Mystery revealed: Why that Japanese surfer was six kms out to sea

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Swellnet Dispatch

Did you read about the Japanese surfer that was rescued six kilometres off Wollongong last weekend? A lot of people did, it was the most popular article on Swellnet last week, plus it copped airplay on national and international media.

The popularity was kicked along by the inherent mystery. What was old mate doing six kilometres out to sea? The surf that day was tiny, there's no way a current could drag him that far. It was a story ripe for conspiracy. Was it an immigration scam? A drug drop off? Aliens? Who the hell knew..?

Well wonder no more, dear readers. Swellnet has solved the mystery.

Coming in from a surf at Sandon Point today I noticed a fella, a Japanese fella, camped under a tarp below the cliff. He had a yellow mini mal by his side. I'd seen him out in the surf earlier but thought nothing of it.

But when I came in the penny dropped. And being a nosy bastard I sidled up to his makeshift camp and began a subtle line of questioning:

“Are you the bloke who got rescued last weekend?”

He looked at me warily. “Oh...no...nooo.”

However it was him, he was just hesitant to talk about it.

“What's your name?” I asked.

“Toru,” he replied.

“I saw you surfing this morning, Toru. You go alright. How did you get in trouble?”

And seeing I was genuinely curious, Toru, in his broken English, began telling me what happened.

“The surf was very small, and I paddled out late. It was going to be a full moon that night. I stayed out to watch the moon rise and then the wind died off and it was still. Very, very nice...”

And then he asked me a question. “Do you like nature?”

“I like to surf,” I offered.

“I much like being in nature,” countered Toru, “and it was very nice out there. I wanted to....feel it.”

“But you were out there all night.”

“Yes. I could see the lights [from the land] and I watched the full moon and I relaxed. I wanted to see the sunrise while the moon was still in the sky.” He made a gesture to represent this. He splayed his arms wide, held each hand open as if one was the moon and the other the sun, while planet Earth was his big smiling head in the middle.

So that was it then? He was out there having an extended communion with nature. An overnight enduro on the ocean.

I flashed on the time I crossed the Nullabor Plain in midsummer. Just as I was wondering how any living thing could survive in the 45° heat I came upon a Japanese fella on a bicycle laden with luggage and camping gear. I can also recall a few other times I've seen Japanese travellers shirking comfort and travelling hard.

Maybe the Japanese have an inclination for solo endurance travel. If so, Toru was simply continuing the tradition, albeit with a slightly herbal bent. I asked him about the boat that rescued him.

“I paddled near it because I liked the shape of it.” He again made a gesture, this time to show the enormous girth of the container ship.

“But then someone appeared on the rail and saw me.” Toru is adamant he didn't need to be rescued. “I was tired, a bit cold, but I was OK. It was...very embarrassing.” It's hard to be a stealth traveller when you're on the international news. He was also concerned he'd been a nuisance to the rescuers.

Since that day a week ago Toru has been camping and surfing around Wollongong, focussing on Sandon Point, but he's worried his infamy has cruelled a shot at the sets. Sandon locals don't give too many waves away at even the best of times.

As we were chatting in Toru's makeshift camp an older local walked past on his way for a surf. “You got the best view in town, mate.”

But the view also came with blazing sun and wind blown salt. I asked Toru if he wanted to come back to my joint, have a shower, sleep in a clean bed.

“Maybe tomorrow night,” he said. “I want to be first out in the surf tomorrow.”

It's 10pm as I type this. For all I know he's out there right now.

Comments

Simon Hayward's picture
Simon Hayward's picture
Simon Hayward Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 9:47pm

Fucking Classic !!!!!

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 9:57pm

Ha hah ha. What a buzz kill.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 9:59pm

You see guys like Toru everywhere here from time to time, solo and seeming to revel in how tough they can make it on themselves. I kind of understand it in a way.

Next time you see him Stu ask him 'Anata wa shiizen O'taku deska?' (Are you a nature nerd?)

He'll probably get a chuckle out of it.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 10:07pm

If I see him tomorrow I'll ask him, Zen. He had a sense of humour about it all.

 

Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ni-biki no inu's picture
Hako o hakonde ... Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 10:22pm

Your a prick zen, that's Japanese for "may I lick your fine scrotum"

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 10:45pm

Damn 2Dogs, you've been studying!

Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 10:22pm

That yellow and green board will probably be a burden on him now, or it could attract a great price on Ebay.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 10:29pm

Well done.

Good on Toru.

Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 10:52pm

Was that board green on the underside? As the legrope is also green. Could be something special as far as blending into the ocean and leaving your board up in the shrubs while you go into town for some spagetti.

happyasS's picture
happyasS's picture
happyasS Sunday, 22 Jan 2017 at 11:10pm

so basically he got real high and went for a long paddle..in the dark..by himself.

and no-one picked it !

BobC's picture
BobC's picture
BobC Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 2:34am

Well if he's going to do stuff like that OK, But someone should tell him that we found out Yellow is yummy.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 6:23am

What a legend

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 7:49am

If i win the PPass comp he's coming with me.

freddieffer's picture
freddieffer's picture
freddieffer Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 11:09am

is that because he'll be AWOL from the perfect lineup, while having an extended nature moment 6k's out to sea?

Jof's picture
Jof's picture
Jof Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 3:04pm

Haha. No-ones winning that one it's a hoax

oiley's picture
oiley's picture
oiley Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 8:04am

he should get a new board - the SP enforcers will see him coming from a mile off now

mk1's picture
mk1's picture
mk1 Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 8:11am

This is my favourite bit:

“Do you like nature?”
“I like to surf,” I offered.

Hahaha, Nature ain't that bad is it?

tonybarber's picture
tonybarber's picture
tonybarber Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 8:26am

Great story - well done Stu. And you offered him a clean bed - good one.
Impressive Toru

bean's picture
bean's picture
bean Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:09am

What would've happened if he were to have pulled the same stunt in Japan?
Great article!

Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean's picture
Lanky Dean Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:21am

"What was old mate doing six kilometres out to sea? "

Article of the year. Journalist of the Year.

Well Done @ Stunet .

scoop's picture
scoop's picture
scoop Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:46am

Stu, stories like this are the reason Swellnet is my favourite surf site. Keep up the great work, you're a genuine journo and I mean that as a huge compliment. You don't rant and rave, just find the story. And as you know it's always about people.

freddieffer's picture
freddieffer's picture
freddieffer Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 10:30am

I hope he doesn't develop a penchant for sniffing train tracks.

GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley's picture
GuySmiley Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 10:46am

Great story Stu,

Steve Hovey's picture
Steve Hovey's picture
Steve Hovey Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 11:22am

So many people in Japan crammed into a small area they love to get out on their own. Living in Darwin we meet a few solo travellers. One guy showed us pics with his bicycle on top of ayres rock. He figured his bike had carried him around australia the least he could do was carry it to the top.

fatfoamies's picture
fatfoamies's picture
fatfoamies Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 1:11pm

Classic, that's just Crazy, pushing the limits. Reminds me about 15 years back mid summer i saw a Japanese travler on his pushy between Aleron and Wycliffe Well or somewhere out there. It was over 40 and i stopped to see if he was ok. He nodded and kept on riding. I told the old lady at the Tennant hotel about the crazy Jap on his bike and she said, "well you think that's bad love?, last year one bloke used roller skates to get from Adelaide to Darwin".

Tim Baker's picture
Tim Baker's picture
Tim Baker Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 12:42pm

Great story Stu, what a champ. Love that you offered him a bed for the night.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 1:32pm

Cheers Tim. Just went back to the point to say g'day to Toru and repeat the offer. He's coming 'round for a wash and a feed later on. Said he'll play some guitar for my family.

PetaH's picture
PetaH's picture
PetaH Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:07pm

Did he come around to your place? I saw him today as well and now the wind has picked up and I'm a little worried about him.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:10pm

Nah, I popped down there around 7pm and had a chat. He was fine.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 1:55pm

So next full moon we meet at Sandon on dusk?

freddieffer's picture
freddieffer's picture
freddieffer Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 3:31pm

OK, I'll be there. I can borrow my grandpa's little rowboat - I don't feel comfortable doing the night-shift on my board. (I admit I'm a pussy, but I know I won't be getting my 'being-with-nature jollies from paddling my board throughout the night 6 km's from shore)

Now who'se got the GPS co-ordinates for the trip out to the shipping lanes? I can take a thermos for coffee and some biscuits....

alexander haack's picture
alexander haack's picture
alexander haack Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 3:10pm

Im pretty sure this guy was living on the rocks at Bondi Beach ( Ben Buckler) for the last year or so.... anyone else recognise him?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 4:07pm

Still doesn't quite add up to me.

So he paddled out and wanted to spend the night in the moonlight....OK.

But he still had to paddle the 6 k's out to sea......thats not something that just happens by lollygagging around in the moonlight. And then he thought he was going to paddle the 6 k's back to shore after spending all night out there? You spend all night out on a board in the ocean and you're going to be borderline hypothermic and extremely hungry. I very much doubt you'd want to paddle further out to a container ship.

Still got a slightly bizarre whiff about it.

lolo's picture
lolo's picture
lolo Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 4:28pm

Yeah the 6kms bit seems strange. 6ks is a fucking long way out to sea on a surfboard and a hell of a paddle knowing you have to reverse it. Sure 2 or 3km makes sense to get away from land and the lights but why keep going? Or is it just a case of the media calling it 6kms when they don't have clue how far out he was..

barrel_pig's picture
barrel_pig's picture
barrel_pig Monday, 30 Jan 2017 at 9:36pm

I dunno. I did that Bondi to Bronte swim recently which is 2.4km. Most people do it in around 40min. I was about that I think (never ocean swum, no training, just surf) and never felt I was pushing, could've easily gone again at same-ish pace. I reckon a none strenuous 1hr paddle on that colorful mini mal would take you most of the way to 6km. Tripped out, happy place paddling?probably 3hrs.

misa003's picture
misa003's picture
misa003 Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 4:57pm

Stu, great bit of investigative journalism. Good to find those free spirits amongst us and awesome that you went straight to the source, broke down the cultural barriers and did the Good Samaritan thing. Well done Sir.

talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey's picture
talkingturkey Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 6:36pm

Checked the Facebook posting of this story? Sheesh! The comments!! All 500+ (and counting) of 'em!

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 6:39pm

Standing at sea level, the horizon is less than 5km away. I seem to remember that the ships waiting to get in to Port Kembla sit closer than the horizon. And, of course, if the ship was 6km out, it would not have been visible from the beach.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 7:45pm

Love to hear how your little arvo catch up went Stu...

tl's picture
tl's picture
tl Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 8:00pm

Take him to the Ryan's pub Stunet for a spiritual ale

Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 8:47pm

Toru would be a more interesting tag and release experiment. We can watch him duck into Nimbin on his way to Byron.

PetaH's picture
PetaH's picture
PetaH Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:02pm

He is still at Sandon.. I saw him today! I'm going to go for a swim tomorrow and take him some food and a cold drink as it's gunna be a hot one tomorrow!

Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:25pm

Toru paddled 6 klms out to sea with no leg rope!

pointy's picture
pointy's picture
pointy Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:42pm

haha, I was sitting on Thirroul beach having a beer on Sunday night and was discussing with my friends how it was impossible to be taken out to that boat by a rip but we couldn't come up with a plausible theory as to why he was there.

Thus may explain it .... if he is telling the truth. He's already lied about what happened once

jedi old mate's picture
jedi old mate's picture
jedi old mate Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:54pm

Acid is a hell of a drug!

happyasS's picture
happyasS's picture
happyasS Monday, 23 Jan 2017 at 9:59pm

yep. why else would you paddle 6km to get to a ship just because you liked the look of it.

also explains why he initially lied. apart from the obvious embarrassment, he was probably worried about the cops nabbing his stash hidden in the dunes.

beetle10's picture
beetle10's picture
beetle10 Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 9:18am

incredible. This guy was squatting in my front yard in Mona Vale for 3 nights in late November. He said he was here for 'surf training' & thought he could live in our front yard under a tree. interesting character.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 9:22am

maybe a screw loose?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 9:33am

Get off my lawn !

fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21 Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 11:45am
stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 11:53am

Oh no...

Tcsaunders's picture
Tcsaunders's picture
Tcsaunders Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 4:13pm

I live in Japan, and know this dude....he's a genuine soul-surfer...Toru's pretty well known in the community and a proper legend!

I think he used to be a lifesaver at Shichirigahama Beach, where one of Japan's best left-handers is.

Glad to see he's representing well, down under!

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 5:59pm

Where in Japan do you live TC?

Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 9:50pm

Sounds like a great short film. Non fiction.
Maybe he ends up in a big container ship destined to Herd Island..
Now we talkin!!
Woops. now its fiction.

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017 at 9:59pm

Soundtrack by Ry Cooder. Script by Murukami.

George Cockle's picture
George Cockle's picture
George Cockle Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017 at 2:16pm

That's Toruman. He also plays guitar and sings. He is one strange cat. He will show up at our live gigs oat the Surfers Bar in Zushi, and paddle his SUP back a few miles to his house in the middle of the night.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017 at 3:08pm

Been waiting for someone to have a dig about using Kays in the heading ..surfstarved ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017 at 3:36pm

I copped a bit of stick about it on the FB page. I'm not stubbornly unrepentant about using 'kays', I wanted the story to have a loose vibe, but if I knew how popular the story was gonna be then I might've used 'kms'.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017 at 7:39pm

What the fuck is a " Kay " ?

And while I'm at it , what the fuck is a " barbie " or an " arvo " ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 26 Jan 2017 at 8:55am

Ha ha...yeah, had to laugh at some of the Seppos who couldn't figure out a kay. Meanwhile, here's the rest of the world inured to ketchup, hoagie, hooker, hookie, jonesing, wassup, and innumerable other examples that show cultural imperialism really only flows one way.

On the other hand, I thought I was writing that article for just the Swelnet faithful, the crew who know us and wouldn't judge a journalist on a deliberately breezy headline, when the article went waaaaay beyond the usual readership.

If I knew that I might've put on my serious face and written 'kms'.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Thursday, 26 Jan 2017 at 9:27am

Au contraire Stu !

Australian Surfing is the one subculture that has the seppoes hanging off a foreign culture's every nuance like Pottsey Webber hanging on to Fonzie's every word.

They love us !

Boardies, beachies, grommets ...I've even heard seppoes talk about going for an Arvo surf.

Calling Shane Dorian " Shane-o " . Fuck, only yesterday Surfline ran a headline with the word " footy " as in Freeride's abbreviation of footage.

Yep, most Septics I've met are full parrots for the Aussie surf lingo. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for it. It's everywhere. They can't help but love the little Aussie bleeder/ ripper.

One US surfer at an Indo surf spot heard an Aussie insult then would not stop repeating it for the entire duration of his stay. Fuck, for all I know he's still yelling out to people that they are " on glue ".

I'll put up more examples as they come to me.

Go you Aussie good things !

PS You should really be ashamed for turning Toru into the next Kardasian.

Haha !

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 26 Jan 2017 at 9:22am

"You should really be ashamed for turning Toru into the next Kardasian."

Mate, every flash in the pan needs an agent. You think this happened by chance?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Thursday, 26 Jan 2017 at 9:37am

I actually just saw a photo of him on a magazine whilst waiting in line at the supermarket checkout.

He was head to toe in Prada paired with oversized sunnies , clutching a little dog and a XXL Starbucks cup whilst being flanked by security.

You better hit him up for residuals .

If your thinking of getting his ramshackle estate burgled for publicity, give me a heads up as I know a bloke.

You're doing God's work ,Stu.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Thursday, 26 Jan 2017 at 10:04am

If you really want to see a gaggle of Seppos look confused
Throw in "She'll be Apples Mate".

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017 at 7:23pm

I guess for Japanese... stripping back to the bare minimum Container Ship,surfboard,tent, beachbed,watertank,computer,cups,jugs,pots and kitchen sink... is getting back to nature.

Toru must reside freely on his chosen idyllic Pacific Pointbreak until his Oz debt is repaid.

Tread lightly Emperor Toru !
Please spare us a cupful of unspoiled paradise.
Surf just Surf

Clivus Multrum's picture
Clivus Multrum's picture
Clivus Multrum Wednesday, 25 Jan 2017 at 11:50pm

Old mate Toru has had a Shibuya meltdown. Was no doubt trying to source some late night chicken strips and kidney drinks from his local familymart. Sleep it off until the Yamanote fires up again

JM's picture
JM's picture
JM Sunday, 29 Jan 2017 at 2:31pm

What a cool guy.

Nice story too. :—]

Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc Wednesday, 1 Feb 2017 at 8:13pm

I was just wondering where toru is, and If all is well.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Wednesday, 1 Feb 2017 at 8:24pm

He changed campsites about a week ago. I had a session with him at the north end of Thirroul on Sunday night and he was throwing down spinners, going switch stance, and generally buzzing about. He was in great spirits.

His visa runs out shortly and he'll be heading back to Japan soon.

Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc's picture
Dean Mc Wednesday, 1 Feb 2017 at 10:50pm

Thanks for that Stu, I heard today we could have some flooding rain on the way. I bet he would have some epic stories to tell. Great to see people enjoying life like that.

debras's picture
debras's picture
debras Thursday, 2 Feb 2017 at 4:19pm

Hi. I'm a researcher for a documentary-maker and I'd love to get in touch with Toru. I'd be really grateful for any ideas about how to contact him. Thanks so much, Debra Shulkes ([email protected])