Rip Up The Rule Book
The young generation of Australian surfers are ruined before they start their life journey. The odds are stacked against success. Insurmountable obstacles to happiness are placed before them and they're staring down the barrel of destitution and homelessness. So the story goes…
I’m hearing relentless negative opinions of the world confronting young surfers and it’s really starting to wear thin. Being a healthy, young surfer should be a time of enthusiasm and optimism, not a period of mourning for missed opportunities. As someone reaching my half century next year, I think I may be able to offer a bit of counsel to the young Australian surfer who is contemplating how to tackle the big, wide world unfolding before them.
If you dream of a life with access to the waves and aren’t sure how to go about it, then here’s a starting point. Let’s get stuck into it:
1) Free Your Mind
You may have grown up near the beach. You might have a secure circle of friends and relatives around you, a spot in the local lineup, and feel confident in your home zone. Be prepared to walk away from all of this. Be ready to leave your comfortable little world. Accept that life may be different, more difficult, harder than it is now within the tiny bubble of your current existence. Your life has been easy, but in order to move forward you may have to learn new ways of living. You are not the first person in history to do this. Realise that your future may involve hard work, loneliness, deprivation, and doubt. Don’t let this deter you for a second. Who knows…you might even have the time of your life reinventing yourself into the person you have the potential to become?
2) Seed Money
The first step in creating the life you want is to give yourself the ability to create opportunity. This requires a sum of money which enables you the time and leverage to make decisions from a position of strength and relative security. You need money for a vehicle in order to travel, cash to pay for skills training, and reserves to fall back on when things don’t go to plan. You need money ASAP.
The equation for accumulating cash is simple: Earn more than you spend. To do this you need to work hard and live cheap. Find a job which requires no skill and pays a decent amouny: brickies labourer, trades assistant. Failing that then just work harder for less money. Even solid hours flipping burgers can get you where you want to be.
Set a goal in your mind and pursue it with bloody-minded determination. This short term pain will pay dividends. You will only need a few grand to set yourself free. Work relentlessly for a few months and alter the course of your life from despondency and hopelessness into independence and possibility.
3) Don't Forget To Surf
You are first and foremost a surfer. Your current sacrifice may impinge on water time but it’s imperative to make room for a soul soothing and physically reinvigorating shred. Be sure to fit in regular sessions in the water as breaking yourself mentally helps no-one. Don’t ever forget to stay relaxed throughout this process. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Make bank but make certain to remember the end goal of living a surfer’s life.
4) Live Like It Hurts To Part With Money
Plenty of people with lots of money will tell you that the happiest time of their life was when they were struggling for cash at the start of their journey. Saving coin and having fun are not exclusive themes. Just spend less than you earn…a lot less. Key to this is cost of living.
Get to know every dollar you earn. Treasure it as a friend without getting weird about it. Get one surfboard and make it work in any condition. Save. Save. Save.
Cheap accommodation is good, free accommodation is better. Live with your parents if possible. Live out of a car. Bunk with friends. Caretake at a surf club. If you find work in construction then hit up your boss to live onsite - they may even throw in a bit of cash if you frame it as site security. Live in a tent in the bush. Mind houses. Do what it takes to hold onto your hard earned. That seed money is your ticket to freedom.
5) Bold Steps
In only a few months you’ve changed trajectory. From broke and depressed, into financially self-empowered and confident. There’s no grander feeling than to be a young surfer with a few dollars in your kick and the world spread out before you. Austerity hasn't yet ended but freedom is only beginning.Your seed money should now be employed to take you to the next step.
Transport you can live in should be a priority. This enables you to spread your wings, chase waves (cheaply), and expose yourself to the opportunities which arise through travel. You do not need a decked out van or a monster truck 4WD. A simple shitbox station wagon will more than suffice.
You are a surfer and Australia is chock-full of amazing waves. Pick one and go reward your hard work with a few sessions for the memory bank. The further from your home town the better. Part-time work may be necessary to avoid depleting the seed account. Make friends at your new location. Learn to become yourself without the history of your hometown defining who you are and who you should be.
New horizons generate new opportunities. You never know what possibilities you’ll find available when you follow adventure.
Accomodation is everywhere if you are less conventional in your thinking. Plenty of run down farm sheds, which cash poor or absentee landowners may be willing to rent for a small stipend or in exchange for labour. Learn life skills by improving your environment yourself, get a few basic tools and build your own world with cast off materials.
Gain a skill which will allow you to accelerate earning potential. There are skills attainable through short courses which grant you license to learn while you earn and really set fire to your seed money and turn it into investment capital for your life. Rigging, crane operation, plant operation etc. are simple and well paying occupations you can be qualified for within a very short amount of time.
Be confident in exploring any possible avenue to earn money. Just because you have no background as a deckhand doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be good at it. Push yourself without being pushy. Every person you meet could potentially be that life-changing connection into a new world of experience.
Look for work at the pub, look for work by knocking door to door. Act like a decent human by default, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because the person watching you from afar could play a big role in your destiny.
Volunteer in exchange for education within industries which appeal. Transportable skills are the most useful. Take those skills and parlay them into greater independence. Avoid debt wherever possible.
Never forget to earn more than you spend and to surf at every opportunity.
6) Find A Mentor
Here is a natural symbiotic relationship between older people and younger generations which has served humanity since time began; the mentor brings the experience to the table whilst the apprentice brings the youthful energy, and both gain from the exchange.
Mentoring doesn’t have to be formal, just find an older person you relate to and whom you think is a good operator. Ask them questions and let them know you appreciate their advice. Keep in touch and consider their counsel in times of doubt. Learning from the mistakes of others is preferable to making those mistakes yourself.
7) Go Regional
Cities have long been recognised as the focal point of opportunities. Consequently, they are hotbeds of competition for work, housing, and waves. Costs are high. COVID has put the regions increasingly in the spotlight. This new focus on smaller towns has brought jobs to places which may have been stagnating previously. Some of the more recognised spots, such as Byron Bay, are drowning under the weight of their new found popularity. Many other towns have managed to dodge the destructive influx of people whilst their fortunes have risen.
There are still patches of coastline where the waves are fun and the living is amenable. Opportunities exist for a motivated surfer who wants to forge a life.
8) Start Small
You’ve taken your seed money, travelled and found a place with potential for a new life. Somewhere out of the ordinary. Every large prosperous place started as a small town just like the one you’ve chosen and they too had their downsides in the early days. Surfers at Byron were persecuted by police, surfers at Margaret River were persecuted by farmers, Noosa was once considered a place of zero financial opportunity. Your task is to see a future that others cannot. Those small coastal towns which others overlook as too remote, too hard, and without potential for growth can be your place to create something incredible or just find some room for yourself.
There’s no end to change in this world. Use this to your advantage. Speculation is where the biggest returns are found. The East Coast transplants of the '70s amd '80s didn’t expect to wind up as crayfish millionaires when they chose to settle in Kalbarri. The hippies at Mullumbimby never thought their self-sustainable farms would be the drooling envy of the celebrity set and consequently be worth more than they could’ve earned working their entire lives in an office.
In the meantime, you’ll have years of empty waves and relaxed living to enjoy.
Continue to live as cheaply as possible. Buy land if it is inexpensive. There are still places where land within twenty minutes of the coast is relatively inexpensive if you are willing to live rough for the early years whilst you slowly build a home. There is no shame if your house doesn’t have a home theatre, in fact it doesn’t even have to have four walls as long as you can survive.
Get to know the locals and create opportunities and new pathways into your future. If you have followed the steps above you should now find yourself with a piece of dirt and a well manageable cost of living. Now is the time to expand your thinking once more. Your home can be rented and it will pay for itself. This allows you to travel in search of more lifestyle options such as study or adventure. Now is time for consolidation of your fortunes and abilities before raising a family places happy limits on scope.
9) The Good Life
Now you’ve got a place to call your own in a spot with waves. A lifestyle not overburdened by debt and nothing to do but exist and enjoy your surfing. A part of a community and a chance to forge a niche for yourself as the town grows around you. You’ve basically lived the life of an economic migrant within your own country. People from other countries often pursue the same path but it finds them crossing borders and encountering different languages and cultures. You too could find a cheaper nation to live in after you’ve attained a bit of capital following the program I’ve described. At least you are doing it from a position of strength rather than desperation.
The trick is to enjoy the ride. Some of the moments along the way may seem onerous but will often provide the fondest memories or best tales when viewed in hindsight. Resilience and positivity is key. A healthy young Aussie surfer has as good a start to life as anyone in the world.
Good luck and stay happy. Get tubed and live your best life. Take risks, back yourself, think outside the box and the rewards will be yours.
// JOHN DORY