Torren and a rare winter at home. Photo: Byron Waves/Mike Egan


SW: Did you get out fishing this morning?

TM: Yeah, my mate and I just went halves in a little tinny so we had a nice morning out there. We got a couple of nice snapper and there was plenty of wildlife out there. It was unreal just sort of snuck in before that northerly came up. We caught the fish early and we were pretty buzzed and the whales were going off so my mate and I looked at each other and said, let’s have a beer. 

What time was that?

Nine am. 

Where do you launch the boat from?

Bruns Bar is good when there’s not much swell, Ballina, and we just got a key for The Pass, so that’s going to epic in summer.

Oh, you got the golden ticket. [The Pass at Byron – the busiest car park in the surfing cosmos – has a gated parking area for the local fishing club] 

Yeah. Can you believe it?

You’ve got to get that through the fishing club, right?

Yeah, Byron Fishing Club. My mate and I sort of growing up here, we kinda knew a couple of guys, the President and the Vice President so I think we jumped at the queue a little. We’ve gone to a couple of meetings and expressed a bit of interest and all of a sudden we got this key, so yeah, pretty stoked about it.

So do you just put the boards in the boat on a busy day, park and then paddle out? 

No I think you need to launch the boat, so we’d just drop the anchor out the back then paddle in.

This has been an odd year for a lot of people, but it must be a very odd year for you, not being able to go anywhere. 

The last time I spoke to you we were in up in Scotland, at the start of a four-month trip from the north of Europe through Scotland and Ireland down to the Western Sahara and Senegal. We had this most incredible four months on the road and towards the tail end of it we started hearing whispers of everything that had started going on with the virus. We kinda got mixed reports from family and friends and different media outlets when it was all sort of firing up. We didn’t know what to make of it but it escalated pretty quickly. They shut the ferries between Spain and Morocco so we had no chance of getting back. And that’s when it became a reality for us. 

How did you get home?

Well, it was funny. It was just my girlfriend Aiyana and I so we left the van with a mate Morocco and ended up sort of doing the zigzag route home, cause we didn’t want to go through the thick of it in Europe. We ended up flying from Morocco to Turkey, to Dubai, to Singapore and then to Brisbane. Some sort of round the world trip. We touched down at 6am on March 16, and they’d just brought in quarantine six hours before. We quarantined from home and I’d been away for so long that getting home and just going absolutely nowhere with my family was great. They’d sort of drop in little care packages and come around for dinner and things like that. It was like a real, nice settled welcome home rather then get home and your rego has run out and you’re running around. It was totally strange and I guess coming off the back of that long trip, that sense of travel was still fresh for me. I had no real set-in-stone plans off the back of that anyway, and then I got home and we’ve had this ridiculous run of waves ever since. 

You’ve landed on your feet fully. Has it been strange for you being home for six months straight? Are you getting itchy feet?

Yeah, it has, I’ve been reflecting on that stuff a bit lately. It’s the longest I’ve been at home for a while but it’s not something where I’m getting carried away, thinking where I could be. “Oh man, imagine being in Indo right now, that’d be unreal.” But now I can honestly be grateful for what I’ve got here. Like we couldn’t really ask to be in a better position. We’re so fortunate where we are and what we have. I don’t feel like going anywhere else, with what’s going on. It is what it is for now… and it’s probably going to be a lot different on the other side. I’m not too sure what to make of it. But whole idea of going somewhere seems a bit strange to me right now. 

You might have to film Lost Track Byron next?

Go around to all the cafés and stuff and drink coffees and do an Airbnb tour.

You’ve clearly done a lot of water time at home over winter and autumn. Has the vibe in the water felt any different? 

Yeah, absolutely. You know the Byron area and the Far North Coast and how saturated it is, but it’s been a strange stage. I think everyone got on the program getting a few dollars injected every week and it seemed like everybody was surfing. I mean, even though it doesn’t feel like anyone works around here anyway. There’s kind of two sides to the coin though. Everyone’s celebrating surfing, you know, how lucky you are being close to the ocean and surfing. But on the other side it’s kind of like a dark localism thing where people were starting to turn and get all protective over their postcodes. I wasn’t venturing too far outside of my radius here, but I definitely got this kind of vibe. That attitude felt so bizarre because we were so lucky.

It fully got tribal, huh.

It kinda rattled me at times. It’s like, what are you trying to prove? So it’s been different, but we’re in a bit of a bubble here. It’s hard to really appreciate the seriousness and the consequences and the reality of it here. And then it’s like, how much can you believe, too? You can make yourself a bit dizzy with it all, but I have been enjoying the time. It’s been good.

Byron’s kind of like a bubble anyway, certainly for people who breeze through it. How does it feel for someone like yourself who grew up there? 

I know exactly what you mean, Byron has always been like that. My parents and friends’ parents and people who have moved here, you know, they came to get away from something, but they’ve also gravitated here for a reason. It’s almost its own scene. There’s so much going on, it’s such a bustling little place, and get carried away in it and absorbed and surrounded by it all and spat out the other side sometimes. It’s such a vortex, but it has stages where it’s incredible and great. Then other times you’re flipping out. What am I doing here? I can’t get a car park! Full First World problems. But it is home for me. My family are here. My Grandma who I’m super close with, she’s getting on now and her and I are really good mates, so it’s nice to be around her. I’m really enjoying that side of it.

Is Byron a good place to leave and a good place to come back to? Especially for someone like you who does so much time in unpopulated corners.  

Yeah, absolutely. The more I get older and travel, the more I grow apart from it I reckon. I’m not going to be here forever. I’ve kind of grown out of it. My girlfriend, Aiyana she’s from California and I’m even seeing her become a bit numb to it. She trips out sometimes, this is not normal this place. It’s so bloody busy and like chaotic. I’ve got a bit of a desire to get away from the place and live elsewhere, but I’m really lucky that over the years I’ve been so fortunate to travel and spend time away. It’s really been a reset for me. And then I’ve got the comfort of coming back here, a place that I’m so familiar with. My family is here and my friends are here and I can’t ask for anything better at the moment.

Do you feel like you’ll settle in Byron or somewhere else later in life?

I think it would be south of here. I have this romantic idea of spending some time in New Zealand; that’d be a place that I could imagine getting older. If I had to answer the question, would I buy a property here if I could? No, but a few hours south of here and another few hours south of that again, for sure. Those places haven’t been hit by the shockwave yet, but I’m sure it’s kind of rolling out. 

You spend most of your year travelling in a van, then you get home and you live in a caravan. 

It’s good to stay mobile even when you’re not going anywhere. I picked this caravan up about four years ago; paid three-and-a-half grand for it. Before that I lived between share houses but dollars just disappear in rent. I’ve got a mate who’s been in the area 40-odd years and he’s got half-a-dozen acres, a beautiful place just behind Broken. I put the feelers out and he came up with a deal and I was able to put the caravan here. It’s  21 feet long with a pretty efficient layout. It’s mostly just been myself in here for three years, but it’s been Aiyana and I for the past 12 months. If you clicked your fingers and saw what it looked like before she got here, it’s a bit of a different scene. She’s spruced it right up. There’s shells and driftwood and decoupage flowers and pink crochet rugs everywhere. It’s pretty epic. I enjoy the space. It suits our situation; I can lock it up and go away and come back to it. 

What do you fill your time with between trips?

These days a lot of fishing and at the moment I’ve actually been doing a coxswain course, a maritime course. I’ve got this romantic idea of learning to sail. Aiyana my girlfriend, she grew up on a sailboat, the first 10 years of her life on a boat with her family, and we both kind of got this dream of buying a boat and getting out into the world, sailing around and surfing. Not really having any sailing knowledge or background I’ve got a bit to learn. The course covers navigation, survival at sea, inboard and outboard engines and a few things that could be really handy. The ocean intimidates the hell out of me, you’re at the mercy of it but in a strange way that intrigues me. Something about the unknown and I guess the freedom of it all really appeals to me. That’s where my heads at right now. 

Full interview in Surfing World 412, on sale now.