FROM SW412: Soli on the 2020 lockdown.

“For the past two years I’ve been living on the Gold Coast. My partner and I were on a road trip to the snow when they closed the Queensland border. We’d just got to the snow when we heard the news. So I got locked out of Queensland and was living in Dad’s spare room in Byron for a couple of months. It was like I was a 16-year-old grom again, hanging out in Byron. It was actually really cool.

“When it all began Byron was a ghost town. Everyone was taking it seriously and the main street was deserted. I drove in and saw three cars parked in the main street. It was wild. All the shops were shut and there was hardly a soul around. It wound back 20 or 30 years.

“The beaches though were still busy, because the waves were good. It was an all local crew, which was nice. I don’t know where all the travellers and backpackers went, but it was just the locals. I was running up to Suffolk and surfing those beachies a lot at first light with my mates. It’d be offshore, uncrowded, and I’d be surfing till nine or ten o’clock. It fully reminded me of what I used to do every day before school. My mates and most of the crew who surf in town weren’t working at that point, so everyone capitalised on the surf. It was relentless. Early winter was just pumping back-to-back swells with good sand everywhere. We’d go to the beach and you’d go man, another day of pumping surf… my shoulders! We were just cooked. Just totally surfed out.

“I actually got on the tools and helped my dad built a studio out the back. It took three months and we’re literally finishing it now. A bit of hard yakka has been interesting and definitely made me appreciate surfing for a living. But it was great to have all that time with family and friends.

“Once I got back into Queensland we headed up and were surfing South Straddie a bit. We had three or four days of pumping surf, but the crowd was pretty thick. On that big swell Sheldon [Simkus] and I took the ski up north and had a look. The second day morning is burned into my mind. It might be one of the best sessions I’ve ever had in my life. Normally you surf a pumping wave like that and you see one or two waves that look like that, but every single wave was like that for three hours. We were sitting on the ski going, “Do you want this one or that one?” They were all perfect, but they were also so heavy for a sand bottom wave. There was so much water in them. They were perfect, but I only made one wave that day and I got head-slapped so many times. I was going so fast that when I hit I saw stars. It was like hitting concrete. It wasn’t as gnarly like a bone-breaking reef, but I reckon they were the heaviest waves I’ve surfed in Australia. I went to bed that night with a minor concussion I reckon.”