Former Pro Surfer Enjoys Final Free Beer
Ten Minutes Ago, Toona Tavern front bar - This week’s cautious re-opening of Toonalook Tavern to ten patrons at a time has taken on an extra layer of significance as former top-five professional surfer, goofyfoot Simon “Colo” Coley, took delivery of his last ever non-surf-hardware-related perk of fame in the form of a schooner of Tooheys New in Toona’s front bar just then.
Coley – half-watching the greyhounds go round at Dapto on the bar tele after a productive night’s haul on the trawler he co-owns – found himself nervously approached by 39-year-old Harry Renner, a relatively recent Toona resident, and above-average surfer himself.
“G’day, it’s Colo isn’t it. Colo, mate sorry to bug ya, seen ya around but never had the guts to bowl up and say g’day,” the still-a-little-awestruck public servant is reported to have opened with.
Encouraged by a freely-offered handshake, Renner went on to vocalise what he’d long wanted – and often imagined – sharing with his grommethood hero.
“Mate just wanna say you were my favourite surfer when I was growing up. And all my mates. When we’d slide the tail we’d call it a Colo! I wore out that tape of Blazing Boundaries … mate you just… you just… fuck man… you just ripped…”
There followed a strange pause as Renner’s 1993 12-year-old-self briefly seized control of its 39-year-old host and stared open-mouthed at his idol for a moment too long before adult Renner regained the helm and said “Mate, ahhh, I bought you a beer.”
With schooey handed to his hero, Renner – slightly abashed (and regretting an ill judged quip about “A schooner of New for an Old New Schooler”, though it wasn’t a bad line and extracted a genuine chuckle from Coley) – excused himself to rejoin his partner and kids in the bistro for their countery, leaving Simon Coley, aged 47, to his thoughts.
Examination of CCTV footage from the front bar suggests that, without consciously knowing it, Coley somehow intuited that the schooner before him was the last ever tangible token of admiration purchased in acknowledgement of his efforts as a professional surfer a quarter of a century ago.
As a result of this instinctive understanding – and thanks to a shaft of light illuminating Coley’s glass in a sublime golden glow – rarely has a schooner of this mid-priced beverage ever looked so good, or been so appreciated.
Onlookers claim there was nothing forlorn about this figure at the bar, with Coley’s posture suggesting an air of affectionate reflection on his time in the spotlight, and no less satisfaction at his current circumstance.
It is at this point where Ding Alley’s Tracy Grimshaw-esque commitment to reportage must give way to gentle speculation. Nonetheless, from our yaks with Colo in various Toona lineups and carparks over the years, we’re confident the following accurately documents his barstool ponderings.
Though it was confronting to learn of the astonishing multi-property portfolios held by some of today’s pros (many yet to reach the high water ranking of Colo’s own best year on tour), while he was still mortgaged on the only house he’d ever bought – a modest three bedroom number in Toona Heights – Coley took comfort knowing he’d never have to swallow the bitter pill required to deliver disingenuous instagram endorsements about the miraculous qualities of a brand of sunblock, almond-milk, backyard jacuzzi setup, energy bar, kombucha, softboard or motor vehicle to his ‘followers’.
And despite only marginal financial gains recouped from those seven years on tour – or was it eight? – they were his years. There had been no entourage: no conditioning coach instructing him to jump from leg to leg while catching tennis balls like a pre-heat dancing bear; no strategy guru advising him to get the best waves and score more points because then, you know, you’ll beat the other guy; no adoring personal filmer / errand boy; no ‘Team Colo’; no partner or kids – even if you had ‘em that’d be a year’s rent gone just flying ‘em around with you and for fuck’s sake who could afford that?
No. It had just been him and his surfing pretty much. And for all the outrageous fun, the tour had been bewildering and hard at times, but because there was no layer of insulation between him and the world, he became part of it, and on occasions lost in it, and he was grateful for that.
And he was stoked that those experiences had never been rendered vacuous by wondering how they’d play out on various Social Media platforms.
Thank Christ for the freedom of an uncurated life, hey.
His next sip went down particularly well as he realised he’d make it to the grave without using the phrase ‘one heat at a time’ or speaking about being the ‘best version of myself I can be’ on a live comp webcast. He’d made it home safe without ever having to reduce the driving force of his life to a handful of trite philosophical catchphrases.
Those poor bastards. Thank FUCK for that.
Coley was also ready to admit that compared to the pros who’d gone around before him, he had not only reaped enviable rewards, but there were times when he was so in thrall to his own fame, insufferable and entitled, that the idea of having to pay for a drink, or failing to pull a root on demand had seemed like a personal and preposterous insult. And he also suspected that in time, the current generation of fruits would seem hardcore and low key compared with the next.
Most of all he knew he was one of the lucky ones who’d always remained tethered to the ordinary. His family, mates, love of fishing and the gravitational pull of Toona made his fall off the tour as good a fall as it was possible to have. He’d seen some of the others burn up on re-entry from their imagined stratospheric heights, and had come to understand that his normalcy was a gift more valuable than any amount of surfing talent.
And even though the free drinks were one final sip away from drying up forever, Colo would always get his boards at cost and his wetties for free, because when the point was firing, or the Toona Bommie woke up, he was still best on ground. And riding waves was still the best feeling ever.
As we file this dispatch, witnesses report Colo draining the dregs of his last free beer, ordering anothery, and taking it into the bistro to repay Renner.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is two mates, ‘toonist David @maccatoons McArthur and writerer/designerer Gra Murdoch. They both scored an identical 72.5% in their 1985 Footscray TAFE art history exam. Let the record show McArthur was seated behind Murdoch.