Richo! Surfing's Ultimate Underground Story
As the 2017 Championship Tour reaches a climax in Hawaii, it's easy to take for granted how far professional surfing has come. With multi-lingual webcasts, dream tour locales, million-dollar sponsorships, and a billionaire benefactor, it can hardly be recognised from the early days of a card table set up in the sand and a day long 'waiting period'.
One of the fellas who can vouch for the change is ex-world number 7, Terry Richardson. For ten years Richo followed the fledgling world tour, living on a shoestring budget bouncing between countries, getting ripped off, and forging lifelong friendships.
Richo is currently in the process of telling his story. With the help of Rob Reynolds, he's writing a book he started years ago jotting anecdotes between shifts down a coal mine. His post-surf career providing a fantastic tag line: Surfing's ultimate underground story.
Rob and Richo just started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the book which will be finished and printed next year.
Swellnet: What's your relationship with Richo? And when did the idea of a book germinate?
Rob Reynolds: I grew up surfing at Corrimal and Towradgi where Richo's reputation and influence were massive. He was certainly a hero of mine, particularly as a fellow goofy-footer, and our paths crossed frequently over the years without ever becoming mates.
He started writing the book while he was working in Queensland mines, spending long hours in transit, and filled a notebook with his recollections. So for Richo the idea started years ago. He had plenty of encouragement, including a film producer he met accidentally who couldn't believe that the unassuming bloke cleaning fish in the camping area used to compete with the world's best, and wanted to make a film about it. Richo took it as far as he could, but the whole thing stalled. A mutual friend suggested me as a co-writer, and next thing we were turning his anecdotes into a structured book together. And now we are mates.
What was Richo's motivation?
Richo's motivation has always been hard to pin down, but I think being in three-way conversations with some of his peers has helped me work it out. It's all about recognition from the guys who lived it with him, and the guys who lived it before him. Chatting with guys like Derek Hynd and Gary Timperley about the unglamorous reality of grinding out the world tour as a fringe surfer in the late '70s and early '80s you can see the brotherhood that sustained them when the professionalism of surfing was all smoke and mirrors.
Richo's excited about explaining this to a wider audience. Equally he's excited about the recognition of guys like Gerry Lopez and Wayne Lynch who shaped all his aspirations as a surfer. There's a sense of 'did all this really happen?' because it's a period that's gone, not just for Terry but for everyone, the social context and the way people thought and behaved. Everyone we talk to is anxious to have it explained and preserved.
Getting the info out of Richo isn't always easy, because memory is an unreliable thing for any of us. It's become easier as I learn the story and get the chronology right, and as the trust between us has grown. Sometimes things that I see as key pieces of the jigsaw just fall out of conversations about something else. Generally he's open and willing to talk, it's just a matter of triggering the memories.
Is it true you had the book almost finished and then some of the big names came calling wanting to be involved?
Yes, we keep getting new contacts and leads to chase up. I'm not even sure what 'finished' looks like. I know at some point I need to put a full stop to everything, but great stuff just keeps falling out of the sky. The kickstarter campaign prompted Duncan Campbell of the famous Campbell brothers to get in touch, so we had a great conversation about bonzers and the photography of Craig Fineman. It just keeps happening and the book gets fatter.
There are lots of Richo's peers that we've tracked down for the book, Mike Ho, Lopez, Wayne Lynch, Derek Hynd, GT, Simon Anderson, Pagey, PT. There's always someone else to add to the list. We've had a lot of help with phone numbers and email addresses from supporters. I'm constantly blown out by the generosity of all these people who want to help out however they can, guys like Sean Doherty, Andrew Crockett from Hodaddy, Nick Carroll, Phil Jarratt, Steve Core, the list just goes on and on...
The pro tour now is a very different place to what it was then. Have you rubbed up against any legal issues in telling the old stories?
There are a couple of contentious areas in explaining life on the tour back in the early days, and these come with legal dilemmas. There's an argument that you're justified in satisfying the public interest in what really happened, but Richo is certainly not out to embarrass anyone. So there's a fine line between telling the story honestly and giving someone a reason to send a hitman around to Richo's place! Some pretty explosive stuff has come out in the interviews, and how well we deal with it is something that people will want to read. We're definitely not intending to shirk any of this, it's an important part of the story.
The book isn't due to come out till November 2018. It's a hell of a long process. Tell us a little about it.
We're learning as we go, and absorbing advice from people who've been down this path. In terms of writing, my initial process was to rewrite the story in a very linear form, so I could get the sequence of events right. Once that was done I pulled the whole thing apart and reassembled it in smaller, more thematic chunks. Every time I interview someone new I then revisit those chunks to add insights to particular events. It's like a painting, with layers of colour and shading. I'm constantly reviewing with Richo as I go, reading through the chunks and incorporating the fresh memories and corrections these conversations provoke.
The rest of the process is about nuts and bolts: quotes and timelines for printing and shipping, run the Kickstarter campaign to try and get some upfront capital and get people interested, at the same time working over ideas for layout and design, selecting photos, proofreading and fact-checking, permission to use material from other sources.
The Kickstarter experience is a learning curve in itself. We've had massive exposure, shares across the internet, but still have trouble getting people to take the plunge and make a pledge. I don't think people of my generation are getting it, they think it's just a video about the book and don't understand that watching the video is just the first step. Part two is to look at the pledge options and make a commitment. It would be really reassuring to be able to go to the printers with a list of preorders and a working budget, because our budget for this project has always been zero.
It's an ideal gift for Xmas 2018. How many people do you know are that organised they'd buy a gift 12 months in advance?
Ha ha...I haven't even bought Christmas presents for this Christmas let alone next year! Yes, it's the perfect Chrissy present but it's hard to give people something tangible this year. Still, if you can give the kiddies a scratchie you can sure as hell give Dad a printout of a confirmation email that you've made an investment in a great project on his behalf.
The book isn't the only pledge: there are t-shirts, surf lessons, and Richo custom boards handmade from start to finish. That's an artifact that's almost too valuable to get wet, it's going straight to the poolroom.