Every one needs a mentor.
Not always a parent, but someone to look towards for behavioural clues as their personality evolves. I only realised recently that I’d actually had two mentors when I was a young man. Neither was a perfect fit for my growing consciousness , yet together they helped form who I am to this day.
When I was in early to mid high school all I cared about was surfing ( and to a lesser degree , fishing ) . I didn’t drink rocket fuel , I didn’t smoke pot , I didn’t shoplift. All I wanted to do was surf. The beach I surfed at had a motley crew of surfers. Between cities , we weren’t competitively oriented and there was no local board riders. We all just hung out with no formal attachment. A loose bunch of associates which had a decent level of ability in the waves.
Strangely , we were all uniform of age , give or take. This was the era in which Tommy Carroll retired at 27 years old. The older surfers mostly had jobs , wives and kids and they’d rather suck piss on a Friday , surf club Saturday ( pissup ) then mow the lawn before the Sunday session at the local. If they could fit a lazy slash in there somewhere it was considered a good innings for a weekend. Not altogether conventional crew , but already on their way to seed as far as hard core surfing went.
Except for a small handful of die hard elders.
The best surfer , Straker*, was a lean , laconic shredder with a scarred face and an enigmatic charisma who was at home amongst any lineup in the world. A very talented goofy foot who would guilelessly recount tales of his world adventures. Stories like when he went to the North Shore of Oahu and surfed his way along the famous stretch of sand. Recounting how he’d just steamed through a heaving left pit and quizzed a local Hawaiian about exactly which reef was Pipeline ...” You were just in it , brah “.
That became a catchphrase for us scuttling grommets whenever someone got a shampoo cover- up .
Then there was Wildman* . Incredible surfer . Super aggressive style who would rip anything to shreds....as long as it was under 4 feet. With a recognised absence on bigger days. This was duly noted and mentioned as a caveat every time he caught a wave - even by those of us young punks who would balk at anything much bigger ourselves .
The two above were a bit removed from us groms. They’d chat , but not hang for long.
Not like Barnes*and Elias*.
Barnes was a city beach exile. Still only mid twenties when I was about fifteen , he was never exactly forthright about how he came to live at our beach. Stories circulated that he’d been involved in the drug scene at a more urbanised spot nearer to the city. Shit had gone wrong , crew were after him or that he’d just packed up his sweet missus and gotten out before shit went really South . No one knew for sure , but that never stopped the speculation.
He was a good style of bloke. Women loved him. It wasn’t till I later saw photos of Michael Peterson that I realised he was a dead ringer. Tall, broad shoulders with an unannounced menace somehow lurking even when he was friendly. I realised at the same time that he’d probably copied MP’s look with his long brown locks and moustache.
A stereotypical Aussie power surfer with a penchant for a barreling reef . Always hunting a tubing wave , ready to thread pits with his signature laybacks.
The regular older surfers were a bit wary of Barnes. They liked him enough , but when he wasn’t around they’d have a little gossip about how he hung around the beach with the grommets instead of propping up the bar where a decent fella ought to be.
Barnes wasn’t a creep. He just loved to surf. I honestly think that surfing - temporarily- saved him from his own thrill seeking personality. He worked for himself and his work was flexible and wrapped up early each day which gave him ample water time to maintain his skills in the water.
Elias was the last of the influential older guys. Not a naturally gifted surfer , but perhaps one of the most passionate surfers I’ve ever known. Still competent on the board but not too pretty to watch . This same scenario was played out across his whole life. Not the best looking bloke but very intelligent. Kind and generous. Always open to explain the world to over confident young ears. Crew liked Elias but his warm spirit was often read as softness amongst the Lord of the Flies grommet pack , where advantage was always taken and opportunity was never overlooked .
Barnes and Elias slowly emerged as regular company in the waves. I’d share many sessions with myself and either of them as the only surfers in the lineup....such was the crowd situation back then ! Our friendship was cemented whilst chilling between surfs . Later they would become guides. Taking myself solo or with a couple of other crew on surfaris around the region. Tasting the area’s waves and spreading our wings beyond the few beaches we surfed regularly.
Elias was my conduit to new music and books , different ways of thinking . Constant instruction in the theory and peripherals of surfing. He taught me weather , board tech and surf spots. He’d make me up a mix tape and impress it upon me . He’d give me different boards to try out.
Whilst Barnes was the fella who’d smoothly get the girl at a bakery to start flirting with him whilst I tried to jam an entire post- surf sausage roll into my face, he was the guy who made a point of showing me how to differentiate between locals and blowins when we’d launch a raid on a new break. And how to convince the latter that you were the former in order to get the lion’s share of good waves. Barnes knew how to work people and how to stack the deck in his favour.
Barnes and Elias were mates. But it was a strange and ill fitting friendship. They’d disappear without word and return with stories of cyclone swells and epic pits. But they also had a quiet disdain to run alongside the mutual respect. Too different to ever truly overcome the gulf between them which was forever temporarily bridged by a shared surf lust.
So I moved towards my mid teenage years with Barnes and Elias as constant members of my circle of surfing mates. As we left school all my friends suddenly became part of the workforce. They’d rock up later in the arvo in dust covered work clothes , straight from a day being an apprentice or whatever other jobs they found.
All I still wanted to do was surf......minimal work hours for me . A couple of nights as a cleaner. A hoax TAFE course in order to appear gainfully productive. Now it was mainly Barnes and Elias I’d be surfing with. There’d be a knock at the door of my TAFE class and there was “ Uncle “ Barnes come to grab me because my “mum was crook” AKA the surf was pumping at a spot we’d wanted to hit for ages. Respectable Elias would be fresh from one of his niche occupations- metallurgist / air traffic controller / financial adviser and he’d be paddling out to join me whilst everyone else was doing their thing for the nation.
Come my late teens and I was changing. Late bloomer . All of a sudden it was big nights out at every opportunity. The grommet crew was doing the full rebellion/ Great Aussie surf nazi thing. Piss . Pot. Pills . Whatever.
The strange thing was that Barnes and Elias started going down the same route. After years of thinking that they’d been influencing me , I realised that I’d also been influencing them. Now I’d wake up in a state in the back of my car and see Barnes with some sexy thing he’d found during a big night in the city. His missus wasn’t long for that scene. That’s when things really hit the skids , as they say. Soon he was back to his city ways. Moving product, sleepless nights . He took me on a few of his nocturnal adventures and amazing fun was had. I stopped seeing him down the beach. We were both burning the candle at both ends.
Meanwhile...Elias was doing the same. He would still be there for the early each day , but now he’d be still wired from last night. Still wanting to broaden my horizons but now it was night clubs he was introducing me to , not rock shelf slabs.
Things peaked when Barnes was talked into his first ever overseas mission by a guy we sort of knew. With twenty four hours till his plane was leaving I got the first phone call from him in ages. He wanted me to come to Bali. He didn’t really know the crew he was going with and he wanted a bit of back up. Fine...spot me for a ticket and I was there.
I had no decent Indo boards. Elias heard on the grapevine that I was headed offshore and gave me the first call I’d had from him in a while. He had a couple of boards I HAD to take. A semi gun and a channel bottom reef weapon.
The day of the flight and I’ve bolted to Elias’s place where he’s presented me with a beautiful Town and Country , Gunter Rohn 6’3” deep six channel which I immediately fell in love with. Then he unveiled the semi-gun ....a Pederson Jet Bottom from Queensland with the strangest linked fin, thruster set up I’ve seen to this day. I was horrified but grateful. He also palmed me a tape by a band I’d never heard of.....the Celibate Rifles.
Got to the airport and there was Barnes. He’d just left the house of the Penthouse Pet of the year who he was screwing and was like a kid at Christmas with excitement.
Within days of arrival , Barnes was lost in the Kuta vortex big time. I’d taken to surfing by myself as he often didn’t come home and if he did he’d flag surfing to shag the chick he’d found the night before. No problem. Worse fates than to find yourself young , fit , surf drunk and let loose in pumping Indo surf on your own .
I think I got pissed once on that trip....meth alcohol poisoning which nearly ended me ....and the rest of the time I surfed myself silly. The only time I surfed with Barnes later in the trip was a bigger day which was perfect for the Semi gun.
I reckon we were in tears laughing for a solid twenty minutes when I pulled that Jet Bottom out of its wooly cover and Barnes laid eyes on it for the first time. Only Elias would own a board like that.
Things even got a bit strained as we were on different programs. He wanted me coming out with him at night to go nuts amongst the Kuta talent . I just wanted to surf. You can chase chicks in Australia but you won’t be surfing Padang back home.
One arvo I was at Uluwatu. Everyone used to bail back to Kuta by about 3 O’clock then. Home to start pre - drinking around the pool , but it was my favourite time. Less crew - not that it was crowded anyway - , the offshore was sweet and those back lit lefts had me by the balls. Sitting in the warung and here comes Barnes with a sexy Euro thing in tow. No surfboard.
We said gday and I told him I was going to paddle out. He’d found one of those disposable cameras somewhere in town and said he’d swim out and get some shots. That’s the single most uncharacteristic thing I’d ever heard him say. So out we went 4-5 foot Uluwatu. He told me he might have got a shot of a bottom turn but probably not . Then he gave me the camera and left. Saw him at the airport for our flight home and he slept the whole way.
I met a girl , got serious quickly and moved away very shortly after returning. I didn’t see Barnes for years after. I got the boards to Elias and lost track of him too as happens when people’s lives pull them in entirely different directions.
One time , years later I returned to the East coast and ran into both of them at different locations in the same run up the coast .
Elias had a little boy . His wife had just died and he was single parenting in a quiet little town where got lots of empty fun surf. We had a session on the beers and caught up . Said we should do it whenever I was in town .
Barnes was at the bohemian sin city. True to form , he’d convinced the local church that he was the right fella to be live in caretaker of their place right amongst the most exclusive coastal real estate in Northern NSW. Free of charge of course. Still looking fit and strong. He reckoned he’d managed to purge himself of all vices....except he could never quite walk away from lust. We had a surf in fun barrels then said goodbye.
I realise now that although I’m my now own man in every way , there’s a direct path between who these two guys were and who I am today.
I’d love to thank them both for their contribution to my life. The good times. The guidance. The friendship. Unfortunately, both of these gentlemen have been chosen to be an advance party into the life after this one.
Thanks for everything fellas. Hope you’re getting shacked where ever you are now.
RIP Barnes ( 50 yrs - stroke )
RIP Elias. ( 49 yrs - heart attack )
Photo by Barnes* . Surfer : Blowin . Location : Sweet arvo Ulu’s.
Board : Incredible 6’3 “ Gunter Rohn deep six channel swallow tail weapon.
Before Slater came along and broke everyone with his unprecedented wizardry and his penchant for under fed surfboards which we slavishly followed to our ruin.
* Names changed to preserve anonymity.
Great tribute Blowin.
Seems like your old mates went hard instead of moderation for the nation. Each to their own. RIP.
Your writing seems like the perfect way to channel some of your.......fire.
Thanks for sharing.
I think somewhere you asked about embedding youtube vids to these forums. Not sure if you have worked it out so I will chuck in a quick guide for future reference.
Hit the share button below the vid you want.
Press embedhow do i share pictures online
Then go the bottom and press copy.
Then Paste into here. Magic eh? Not at all :)
Blowin,bit of 'Breath' in there eh.......what year were you talking about in Bali?
Cool little piece Blowin, you have a knack for these write ups.
You sounded like me as a grommet i was a full frother 24/7 i honestly couldn't even sleep if i knew the waves were going to be good, id have to get up in the middle of the night and watch surf videos.
Good stuff Blowin, love your work mate. Keep em coming.
I also had an absolutely magic 6'3" channel swallow from Gunther that went on many magic adventures.
res ipsa loquitur
Twas a whole 'nother era out in the surf this evening.
Barnes and Elias era.
Half hour before dark I told the wife I was 'going down the shops', stopped in at the beach, shirt off, board out, and I was out the back in two minutes flat. There were probably 15-20 people spread across two banks, and all of them, every last one of them, was aged late teens or twenty-somethings. No old pricks - except for me.
I was the token grouch too. Had a job to do. Figured these kids had been surfing all day so I got to work, caught heaps of waves in a real short time. Worked myself up into a bit of a state.
Caught my last wave in with the sun long gone over the horizon. Legrope off, head down, I started running across the sand and noticed an old bloke, grandad sorta age, with two youg kids in tow, and I had a mind to ignore him and keep trotting.
Last second, I turned sideways to engage him. He's wearing a faded blue wifebeater with the Oz flag on it. I smiled and nodded.
"Good out there, ay?"
Didi they keep in touch before their deaths Blowin or drift apart?
Elias's boy would of been orphaned pretty young, sad stuff
It was a good read blowy. Kinda poignant taking into account the mood i'm in.
I hope they are at rest.
I wonder Blowin, where Elias' boy is, and I also wonder if it could ever happen that you return the favour of the teaching and the surf? Are some things meant to be?
I had an '88 Byrning Spears with deep channels shaped by Thornton Fallander and V8 glassing, magic board and to this day equal best thruster I've ever had - equal with our 1981 Energy and the 1988 Byrning Spears replica of the former board I asked Al Byrne to make me in 2009. Before the volume all disappeared.
Yeah that was pretty thought provoking Blowin. Nice work.
Nice blowin. Good to immerse in something that takes you away from the present. You have lived a life, that's for sure..
Ps. How good are channels..
Goofy , VJ....They never had anything to do with each other after that. Seperate lives in different places.
Elias’s son went to live with his wife’s parents in England I think. I was away when he passed and haven’t heard much beyond the idea that he’d be better off there. I’m planning on getting together a heap of old photos of his dad and sending them to him as well as telling him about my friendship with his old man. I can’t imagine that any of the crew from back then would be in touch with him and that he probably has much idea of who his dad was before he came along.
Freeride ....I google translated “ res ipsa loquitur “ and the answer was nonsensical. What’s it mean ? Point to talker ?
Simba.....I think I know who Tim Winton based Breath off and those fuckers are exponentially more radical than anything we got up to. Jet skis out to the Abrolhos chasing a swell.....fuck that.
Stu....got to love the Power Session . Head down and get her done. The old cobber on the beach probably feels like he’s still 17 at heart.
PS The pseudonyms Barnes and Elias came from the morally opposed Sergeants competing for Charlie Sheen’s soul in the movie Platoon. That’s one to watch if you’re at a loose end
PPS Channel bottoms are incredible.....I think. Haven’t ridden one for over twenty years but I used to be a devoted fan. I love to have those boards around now.
Res Ipsa Loquitur: let the good times roll.
Indeed , Freeride.
PS Simba ...Would have been 1990.
Blowin, that would be an epic idea sending the photos to the family and a story of the times and life of his Dad; and that people remember and can be bothered to send such to him might really make his year.
6 channels, well, since you mentioned I'm taking the wax off my 1988 replica this evening. I've hardly surfed it in 10 years, been treasuring it... You know what, its dimensions are pretty perfect for where my son is at right now... AB legend.