Flyer: Old Age and Cheetos

Stu Nettle
Flyer

Last month, a bunch of my mates made a mid-week dash down the South Coast.

The plan was for a two day stay, lob at a holiday house, and surf an unseasonal south swell that appeared on the charts.

I got an invite but had to turn it down. ‘Twas school holidays. I was kid-sitting.

The south swell came through with gusto, though the timing was a little late and the sizing above forecast - in some regions way above forecast.

The day after the swell I came into the office and BD, who I share office space with, sat me down and told me about the trip. About how they surfed the reef at sunset on the first day - which was forecast to be the biggest day - and were underwhelmed by 5’-6’ waves. 

“We thought it’d be bigger,” said BD forlornly.

The next morning, expecting the same, they grabbed their shortboards and walked down the beach in the pre-sunrise gloom, then paddled out without getting a fix on the size. It’s always a long paddle out, this time worse as whitewash was rolling all the way to shore, but their minds were set on yesterday’s trend.

What they weren’t expecting when they finally cleared the whitewash and rounded the point was 10’-12’ long period waves breaking under the lightest of offshores. They were staggered by the sight.

BD - who’s 61-years old - then regaled me with the events of the morning. How Coxy, who on a 6’8” was the only one with something halfway adequate, paddled way out to a boil they’d never seen before and jagged five triple-overhead bombs. How the rest of them played cat and mouse with the feline often catching its prey. How when Ant attempted to catch an avalanche of whitewash he inadvertently gave a high-pitched hoot and the rest of them pissed themselves laughing at his plight. How the wave put on a spectacular show of beauty and might, and how it just kept getting bigger and better.

And how it was just the six of them out and no-one else turned up all morning.

It sounded like a grommet’s adventure: ambushed by size, the gang pushed their limits; someone rode the hero wave while the rest got flogged; they all survived then went home to eat Cheetos.

I then called Smithy, who’s holiday house they stayed at, for his breakdown. Always effusive, the phone call with Smithy was bizarre to the point of being rude. He talked over the top of me, answered my questions with non sequiturs, said he didn’t know what I was talking about and then hung up.

Rightio. I wasn’t expecting that.

Ten minutes later a text arrived: “Sorry mate. In car with my boss. He thinks I was working yesterday.”

Smithy, I should explain, is 59-years old. He's a professor and an author of many books and journals, and he's held in high regard among his peers.

Meanwhile, an entire industry is built upon the premise of eternal youth, selling anti-aging products from creams to kombucha to colonic irrigation, and there's no end of punters who want in.

If only they knew...

- Stu

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Comments

Denis Finn's picture
Denis Finn's picture
Denis Finn Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 8:22am

Stu, really enjoying your stories.

I am 62yo and growing old ain't what it's cracked up to be. I've kneeboarded most of my life and finally football injuries, martial arts and family DNA was catching up with me.

Too sore, too stiff, too slow, too cranky......too fucking old.

Every surfer will get there eventually but I was facing the prospect of hanging up my wetsuit.

In desperation I went rogue. Took a handsaw to an old kneeboard, glassed the tail and threw in some fin plugs. A fibreglass bodyboard (???) was born. 

Gave it a run and had a blast.

Since then I have stripped a few old mals and kneeboards, re shaped then re glassed into more bodyboards.

My back is good. My shoulders great. Knees are fucked but it doesn't impact.........and I'm having as much fun as ever.

I would be interested in any other ideas that old farts have come up with TO STAY IN THE WATER.

matt59's picture
matt59's picture
matt59 Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 8:49am

Sounds like awesome fun. 'Awe' available to all ages if you have a go,

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 9:03am

Great story Stu. The hardest part about getting older as a surfer is finding the time, and doing it often enough so your skills and fitness don’t pack it all in. While I was working full time over the past few years it was just too tough, and with the local being a city beach and crowded except for no swell or shite onshore days, actually getting waves is a real challenge.

It can be hard keeping the flame alive. Props to those older guys who can confidently paddle out and be disappointed in 5-6’ surf, and not shit themselves coming round the point to find 10-12’.

I’m still intrigued how so many surfers are comfortable in big swells in Sydney. We don’t get that many genuinely big swells here, so all those guys who Craig photographed at Bower through the winter pulling into absolute beasts, I salute you. Many of them were in their prime, but there were plenty of older guys, plus that guy with one leg. Kept seeing an old guy at the ‘bra who would always be among the big swells. When he got out he had to walk very gingerly, seemed to be a seriously problematic Achilles’ tendon problem, couldn’t put one of his heels on the sand, but he was out there every time.

I got out a lot in the recent swell and it was a real step up for me trying to get comfortable with the 4-6’ conditions. I was never comfortable per se, but I was not shitting myself. The old muscle memory was there, reading the waves, picking the ones to go on, watching for the wide sets. Picked up what for me were a few good ones, but it was clear to me how rarely I get to experience even that size.

But now not working so I don’t have the problem of finding the time. Seriously looking forward to this autumn. Some groomed swells will be a sight for sore eyes.

mikidora's picture
mikidora's picture
mikidora Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 9:16am

yes so true, the fountain of youth...
we are a lucky tribe!

StannyCroft's picture
StannyCroft's picture
StannyCroft Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 10:48am

Stu what a great article. I’ve been away with some of these young fellas ( I’m 69) and they certainly push the envelope. It’s very encouraging to be pushed and retirement allows time to both keep fit surf regularly and recover. I was a bit sorry to miss this trip until I saw the size which was well beyond my comfort zone.
Loved the conversation with Smithy, can just imagine his boss’s thinking.
Well written as always Stu. Thanks.

Cameronone's picture
Cameronone's picture
Cameronone Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 1:10pm

Constructive feedback - if they are your children then it is not 'kid-sitting'. It's 'taking care of my children' or 'spending time with my children'. Kid-sitting implies that it is (assuming you are in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship which I accept is an assumption) primarily the mother's job to look after children and you are just 'filling in' or 'helping out'.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 4:46pm

Thanks for the parenting advice!

Buggered if I know how I got this far without it.

Goofy4's picture
Goofy4's picture
Goofy4 Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 5:05pm

Spot on CameronOne - have had this conversation with heaps of guys....they've got to 'babysit' or 'kidsit' their own children...rather than parent them....when it's delved into there is an assumption that the mother has the primary responsibility and the guy plays the secondary (or even lesser than that) role. It's often a subconscious expectation on their behalf...

boogiefever's picture
boogiefever's picture
boogiefever Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 3:38pm

Im sure stu is implying he is less of a parent by the comment.
Also... Writing "shortboard" implies a 46" foam beaterboard and a "long paddle" implies a quick crossing of the tasman sea.... Am i right????
Snowflakes......

boogiefever's picture
boogiefever's picture
boogiefever Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 3:43pm

Now im wondering......
Did they really "piss" themselves laughing or is that just implied?
Also.... Were "cheetos" ever actually consumed on this trip???
What if all this stuff is written to add spice and life to a story...... Gasp!!!!!!!

D-Rex's picture
D-Rex's picture
D-Rex Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 1:44pm

Unless you're Ken Bradshaw, I find it hard to believe a bunch of sexagenarians are 'underwhelmed by 5’-6’ waves'. Nice bit of mayo tho.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 4:47pm

Well they were expecting 6'-8', so...

bob munro's picture
bob munro's picture
bob munro Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 5:36pm

Hi stu, another good N/letter, living on the south coast we saw plenty of the stuff you have featured. Further comment, I see a lot of 50/60 year olds referring to themselves, as over the hill.Gee , half their luck to be that age ! Myself and my best mate still surf at least three times a week at our home break at 7 mile beach , We are both 80 and have been surfing together since , 59. (Mal,s of course ) cheers.

wbat's picture
wbat's picture
wbat Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 6:20pm

You go hard mate. Love your work!!!!!!!!

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 7:28am

You're an inspiration Bob. I doubt there's many surfers anywhere that have been surfing as long as you. I'm 49, so in theory I have at least another thirty years left in the tank. That's good feeling.

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 10:01am

Brilliant Bob,
It's great to hear this...I aim to surf till I drop no matter what surfcraft I ride(body willing, of course)

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 6:14pm

Great stuff Stu.
My mate gets to surf every morning through the week and tells me about the older crew getting their froth on. It gives me hope that we can do that too when we are their age. Like Denis said above, it's better to be "having as much fun as ever" even if it means lowering the expectations physically.
But hey I started on a bb, and I'd I be happy if ended up on one as well. Just being 'out there' is hopefully all the medicine we will need.

wbat's picture
wbat's picture
wbat Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 6:22pm

The several of the hardest chargers at Margs mainbreak are sixty or there abouts.

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 8:43pm

Exactly! Same as South Oz West Coast and Down South Vicco. Heaps of em!! Put us young'uns to shame! Great read Stu

gannet's picture
gannet's picture
gannet Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 6:51pm

Hey Cameronone
Hear what you’re saying..
But if Stu’s place is anything like mine, then ‘kid-sitting’ is not a euphemism!

seahound's picture
seahound's picture
seahound Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 8:18pm

Cool story Stu, loved it, Your mates sound like they are made of real salty stuff. Long may they all hoot and ride. Keep them stories of surf stoke coming. We need them, more than ever now.

morg's picture
morg's picture
morg Saturday, 13 Feb 2021 at 9:13pm

Great yarn. This being a grown up stuff has a bad habit of getting I the way of all the fun stuff. I think most of us have probably been guilty of using the kid or baby sitting phrasing at some point. One of the great things about surfing is the occasional magic session when I forget that I’m 59 and feel like in a frothing little grom again. Sometimes it’s a heap of great waves, sometimes it’s just one manoeuvre, and sometimes it’s just being out there.

bungan's picture
bungan's picture
bungan Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 11:20am

Nice one Stu. You got me Laughing! Im 53 and totally relate.
"Parenting" is an acceptable term.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 5:50pm

Enjoyed that.
Just turned 52 and hope to be surfing for a while longer yet.

Gary Hall's picture
Gary Hall's picture
Gary Hall Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 5:56pm

Love it great stuff

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 6:11pm

On a journey around the Australian coastline I ran into this legend.He’s getting on- must be seventy at least- and fishes a couple of kms offshore on his own in his little plastic tub. This photo was taken when the wind was quite strong offshore, almost white capping and he’s out there battling the elements to land this good sized cobia . Not sure if you know about cobia but they are one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea . Not real fast but you need brute strength to subdue them every single time. So old mate has launched his kayak after dragging it across 60m of soft sand, paddled a couple of kms out to sea , fought this hell fish from a sitting position with no leverage on an unstable platform, then paddled a couple of kms back into a good wind.

Hardcore !

Whilst on the beach his missus was taking her time to get his photo right and they were bickering like George and Mildred. I remarked that it was an impressive catch and she said “ He caught a bigger fish last Monday . What type of fish was it again ? “

The old bloke looked exasperated and said “ It’s called a marlin , dear”.

Out at sea on his kayak catching marlin at seventy. Full Hemingway shit. What a legend.

Age shall not weary them - or us ( touch wood).

I blanked out his face cause it’s not my business to be putting up photos of crew on the internet without their consent. Trust me that he’s not twenty years old !

dinnerdish's picture
dinnerdish's picture
dinnerdish Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 7:57pm

Too beautiful a creature to wanna be seen as a trophy or food. Sorry but I don't care how cool or fit the old dude is lets leave the fish (nature) be ....its all too exquisite. From another old dude now into 70's

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 8:26pm

So you’ve been eating air for the last 70 years then ?

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 10:27pm

I agree with the trophy part but not the food side. A regular diet of seafood (omega-3s) is widely considered to increase longevity , not to mention the exercise he gets both physically and mentally in the whole process.. And a Cobia is a pretty good chew and also freezes well. He's hardly raping the ocean.

BrettDavis's picture
BrettDavis's picture
BrettDavis Sunday, 14 Feb 2021 at 9:29pm

Great work stu and hope to be one of those guys for many years to come. Let’s lighten up and enjoy the story for what it was and is

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay Monday, 15 Feb 2021 at 7:30am

More good stuff, Stu. We're spoilt.

I've posted this before, but I love everything about this photo. Beautiful gun, and a fit and happy looking 68.

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Monday, 15 Feb 2021 at 12:24pm

Lovely board. Had a few Bushman guns in my time. He's a great guy too.
Hope I'm that fit at 68