Photos by Layer of Salt

Walk Slowly

Sean Doherty spends a morning with the Margiesons

Read more

I send the text. “I’m in a silver ute parked near the BBQs.” The reply comes back. “Shit, are we catching up today?” Having got up at 5am and driven an hour in the dark to get there I swear, before I look out the window next to me and there he is with his phone in his hand, laughing.

I haven’t seen Brendan Margieson in a year or so, and he’s got me good. It’s breaking dawn in the Cabarita car park and we’re soon walking down the track to the back beach. In the half-dark Margo kicks his toe on a tree root and almost trips over. Good old Margo. There’s a local crew checking the waves in the minutes before the sun comes up and Margo makes conversation amongst them. The waves aren’t great. Low tide, straight bank, but clean as a whistle. Somewhere will have waves. Margo trips over another tree root on the way back to the car.

Tagging along for a wave is Margo’s young bloke. Micah Margieson is 18, all arms and legs, bouncing on the balls of his feet, chatty, and pretty keen to surf before school. Micah is also the current Australian junior champion, and there’s just the faintest irony that Micah’s dad made his name by not surfing contests. Micah’s gone down the other path and Margo is more than cool with that.

When we say “cool” though, the final minutes before Micah claimed his Australian title, on the beach down at Waitpinga, South Australia, Margo was very far from cool. As the clock ticked down Margo was delaminating royally. The contest site is not Margo’s natural environment, and when you add to that Micah hanging onto a skinny lead in the dying minutes, Margo couldn’t watch. “Oh god, it was heavy! Just watching your son surf a contest is so nerve wracking, let alone with him leading the final. You’re just helpless. You can’t do anything. I was feeling anxiety, adrenaline, a bit of everything. I just sat by myself in the corner and hid.”

For Micah’s part, the kid cruised. He rolled the dice early in the final and sat wide off the bank, away from the other three guys and jagged an early score. “He reminds me of me a bit,” says Margs, “in that he’ll go out there and sit where everyone else isn’t sitting – which might be the wrong thing to do in a contest – but he read the bank well and sat wider and didn’t hassle and got a good one straight up.”

But then he sat there for the rest of the final. While his Dad was melting on the beach, Micah sat coolly and waited. His wave eventually came to him with a minute to go. “I looked at it and went holy shit, this is a bomb,” remembers Micah. “I’d done four turns on it and I was so happy I just claimed it. I got in and crew were going you should have just done another turn instead of claiming, it would have been a 10!” He juiced it for a 9.65. Micah Margieson, Australian junior champ.

It was way beyond any expectations the Margos had… in fact they saw South Oz as more of a boys’ surf trip than anything else. “That was the first real proper surf trip I’ve done with him,” offers Margo. “Just took him down to South Australia and hung out. For the 10 days we were there if we weren’t surfing in the comp we were driving up and down the coast exploring around Victor Harbour, looking for surf with the music on and it was like, yeah, this is what it’s all about. It was meant to be. It was a very special trip.” When Margo was Micah’s age, his dad had taken him on a road trip through South Australia as well, just the pair of them, so this was the circle completing.

Back at Cabarita, we’ve driven down a track, walked down the beach and there it is. Head high, clean as a whistle and not a soul in sight which is rare. This stretch of coast gets busy these days. There are a lot of young families in the area, and the dawn surf is usually packed with dads and mums and kids just like the Margos, sneaking a wave before school or work.

We double-time back to the car. Micah’s got school and Margs’ clocks on for work at 9am at the airport. In his hustle to get into his wettie Margs pulls the zipper tag clean off. He stares at it and swears. It takes five minutes but he manages to pull the two halves of the zipper together and we’re off. As we walk down the track Micah’s talking about the Bali world tour contest that he watched yesterday afternoon. He says he’s a fan of Wade Carmichael, who’d torn up his heat. Micah’s a fan of Carmichael’s surfing, the heavy rail lumberjack vibe, no stress, no bullshit. He’s also a fan of the way he’s handled his career. Carmichael made it to the top without any real hype and without any real rush. Carmichael’s done it at his own clop, making his tour debut on tour at age 25.

Margo paddles out and surfs great, as ever. He doesn’t surf as much these days, but he’s as good to watch today as he was 20 years ago. Moving like a big cat, he shoots past and throws himself into an explosive final turn that spritzes the lip. It’s not J-Bay, but today it’ll do. Margo was always an easy surfer to watch and an easy guy to hang around. He was one of those guys you watched surf and assumed was a good bloke, just by the way he surfed. The guy is big hearted, genuine to a fault and without a bad word to say about anyone. Margo remains one of Australian surfing’s favourite sons. (Excerpt)

To read the full story, purchase the latest issue of Surfing World, issue 406 here

Surfing World