Never Too Late To Be A Surfer Dude"
by Simon Hillier
months ago, a friend called to ask if I'd like to join her on a
surfing lesson. Giving thought to my answer, two images flashed to
mind. My thirty-nine year old battle weary body, attempting to
hang five with a gaggle of bewildered foreign backpackers and
pointing school kids. And more vividly, the look on the faces of
my settled couple and married-with-kids friends if they knew I was
even considering the idea.
recently broken out of Sydney's Lower North Shore maximum suburbia
and moved to the northern beaches, I had already become a prime
suspect in their case against dirty-thirties attempting to
recapture lost youth. It wasn't like I'd been caught driving a red
convertible sports car or acting suspiciously outside Botox
clinics. However, I had been hauled into Fresco painted living
rooms and interrogated under the glare of designer mood lighting
over alleged mixed touch football games on weekends, bar hopping
on school nights, and clubbing on any night, and sternly warned
that such activities were not something a self-respecting man of
my age should be involved in.
count me in" I replied. Breaking the news to the fun police
couldn't be any more embarrassing than having to answer the
question asked of every male living in a beachside suburb,
"So do you surf?" with a mumbled reply about body
bashing in a pair of flippers. Besides, one lesson was hardly a
commitment. It was like a speed date. I'd hook up with a few
boards, share some laughs, make a fool of myself, and never be
arrived, and everything seemed to be was going to plan. Paddle
out, thrash about like a puppet on amphetamines, catch a wave,
attempt to stand shakily, fall off comically, try to laugh at ones
self louder than at those around you, and start again. At this
rate, I'd be back in the safety of the pub in no time, telling
those who asked, "Yeah, I used to surf until I wiped out on a
submerged German and did my back in."
most bizarre thing happened. After landing one particularly kind
wave and staggering to my feet, the regulation left hook that had
sent me crashing to the canvas all day never arrived. I was still
standing, surfing right over the top of the remaining Germans and
Brazilians, while the school kids didn't even register a bump! Ok,
so my esky lid rental was about the size of the QEII and designed
to remain stable with an entire Central African government
onboard, but gliding across water with the sun on my face, salt on
my lips, and sand in my shorts left me exhilarated in a way no
Sunday night happy hour ever had. By the end of the lesson I knew
that somewhere in a surf shop out there, a shapely piece of
fibreglass was calling my name.
early age, I'd always loved Sydney beaches. Face-planting on a
sandbank after catching a 'dumpa'; forgetting my thongs and having
to "do the bolt" across the "ouch, ouch, ouch"
hot sand until we found a place to drop our towels; waiting
ravenously in the tuck shop line for a choccy Paddle Pop and a pie
n' sauce with the sensation of course damp sand under my feet, and
scent of salt caking bodies under my nose; the golden tanned girls
who, well, just walked around being golden tanned girls. My
transcendental surfing lesson aboard the HMAS Manly left me
wondering, "Why didn't I try this years ago?"
list of very lame excuses, only one seemed to have any validity.
Fear. As a teenager without a car, it had been less frightening to
stand in the local nets and watch cricket balls fly towards my
face, or attempt, and often fail, to jump BMX bikes over 5ft
ditches, than let golden tanned girls see me hanging out at the
beach with mum and dad.
twenties, I was building a career, travelling the world, and
discovering that there was more to a female's beauty than the
shade of her tan. By this time my parents were permitted to
accompany me in public, however, the thought of prehistoric
man-eaters licking their lips underneath my bobbing sea biscuit,
and tales of 120kg Neanderthals performing surfboard proctology on
anyone who accidentally took their wave, ensured the closest I
came to the thrills of surfing was through the eyes of a six
o'clock sports news camera.
lesson I realised how irrational these fears had been. I'd seen
dozens of board riders emerge from the sea every day. They all
still had their torsos, and very few walked as if they had a
surfboard jammed up their arse. Never again would I allow an issue
outside of my control to prevent me from living out my surfing
I'd need a more tangible fear. It came to me just after the
smirking surf shop grommet had taken my money and watched me leave
with eight feet of fiberglass, a rubber suit, two packets of
golden tan bikini girl board wax, and his sunglasses stand wrapped
in my leg rope. Maybe my sensible friends were right after all?
Perhaps I was pathetically holding on to a long lost youth?
making my way down the beach, I felt the stares of beach dwellers
boring into me, knowing exactly what they were thinking. A voice
came over the lifesaver club speakers. No-one ever understands
those announcements, but I heard it clearly, "You, the
thirty-nine year old bloke in the hysterically fitted wetsuit. Act
your age. Put down the surfboard and move back between the flags.
Nice and slow." Just as I thought the game was up, I took one
last look at the lapping water and realised I'd come to far to
give up now. Mustering every ounce of courage in my entertaining
frame, I clutched my board like a jumbuck in a tucker-bag and
yelled, "You'll never catch me alive", and sprang into
the sea, leaving the world of epochlitically correct troopers in
honing my paltry surfing skills for a while now and still find
myself upside down more often than not, but that doesn't matter.
As any golf hacker will tell you, one sweet drive down the middle
of a long straight fairway redeems 99 slices into the car park and
dribbles off the end of the tee. Just give me one smooth ride on a
glistening blue satin-sheet wave, overflowing champagne froth in
my wake, and not a backpacker to be seen between my board and the
beach, and this middle-aged delinquent will always be back for
more. Because the only thing that scares me these days is
imagining what life would be like if I'd never become a surfer
every late starter should know about surfing:
studies have demonstrated that surfing is an excellent form of
exercise. An aerobic fitness study at Deakin University found that
competitive surfers rate comparable to Nordic skiers and distance
runners, whilst my study found it reduced budding man-boobs and
wobbly love handles.
surfers have licence to stand at the back of the beach and ogle
women for at least fifteen minutes longer than other men before
being arrested, provided they at least pretend to be studying the
swells in the water too. Female surfers have no additional ogling
rights over other women because men only wish they all did it more
worth investing in a good quality wetsuit. In addition to their
heating benefits, they evenly distribute excess body lard
throughout the rubber skin.
what your mates tell you, a wetsuit should be worn with the zipper
at the back. I promise.
© t his article cannot be reproduced without the
consent of the author.
Simon Hillier is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia.
His company, Get There
Writing Services, provides copywriting, articles, scripts and
ebooks that leap out of the mundane masses to do cartwheels for
0414 414 151