Tuesday with Richo

Stu Nettle
Talking Heads

Though modern media is overrun with imagery, photos still have the power to stir strong emotion. One glimpse of an image can send you reeling, sparking new thoughts or uncovering old memories. Sometimes both.

This is what happened to me last week when I saw a photo of Terry Richardson holding a twelve channel surfboard. Twelve channels! What wonderful madness was this? And Richo: ex-world number 7, Aussie Pipe master, exacting shaper, friend to the stars and the people's champ of Wollongong. Where's he been?

Only one way to find out. After a short phone call and a promise of strong coffee Richo rocked up on my doorstep and we rolled tape.

The following is only part of a long conversation.

Swellnet: Where are you living these days Richo?
Richo: Still in the Gong. Just a bit south. Near Windang.

I saw you running down to the point the other day and from a distance it looked like you had paddling gloves on. Was I seeing things?
Yeah..oh yeah. I love my gloves.

You still wear them?
Mate, they’re such an advantage.

No probelms with the shoulders?
Nah, but you cant be a wuss and wear them. You’ve gotta train a bit. If you don't do your dumbells and push-ups and stuff like that, don’t wear ‘em cos they’ll rip your shoulders apart.

Who makes your gloves these days?
Good question...because the gloves I use are the same gloves I wore back when I won the Masters Final at Tavarua.

No way! In 1997? Twenty years ago..?
Yep.

The rubber hasn't deteriorated?
It has. I've had the needle and thread onto them a few times. But I've been searching for someone to make a pair for me. I want to bring them back out because I've been spurred to get back into serious surfing again. I went to the Maldives last year. It's like you get reborn when you do those trips.

I was with my best mate Ross and his son out at solid five foot Honkys and we were just frothing. We couldn't paddle quick enough - even with gloves on! - and we couldn't surf hard enough. Six hours the session was. It was our last session, it was incredible, and I thought, ‘Jeez, I could go back on tour!’ That’s how good I felt.

Richo on a tear, and wearing his favourite webbed gloves, during the World Masters Games in Brazil (Photo WSL/Cestari)

So when was the last time you competed seriously?
I think it was Brazil for the World Masters. That was in 2010. I retired from competing after the Bali Legends in 2003. I had some really close heats there, but I love Racetrack and I slid into form and I won it. After that comp I said, 'Yep, that’s enough. I'm retired.’

Oh yeah? I recall you said exactly the same thing after you won the World Masters at Tavarua in 1997.
[Grinning]

So you retired in 1997, retired again in 2003, and you're still competing. How's that competitive streak?
Mate, it’s terrible. I’m 62 this year - and I hate saying that because what I feel inside looks nothing like what I see in the mirror - but I still see a contest and I get possessed. I see someone putting a coloured singlet on and it feels like me putting it back on. I start thinking strategy and stuff.

I went down to Bells this year and I was ready for a heat. Ha ha ha….I psyche when I see that stuff. It’s my passion, it’s what I grew up with, and I lived and breathed it. Still do. If the surfing comes on the television I have to stop everything I’m doing and become part of it. I relive it. I understand how professional boxers struggle to let go of it…

And you can probably understand why some of the older guys get into coaching.
Oh, I’d love to be coaching. Really, I’d give anything to be a part of it, to tutor or help the new crew, and what better thing to finish off with then to pass on your knowledge to young guys? I see Barton doing it, and I saw Luke down at Bells, he said, “I’m coaching Courtney Conlogue!”

And she won! Good on you Luke. Job well done.

I love all those guys. Mike Parsons, Dog Marsh, Gerlach...credit to them, they’re passing on how many decades of knowledge? What a gift, you know?

I just hope they’re getting their percentage…ha ha ha.

Better that then going two kilometres underground to make some money.

So you’re still working in the mines?
I’ve been doing it since 2000. And I’ve also been shaping boards in my quiet moments and now I look after my Mum as well. Gotta give back.

How are you finding time to surf?
I just do. You gotta keep it moving, especially as you get older. If you don’t find time things start to seize. I feel it bad 'cos I’m so used to surfing at a certain level, that now if I havent put time in I just think, ‘Oh, how pathetic are you?' I really feel it.

1980 and all the time in the world to surf

Aside from seeing you at the point, I’ve also noticed other appearances: old footage of you at Black Rock surfaced on the ‘net, and just the other day a twelve channel board was shared on social media. Is this a coincidence?
Not quite. I’m trying to put Richo back out there. I’ve had no idea how to do that, how to use the media. It’s always been my downfall - media and promotion just aren’t my thing.

Are you sceptical of the media?
Nah, I just dont know how to do it. How to approach it. Never have, and it’s even harder now. Just as I’d love to coach a young surfer, I’d love to have someone coach me in media. I'm gonna have to learn with the autobiography coming out...

What? A book..?
Yeah, it's almost finished. I'm working with a young guy called Rob Reynolds and we were almost done and then Simon [Anderson] added something to it and then Rob thought, 'Well we should get Gerry and Wayne too', and now we're waiting for them.

At this point I ask Richo about the book and he gets on a roll. He tells me about controversial rip offs on the World Tour, late night shaping stints on the road, sharing perfection with the legends of the sport - to whom Richo is held in high regard - and down home sessions with the boys from the Gong. It's entertaining stuff, he should make it an audio book, but after thirty minutes we return to the interview...

Are you comfortable looking back and revisiting some of your old board designs? I know some shapers don’t like to do it.
I’m starting to get there. It was a bit scary at first.

Why was that?
It’s hard enough keeping up with current designs, and that’s what I like to do, but I’ve got very special memories of riding, say, twin fins. For versatility and competing in crappy waves, twinnies were just all time.

So will you make some of those Richo twinnies again?
I occasinally do them for collectors that ring me and say, “What about that twin fin you won the Om Bali on?” That was the best board in a barrel ever. I remember that like it was yesterday. The boys were trying to compete on Thrusters they’d be coming off the bottom and pivoting, but Racetrack doesnt let you do much pivoting. Just straight down the line through the barrels if you wanna make the whole track.

Squint and count the channels. Richo's new Dirty Dozen green machine (Photo Phil Myers)

Had you ever shaped a twelve channel board before this one?
Never.

Had anyone?
I don’t think anyone had. When I shaped that board I started thinking I’ve gotta break away a bit, so I thought, ‘Who the hell is gonna do a twelve channel board?!'

Why’d you mix it with a Thruster?
I didn’t want to go back to that retro look. Other people were doing that.

And how’d it go?
It went good. It went just like it looked - fast. I took it to Lakeys, surfing 10 to 12 foot Lakeys, shitting myself, but it went good. And even though it was 6’8” it also hot dogged really good. I had it at Windang Island and even did a few spinners on it. These foam sections were coming at me and instead of floating them I drifted up into a spinner and thought, ‘Wow, that’s so loose'.

But it’s got twelve channels on it. It shouldnt be drifting out! Those deep channels look evil on the tail - check the photos.

I’ve seen them...
Ten channels were wicked enough, I see Phil [Myers] shaping them...I remember when he was shaping them for Col Smith. He was so good on channels.

You had a bit of a connection with Col, didn’t you?
Yeah, we were very close. We used to hang out. Our families used to hang out. In Hawaii we used to caddy for each other. It's total brotherhood stuff when your caddying for someone in Hawaii as any wave could be your last.

When I won the Om Bali, Col was caddying for me in the final and you should've seen him carry on. It was like he won it! And then when Col won the Quiksilver Trials at Bells I was his caddy. We were just good buddies anyway, we surfed together and we raged together.

Good times…

Richo flying in Hawaii on a self-shaped Bonzer

Yesterday I read through some old mags for research, and even though I was a grommet when you were competing I realised that the thing in surfing that’s changed the most isn’t the clothes or the boards, it’s the media. The way people get their brands, even their personal brands, out there is so vastly different.
Yeah. For us guys who were back there in the single fin days, who’ve seen it all, we just go, ‘Holy shit!’. I look at my Mum, and go, ‘I feel like you’. The little industry has exploded, it’s turned from one or two guys ducking away to surf Pipe, to buses of guys at Pipe and it’s crowded all day. The industry is huge.

Speaking of Pipe, we ran a shot of you on Swellnet not so long ago…
Yeah, I remember that day. I chucked the board in the back of the car and went south. I thought the swell was nor-east and I’d have a little surf and a picnic with my girl. But I got down there and realised it wasn’t nor-east, it was south. So I went into Pipe and it was pumping. I said to my girl, “Do you mind if we walk around? I’ll show you Pipe. I’ll have a quick surf.”

I get around there and it was maxed out with boogie boarders and everything. Bainy was there and he yelled at me, "Richo I’ve been surfing all day! I’m surfed out.” He was frothing.

I paddled out and got dropped in on four times by these boogie boarders and I thought, ‘I don’t need this shit’. Beautiful waves but you couldnt get one. So I went for a medium set wave to go in. Took off, pulled in, then went in. One wave! We went for a picnic and went home.

Next day I see this photo on Swellnet and I’m thinking what are the chances! First wave...only wave...only wave in ten years and I got that shot. You made my whole year. I was so stoked.

Richo's first and only wave at Pipe in ten years (Photo Clarrie Bouma)

How many boards are you shaping these days?
Not enough. Not enough to get me out of the mines.

You had a classic wave logo back in the day. Still using that?
I tried to change it up and use like a tattoo style logo, but a lot of the people who get my boards say they can hardly tell it's a Richo.

The most famous logo has always been the barrel and also the Richo with the wrigglies around it. The one that was on Archie’s [Matt Archbold's] boards. I think I’ll go back to them.

I’m working on a new batch of board designs that’s basically all my favourite boards: my Bali twinny, which I also won in Brazil on; the twinny before that which was my 2SM Surfabout one and I also got third at Bells; some channel bottoms, but not so much bonzers, although I’ve done a few for collectors. So it’ll be a collection of new versions of them. Bring them all back in a new way.

And where can people get them?
Well that’s what I’m working on. The distributorship is hard. But you’ll see them online on Swellnet - I hope! - and Facebook and Richo Surf Australia dot com, though I'll have to get the hang of this internet stuff.

(Homepage and opening photo. Richo's favourite shot: 1979, cutting back on a bee tail channel bottom at Aussie Pipe, his all time favourite wave. Photo Hugh McLeod)

Comments

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:05pm

Richo surfing Black Rock on a bonzer in Steve Core's 1974 Ocean Rhythms.

Just some of the most beautiful pure surfing ever captured on film.

Hope the boards get picked up and he gets out of the mines.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:12pm

Richo at Black Rock and Padang:

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Sunday, 21 May 2017 at 3:52pm

Wow, that's amazing. The man was way ahead of his time. Think he would have done really well on today's tour location wise. How is the double concave between the fins? how is his set up for the last tube section .
Re edit the video sections to metal = Gold !

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:36pm

hell yeah!

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:49pm

Excellent interview!
He sounds like good man. All the best.

the-camel's picture
the-camel's picture
the-camel commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:53pm

There are some moments that stay with you. Watching Richo styling his way thru a deep black rock cavern before exploding out at the end section and laying into a searing cutback on a single-fin is a privilege that continues to inspire, even though it was over 30 years ago.

the War on Thrusting

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:54pm

Great interview.

More often than not, when people mention the greats of Australian surfing, Richo is somewhere there in the mix.

Ignorance is Zen

helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 12:59pm

Bloody champion. Straight up. Great read SwellNet.

Robin Masters's picture
Robin Masters's picture
Robin Masters commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 1:25pm

Cool interview, a lifelong core surfer by the sounds of it. Looking forward to his book

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:02pm

Great insightful interview and really interesting.
Ran into him a few months ago I also have banged up and
useless shoulder and quizzed him about the benefits of his
gloves he said it helps alot but couldnt tell me where to purchase.

IF im not surfing im racing

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:03pm

Great insightful interview and really interesting.
Ran into him a few months ago I also have banged up and
useless shoulder and quizzed him about the benefits of his
gloves he said it helps alot but couldnt tell me where to purchase.

IF im not surfing im racing

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:04pm

Great insightful interview and really interesting.
Ran into him a few months ago I also have banged up and
useless shoulder and quizzed him about the benefits of his
gloves he said it helps alot but couldnt tell me where to purchase.

IF im not surfing im racing

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:06pm

Great insightful interview and really interesting.
Ran into him a few months ago I also have banged up and
useless shoulder and quizzed him about the benefits of his
gloves he said it helps alot but couldnt tell me where to purchase.

IF im not surfing im racing

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:06pm

Great insightful interview and really interesting.
Ran into him a few months ago I also have banged up and
useless shoulder and quizzed him about the benefits of his
gloves he said it helps alot but couldnt tell me where to purchase.

IF im not surfing im racing

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:11pm

Are you kidding me any chance you can make this a little more decisive
when posting so you dont look like a complete fucktard.

IF im not surfing im racing

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:16pm

Ha ha ha...was gonna delete the extra ones but might leave 'em now.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:22pm

Yeah evo we get it mate, you liked the interview...

haha

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:23pm

You have to admire a worker. To still surf the way he does while holding down a full time job is a credit to both his incredible talent and his on going dedication. More power to him!

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:28pm

"Great insightful interview and really interesting".

You can say that again Evo (and again, and again, and again).

Ha ha:)

Ignorance is Zen

linez's picture
linez's picture
linez commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 5:48pm

Great interview Stu, this is the sort of thing that I really love reading on Swellnet. So good to see someone completely stoked to surf at 62. Hope I'm the same at his age.

OHV500's picture
OHV500's picture
OHV500 commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 6:19pm

Great Interview - My favourite surfer. I remember buying a SW in the 70's, black cover with a circle photo of Richo - I think on a yellow board. I remember thinking he was a great bloke then, seems nothing has changed :) Get that bloody book out !

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 6:58pm

They were the dayz eh,surfing was freedom and it was good to feel that you were different from the pack,panel vans, uncrowded waves, scoobs chicks that were skinny with high cut bikinis and Richo on the cover of news paper style tracks..........

simba

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 9:10pm

Yes OHV500 I remember that issue I think I had the photo on the wall. Only surfed Black Rock once and that was way back in 1980 I think. Was about 10 guys in the water and all knew it like the back of their hands, and the black fellas were killing it. We saw them at the Ulla Dulla pub at night and they were the friendliest blokes you could meet. Always wondered what happened to Richo he was a legend when I was young. Geez working the mines at his age I wonder if any on the WCT today will be doing that and surfing at 62. The other two things I noticed about the vid was the lack of a leggie in much of it and the name Steve Core at the end. He was a legend in surf photog as well I wonder what has happened to him?

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 9:28pm

greenroomsurf movies insta,couple of pics of Steve Core

tonybarber's picture
tonybarber's picture
tonybarber commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 9:36pm

Great interview, a key surfer from the history of the Gong and the many others from there. Keep going Richo, inspiring.

Hulk Junior's picture
Hulk Junior's picture
Hulk Junior commented Thursday, 18 May 2017 at 10:17pm

Richo = true legend, best, down to earth shredder. Thanks for the interview Stu. Will never forget blowing down to The Jetty from the Nulla and being in awe of the pure quality of Richo and his peers surfing Sandon and Black Rock in their heyday. Richo, Terry Woody, Keane Machine, Noel and then later the likes of Jake, Chad, Gava, Holmsy etc etc. Gong and further south tends to breed epic, real humble and powerful crew., not to mention the waves. Aargh the waves.....

ybother

groundswell's picture
groundswell's picture
groundswell commented Friday, 19 May 2017 at 2:06am

Good interview but i hate hearing about how someone like him struggles to get waves at aus pipe, a lot of idiots surf that place.Discusting that lids have taken it over and i ride one.(Sometimes) :)

MRsinglefin's picture
MRsinglefin's picture
MRsinglefin commented Friday, 19 May 2017 at 7:28am

That was a great read Stu. Will definetly buy Richo's book and add to my surf history library. So great to see custom handshaped channels and bonzers being promoted in the surf media.
Decisions will have to made soon on my next board ???
Corey Graham channel, Jye Byrnes Bonzer or a Richo !!!!!
However I know it will be a red one.

talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey commented Friday, 19 May 2017 at 11:39am

One of my faves. A 'broke-the-mould' type of surfer.

Always interested how Archy got on his boards.

Well, apart from the fact, they're fucken sick.

spencie's picture
spencie's picture
spencie commented Friday, 19 May 2017 at 4:23pm

Reading about Aussie Pipe brings back memories. Three of us old Manly boys stumbled across the place in the mid sixties on a warm sunny weekend and paddled across the bay to surf flawless 3 to 4 foot waves alone. The place had no name so far as we knew. but I never surfed it again as the stories of horrible crowds and rip-offs emerged and there were always plenty of other places to surf when Pipe was happening. Loved the story on Richo. Doing well to be surfing as good as he does into his sixties. Keep it up mate!

easterly

rusty-moran's picture
rusty-moran's picture
rusty-moran commented Friday, 19 May 2017 at 7:44pm

Good onya Richo.

Before the Internet and wind prediction models, Richo once said "if you wake up and there's dew on the grass, it's going to go nor-east and I'll be in my way to pipe."

I still think of that line every time I feel the dew underfoot in the morning.

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean commented Sunday, 21 May 2017 at 3:36pm

Awesome.

Struth's picture
Struth's picture
Struth commented Saturday, 20 May 2017 at 2:49pm

Streuth!

'I occasinally do them for collectors that ring me and say, “What about that twin fin you won the Om Bali on?” That was the best board in a barrel ever. I remember that like it was yesterday. The boys were trying to compete on Thrusters they’d be coming off the bottom and pivoting, but Racetrack doesnt let you do much pivoting. Just straight down the line through the barrels if you wanna make the whole track.'

Aye? 'Ang on! Streuth! The legendary, swillnuttin' shredders and hotties cleared that tripe up long ago... didn't they? Streuth!

Streuth, I mean, straight from the horses mouth(s)!

https://www.swellnet.com/forums/wax/297229

'Twinnies give a nice, loose, skatey feel through turns, and a lovely little whip out of them when done right. They're very fast but are harder to control when the waves get bigger and suckier. Speaking of, they just plain suck in the barrel.'

'So while stu might have overstated the case, two is generally the wrong number of fins for serious hollowness.'

'"Here’s what I remember best about twin-fins. They mostly sucked.'

'But no. Not really. Not if the surf got over five-foot. Not if it got hollow."

-Matt Warshaw'

Streuth! It gets even funnier! Bullshit!

http://www.swellnet.com/forums/shaping-bay/327238

'Wave of consequence? South coast pipe as in blackrock or any of its other numerous names? Yeh right. Well if you were stupid enough to straighten out it might take the skin of your knuckles but beyond that nah, not even close. And have seen it, surfed it and been photographed and published about as big as it ever holds. So big boy, surfing it on a twinnie, no biggie. Could probably surf it on a friggin' coolite if it wasn't too windy.'

Streuth! Hopefully club swillnut can stop richo goin' down the mine!

talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey commented Monday, 22 May 2017 at 1:29pm

Struth, did Richo ever give THE left over your way a go? Woulda been interesting.

dr-surf's picture
dr-surf's picture
dr-surf commented Monday, 22 May 2017 at 5:17pm

Richo surfed for peanuts compared to today's CT. To see him surf Black Rock in the barrel on his forehand was a thing of rare beauty. His major victories were alway's in waves of consequence, Uluwattu and Pipeline come to mind. A true surfing legend.