What I Know About…
Boardriders Clubs… Surf clubs are uniquely Australian. They’ve become the backbone of a communal competitive environment. When Andy Irons came to Snapper he saw firsthand the bond between members of the club and how it pushed everyone. He always asked me “Can you help me set up one like you guys have?” So recently a few of the Merewether boys got together sent over a bunch of guidelines on how to do it and hopefully they’ll soon have the first ever surf club for Andy’s home break at Pine Trees on Kauai.
My First Board… Dad shaped it the day I was born. It’s a 4’6”. The craziest thing about that surfboard is dad put World Champion 2000 on the stringer and that happened to be the year I was going against Sunny for the World Title. He wrote that in 1969 and I finished 2nd in the world 31 years later. The board got stolen and I hadn’t seen it for a long, long time when suddenly this guy makes contact with me and has it in Newcastle! He wants to trade two Andy Irons boards for it. I’m still negotiating. I don’t know if I want to give up any of my Andy boards, not even for my first surfboard.
Turning Pro… When I was 16 my dad sat me down and said, “OK, you’ve been fluffing around with this, you need to get your arse into gear or you’re gonna go do an apprenticeship.” He wanted me to take surfing on as a career and a business. That was the moment I thought, “Alright, lets do it.” I think in the back of his mind dad thought I was gonna end up at the factory with him and he didn’t want me to be there. That was a turning point that led me to having an amazing life in surfing but what’s funny is that now I’m 46, I’m kinda bummed I haven’t taken on some of his skills with timber, joinery and shaping. He’s still doing it as his number one passion. You go to his house and his wife tells him he’s not allowed to be out the back in his shed. You sit there talking to him and he just looks out at his shed thinking of stuff he could be doing out there. He doesn’t talk to you anyway.
Retirement… Retiring was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life but surfers are lucky because we always have our passion. Rugby League Immortal Andrew Johns said to me, “You’re retired but you can pick up a surfboard right now and go surf as hard as you surfed any heat in your whole career and you get that release. I can’t walk out onto the field and play football as hard as I did ever again.” I wasn’t training much or enjoying my new life but what he said really struck a chord. After that I thought, “No more rest. I have to train my arse off and still surf to the level I gotta surf.”
Missed Opportunities… Not winning a World Title doesn’t keep me up at night but I sometimes wonder, “What if I did win it? What could I have done at different times to get that edge to have won?” That kind of thinking helps me with what I’m doing now. So, I take it as a missed opportunity and use it as a motivational tool.
Mentors… Damien “Dooma” Hardman took me under his wing. We both rode for Aloha and I started travelling with him and it was a real education. He taught me about structure: how to plan a heat, how to form strategies against your opponents and exploit them. He was winning World Titles but he was also a real friend and mentor. It’s hard to overstate the influence he had on my early career.
Fatherhood… It’s the best thing you’ll ever do. I’m so grateful that I’m not going to go through life without that experience. As a professional athlete you’re probably one of the most selfish people in the world. I’ve always been one to provide for my family but I’ve learned that time, just being there with them, is the most valuable thing you can give. That’s what I need to provide. I make time to do that.
Billabong… Twenty-six years at Billabong was a big thing to walk away from. I wrote Gordon Merchant a letter and thanked him for everything. I always admired and respected him, the way he built Billabong and the way that he got it to where it was, but I had always dreamt of owning my own company and the timing seemed right on point for the independent surf retailer. They’re the families and the people who built up the surf industry to what it is. I come from that surf shop background, I grew up in a surf shop. I still want to go surfing and be in the surf industry and have challenges in my life. They’re really the main reasons.