a hermit. I became a recluse. I’d walk the back way to the shops so I didn’t have to see anybody. I was secret squirrel. I might go and hang in the park and drink beer but I mostly stayed inside. I lived at Freshwater for a while. I worked for the Harbord Diggers for a while. I had odd jobs that I couldn’t keep.

Is surfing in your life at all during this period?
Surfing was there but I was very confused. You’ve got to consider your own health and those around you. So I decided to go and see a psychologist and it was wonderful at the start. But then they try and change you. They give you these drugs, Stelazine and Olanzapine and they make you fat and retarded and then you can’t surf because you’re unfit. It’s basically a mental lobotomy. Instead of giving me a lobotomy they’d give me drugs that stop certain parts of the brain working. They put me on it because of the bad dreams I was having. You don’t even dream on that shit. Tramadol is like synthetic heroin. It’s not even making you feel good. I fight the shit, that’s why I don’t take it. I don’t like what it does to me. It makes me fat and retarded. And I took this stuff for 10 years.

“I HAD MONEY. I COULD STILL SURF. I STILL HAD EGO AND I HAD FALSE ILLUSIONS.”

Though infrequent, even in his darkest days surfing was still there. (Crawford)
During Shane’s lost years many people tried to keep him surfing, including Geoff McCoy, who put him on the nuggets. “Beautiful boards” says Shane. (Crawford)

When did you lose your teeth?
They were rotten from goey. Speed. And here’s the thing, plaque can go to your brain and to your heart. It physically debilitates you. You can die from rotten teeth. I told the doctors my teeth were rotten and they booked me into the hospital a week later and I got 26 teeth ripped out in 56 minutes. The whole fucking lot. And a dental technician at Dee Why made me a new set. I couldn’t handle it anymore, I was biting my gums from shooting goey and drinking and, I mean, it’s better out than in isn’t it? You’ll get a heart disease from rotten teeth. Plaque is the main cause of heart disease. It’s very true.

How long did you go without teeth?
Six months (laughs). I was gumming on McDonalds. Six months without teeth.

Was this about the time you checked into rehab?
I was fucked. I went to rehab because I had nowhere else to go. People had had enough of me. I was not well. Not well at all. And I mean this is pretty candid but I was in rehab for a year.

How did you find rehab?
I was treated well. They let me buy CDs, I could bring movies for everyone to watch. I could play Danzig and Monster Magnet. I put Death Proof with Kurt Russell on in the church one day (laughs) I actually got in trouble for that.

When did you start coming up to the North Coast?
In 96 I came up to Byron Bay and I just sat on a blanket down at Tallows. And a lovely friend introduced himself to me and invited me to stay in his house and it sort of grew from there. In 98 Geoff McCoy started giving me a few boards and they were wonderful surfboards, beautiful. Figure eights all day long. I’d known Cheyne Horan but I’d never known Geoff. Those Nuggets were beautiful surfboards.

Just surf, says Shane. Just surf. (Crawford)

Have you always had people who just wanted to help you get back in water?
Yes, yes, definitely. “Just surf Shane. Just surf.” Well Geoff McCoy was a wonderful influence at a time when I was very confused. And I met a lot of friends around Lennox and Byron and Broken who just wanted me to be normal. Then I moved to Fingal for a while. There was no drugs. It was like, “Fuck Sydney. Fuck the drugs.” But then I’d end up back in Sydney, back at Dee Why and getting back on it. Being on the North Coast is really very good for me.

Where are you at with your addictions today?
I don’t take drugs anymore. I don’t touch drugs anymore, none of it, nothing.

What about drinking?
Drinking is ok. It’s legal. I like it. But basically I’m not allowed to drink in the morning. I gotta wait till lunch time. It’s an afternoon food.

Do you see drinking as a problem in your life?
No I don’t see drinking as a problem in my life because when you go in to seek help it means you need help. The 12 steps always does the work. I went to rehab for a year. That was 2010. They’re wonderful people in there and they help you. I ended up as a secretary of the Salvation Army in Canberra that year. They always said nice things to me like, “You’re doing a good job.” And I wasn’t going to leave. But they believe in the gospel and you have to sing in the choir and I was like, “fuck off.” The day before graduation I got drunk, did a nude run and got kicked out. My involvement with the Salvation Army has been very involved. These days when I go to AA or NA I’ll have a cookie and a cup of tea and listen and think, “You don’t know the half of it.”

How do you feel about your life as we sit here and talking through it?
Well I’m sitting here with you and talking about it.

Where do you see yourself now? Are you in a good place?
I have lovely dreams. And I worry about my family and they probably worry about me. Everything is normal. It’s a cycle on a washing machine. Whirling and twirling.

Are you happy?
Fucking oath.

Are you feeling good about tomorrow?
Keep livin’.

Are you confident about the future?
Bro. You’re over-stepping the line.

Do you think about your future though? You’re only 42 years old.
I have ambitions. But to be honest I don’t think about it at all. Now, stop your journalistic fucking mind and leave me alone.

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Vaughan Blakey