Vale L.A. Bob – The Surfer Who Tragically Drowned On Sydney’s Northern Beaches Today Was A Legend

“I love it as much as I ever have and I probably love it more and more every day.”

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The surfing community of Sydney’s Northern Beaches is in mourning today, having learnt that the 62-year-old surfer who tragically drowned surfing Little Avalon this morning was a local legend beloved in the Avalon surfing community.


Or LA Bob. The surfer who lived in his van and shaped his own surfboards specifically to surf Little Avalon.

Bob was surfing his beloved local spot before 9am today (Tuesday August 21) and at some point reportedly got his legrope hooked on the reef, holding him underwater.

Some local surfers pulled him out unconscious and began CPR on the rocks. Paramedics arrived and took over, but sadly could not revive him.

Bob was the subject of a beautiful award winning short documentary by Spencer Frost, Home (which you can watch above), where Bob detailed his unique lifestyle dedicated to the ocean.

“I love it as much as I ever have and I probably love it more and more every day,” he tells the camera.

On the subject of headland at South Avalon and his treasured  spot at its bottom that he lived his life, he says:

“Many people turn up every day here to sit on the headland and read their book, and watch the ocean for hours at a time, but I’m always here.”

He always will be.

Back in 2013, Surfing World Magazine themed an issue around the 50 most intriguing people in surfing. Editor of the issue Vaughan Blakey dedicated his introduction to Bob and the way Bob lived his life. Here is that introduction in full. It’s some beautiful reading, and a fitting tribute to a man who loved surfing:


Celebrating the strange and wonderful characters of surfing

In the pre dawn darkness of every morning, Bob parks his van on top of the South Avalon headland, turns the lights and engine off and lets the hum of the motor fade into crickets. Somewhere down below, the little right hand reef he loves to surf is hissing and bubbling away, waiting for him. Bob loves this place. He loves the time. In the back of his van lie Bob’s boards. He’s shaped them exclusively for this reef. If he knows it’s on, he’ll wax one up, get into his full length steamer, climb down the goat track and paddle out in the dark. He’ll be out there before the first bird call. If the swell is from the wrong angle or it’s a little small, he might just sit in the van and wait for enough light to confirm what he already knows – it’s shit – and then he might hang a while longer and watch bemused as a parade of other people wander up with their morning coffee hoping for something but leaving disappointed. They don’t know what Bob knows. If I start walking up the hill in the morning and his van isn’t there, I turn straight around and go back to bed. I know that Bob knows.

To me, Bob is one of the most intriguing surfers around. We’ve rarely spoken but for a few early morning courtesies, and yet every time I see him I get so stoked on the fact he has his own deal going on.

Recently Surfing Australia held its Hall of Fame ceremony and announced the 10 Most Influential Australian Surfers of All-Time. It was a gala evening attended by Treasurer Wayne Swan, Sports Minister Kate Lundy and State Treasurer Mike Baird. Julia Gillard made a speech via video and most surfing royalty was in attendance, including Nat Young, Occy and Bob McTavish.

However there were notable absentees. Midget, who made the influential Top 10, didn’t show. Neither did Wayne Lynch, Terry Fitzgerald or Geoff McCoy. Peter Drouyn didn’t turn up either, although he sent Westerly Windina in his place.

This is not a list of the greatest or most influential. This is not a list designed to ostracize or celebrate who will challenge us to open our minds, encourage us to reconsider what we thought we already knew and maybe have some affect on the way we ride waves in the course of the next 12 months.

Just as Bob has his own deal. So to do the 50 surfers within this list. We welcome your suggestions and criticisms. – Vaughan Blakey


Surfing World