[I]’ve heard many people say the ocean is a great teacher. I also think it’s a great leveler. I always had a vision, even when I was living in the mountains and loving being there, I could always see myself living near the ocean. I never imagined it could be so many things, bring so many things and teach so much. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of fossicking around a beach house, backyard caravan, walking the beach tracks and lolling around in the shories at Breamlea, Sorrento and Phillip Island. A memory I often recall is of me worn out from hours down the beach with my younger brother, parents close by, and there I am zonked out on the green leather beanbag at the holiday house. I still feel like that after some big surf days now. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. In the late nineties I bought my first car, it was a WB panel van, white. I was 20, and it was an official ticket to freedom. After hours of journeying down the coast by public and V-line transport and being knocked back from rent-a-bomb, getting my panel van was one of the biggest moments of my life. I rocked up to Flynn’s car park on the island and to my surprise; there were four other white panel vans there. The next weekend I started prepping it for its new paintjob—magenta. It was a head turner and for a few years I reveled in getting new things for it. I couldn’t even really surf, but I was stoked. Ten years later, and just shy of fourteen snow seasons, I moved to Newcastle. I didn’t have a car, but a ten-minute walk down the hill would bring me to Bar Beach, where I spent hours getting the hang of my mini-mal. The next summer I was a block away from Broadbeach on Old Burleigh Road, and surfing in bikinis and shorts up there was epic. I still had the mini-mal, but could go into Diverse in Tugun and borrow this board, I think it was a 6’4” but it was wide, and you could really feel it go edge to edge on the long rides at Snapper, and it felt almost like snowboarding. I was so excited to get the next board up from my mini-mal. Just before the next summer I was laid up in bed recovering from a knee reconstruction. Too much energy up at Thredbo that season saw me overshoot a 45-foot step-down. It didn’t hurt, but I was spewing I’d done my knee. My friend Anita had bought a holiday house at Jan Juc with her family and started inviting me down to stay. The first weekend I took out a boogyboard, despite the recommendation to stay off some sports for 7 months. I couldn’t restrain myself from getting back on a surfboard and after 3 months into my rehab, I was back on my board. It probably made me pull back on steep takeoffs for a while, but it felt so right, so I ended up renting a room, getting some work and continued on with my studies I’d started in Newcastle.
Many people reflect on the ocean and speak about its beauty. The ocean really does mean so much to me, and I feel at peace with more things because of the ocean. I’ve had some of the most fun, most amazing experiences, felt the biggest highs and achieved things I wouldn’t have imagined. I think the sense that there is always room to develop, progress and improve is what keeps you hooked, motivated and wanting more. I have also felt pain, fear and tragedy. My brother lost his best mate Zappa 5 years ago in February, two weeks before his 25th birthday, down at Koonya beach near Sorrento. I didn’t believe it when I heard. They were skimming in the shore break, and Zappa got caught in a rip, pulling him out to the bigger sets, and around the reef, for 45 minutes. The ocean was really big that day. The emergency services got there, but the currents were strong by the rocks, and he got pulled under, twice. I think it must have taken a lot of strength for all the people who loved Zappa to go on, but maybe people don’t really leave us totally. I think about Zappa a lot. Just before summer I was down at Point Danger in Torquay, looking for whales to photograph for the local newspaper, when I found out my best friend had leukemia. Even though that was one of the worst feelings I’ve had, I don’t think I would have accepted it the same, had I not been alone, looking out to sea, with some time to reflect and hope. She’s a very strong girl, smart, passionate, fun and a lot like me. She’s about to leave hospital for the last time and come back to the coast to begin the start of the next chapter in her life. I’m really proud of her, and can’t wait for her to get back on a board and out in the ocean. I love the beach because it brings so many things to so many people. People can appreciate it in whichever way they want, and there’s no saying what’s the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. I love all its different moods and getting out in it, out in the elements. I lived on Point Danger for two years, and although the wind would get through every gap in the flat, it was one of the most epic places to be, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean, hearing the storms lashing, waves breaking, and waking up to look out and see what the next day held. I think that a lot of who we become or how we’re shaped is by choice but also in connection to our surroundings; our friends, our relationships, what we choose to do with our time and the environment we’re in. These could all end up reflecting from us, an aura. I think that as we grow up, not old, it seems like you gain this acceptance of things. Some may call it an inner peace. And I think the ocean brought it to me.