From the moment an unborn, single-celled Matt Hoy, split into two Hoyo cells, then four – all of them already tattooed, swearing and up for a good time – the house on the beach has been a part of his life. “I was conceived out the front apparently,” he laughs. “I was conceived out the front in a panel van. When Mum told me I said, ‘Good onya Mum. That was the ’70s all right.’ Puberty Blues.Nah wait… Puberty Blueys!” The laughter at his own joke lasts a full minute.
Starting with Matt’s grandparents, the Hoy family have owned the modest fibro beach shack up the coast for exactly 54 years. It’s been a long time. Back then the beachfront here looked a little different to how it does today, dotted with multi-million-dollar holiday homes. “Mate, when I was a kid, they were sandmining the fucking shit out of the beach,” recalls Hoyo. “They were sandmining right below our house. No joke. There was this massive sand dredger parked on the beach just digging huge holes all day. Imagine turning up with your bulldozers and trying to do that today! You’d get life!”
Hoyo spent great chunks of his childhood up here. “I was there every school holidays until I started travelling on tour at 17. I think I missed one. I went to Darwin for one school holidays, but every other school holidays I was there.” If there weren’t waves out front of the house, there were plenty of others not far away.
But while one by one, the beach shacks up and down the beach have been replaced by bigger, gaudier beach properties, the Hoy’s shack has resisted. “The house hasn’t changed at all,” offers Matt proudly. “It looks exactly the same. We put a new back verandah on but that’s about it. It’s got like 26 beds in there or something and the whole family bunkers in at Christmas and we just deal with it. It’s good.” The shack is one of the last originals on the strip, right down to the décor. Hoyo is blunt when asked if the family would ever consider selling or bulldozing it for something bigger. “Not a fucking chance.”
While the area has changed, recently the clock has wound back a couple of decades. With Sydney locked down, Hoyo took off up the coast for a week and found the place deserted. “There were no people up there at all. No one. It was unbelievable. That’s the least crowded I’ve had it since I was a kid.” With a little kick in the swell forecast it was too good an opportunity to waste. Hoyo got on the phone and by Tuesday morning had assembled the most Novocastrian surf trip of all time – Hoy, Bosko, Simon Robinson, Craig Anderson, Ryan Callinan and Jack Taylor. They were just missing MR and Joey Johns off the bingo card.
“We all stayed at my house, but they all camped. No one stayed inside the house, just me and Bosky. All the other boys put swags up. Who camps when you’ve got beds inside? Arkman [Simon Robinson] is a bit of a bush rat and put his tent on the veranda. It was fucking hilarious. But I don’t camp,” clarifies Hoy. “I hate fucking camping. Why would you camp when you’ve got a house?” He’s got a point.
The waves for the next three days were okay – not all-time – but nobody seemed to care. They had sessions straight out front, sessions up and down the coast, but only once did they have company. “Some local boys come down from town, but we’d already surfed for three hours so we just got out and let them have it. It was like on a boat trip, you know, where you take shifts in the lineup? They did three hours then we went back out. I was paddling around going, where the fuck is everyone? The surf wasn’t epic, but it was just so good having nobody around. We were just that buggered from surfing all day. Ryan’s a machine and surfed all day, every day, but for me five hours a day… I was fucked mate.”
With the town dead, for the most part they just hung out at the house. “We went to the Reccy for dinner one night. The food’s been pretty ordinary for a long time, but they’ve got a new chef in, and the food was actually really good. But we stayed at home for the rest of it. Drunk a lot of Steel City, smoked a couple of doobs, ate pizza and laughed. We didn’t stop laughing the whole trip show. We fucking laughed the whole time. Why wouldn’t we!” – SEAN DOHERTY