Brett Herring: Staying true to the cause

 Laurie McGinness picture
Laurie McGinness (blindboy)
Talking Heads

When your older brother is acclaimed as one of the most talented surfers of his generation and the pundits proclaim you to have equal ability, a pro surfing career seems inevitable. Brett Herring walked away from that to follow a different path. It has been a long and varied journey and it is very far from finished.

Swellnet: So just for a bit of background tell us about your contest record.
Brett Herring: As a grom I was right into it, club contests, the Northern Beaches, State Titles but I always missed the Australian titles cos I went to Indo every time they were on; I was 16 and 17 and spent three months the first time, then four months in Nias the following year while Shane was doing his thing. There were reports that I was doing alright so Peter Crawford lined me up with Quiksilver and there was YU surfboards too so there was a bit of money to pretend to do the WQS circuit. Did Australia, Europe and Hawaii but I never really chased it. I won a pro junior at Burleigh cos all the local boys were giving me waves and blocking the others (laughs) and I made the quarters at the Kirra Pro and surfed against Sunny Garcia and Tommy Carroll. So I had a bit of a taste of it there for a few years.

The Indo trips really changed me. I was a very competitive young bloke, I thrived on it. Whereas after Indo chasing two foot onshore contests didn't appeal to me. That and seeing what went down with my bro. I don't know if it was the way he was treated or what but I didn't really like it. I remember one of my last pro juniors, it wasn't fun and it wasn't long after that I moved up to Seal Rocks and spent four years there. Then West Oz via South Oz, that was another four years, then floated around Sydney for a couple of years in the early 2000s, then another four years at Seal Rocks and now back in West Oz for the last four years.

Tell me about that second trip to WA.
I had an accident at Seal Rocks and broke my leg. I tried to work but couldn't. I had sickness benefits, I owned an old 83 Subaru and drove across Australia in it. The only thing that went wrong was the fuel filter which was like five bucks, it's still going now!

So all this time travelling and surfing, where are your favourite spots?
I still love Dee Why, it's bizarre when you come back, it's still a great point break. Living wise I love the Seal Rocks area and you do get great waves there, but reliant on sand so you can go long periods without. It's one of my favourite spots in the world.  Everyone loves Indo of course. South Oz, that's the pinnacle, to be true, living there and surfing those waves would get you at your best. There are awesome waves down there. WA is unreal and I do love it but there are a lot of good surfers there so you don't get the empty line ups that you really love. I spent quite a bit of time up at The Bluff, I've never really got into Gnarloo, that's pretty crowded. When everyone goes up to Gnarloo The Bluff is still really good. I did have Gnarloo good this year with only five guys so I can tick that one off the list.

I did seven weeks in a tent in the jungle at G Land. That was an experience. Pay off the rangers at $5.00 a day, there were six of them so I did the math and it worked out a packet of cigarettes a day for each of them. That was awesome, it was in 2000 with Camel.

What about places on the list that you haven't ticked off yet? 
A long time ago now Tracks listed the top 100 waves...I was in the seventies on that but things have changed, there are a lot of different waves out there now. J Bay I never did, doesn't bother me, it's crowded.

Did you do Hawaii?
I did Hawaii twice, I was more of a spectator than anything, but it was awesome being out there with best of the best at second reef Pipe. I was young and never really got any classic Pipe waves but I got to see it from a better vantage point than most would. All the best, Tom Carroll, Derek Ho, Johnny Boy Gomes, Liam McNamara and an underground crew that were ruling it that you never hear their names, the true Hawaiians, guys going switchfoot and stuff.

What's the plan now?
I've got a two year old son so he will keep me in West Oz for awhile.


What about surfboards?
I haven't got any newish boards I've got a 6'10" which is like 3 inches thick, a round tail with a fin box and side fins. I went single fin for 10 years but places like The Bluff make you put side fins in to get a higher line. You can't be pure you have to come back to what you need for certain waves. I also have a 7'8" I got in 2005 and a 9"0 from 2001. I also have a 5'8" Ozzie Wright gave me for the small stuff. It was a great gift!

Why single fins?
I found my uncle's old seventies boards in the late-nineties and started riding them, then got to West Oz and was hanging with Camel and he was right into them. They are a lot faster taking off on bigger waves, less drag so at places like G-Land and Ulus they work unreal, you don't need to wiggle to generate speed!

What about the changes you have observed?
Yeah, people are crazy now, the waves they're surfing, I can remember surfing Indicators in Nias when there was no-one really surfing it and it was only ten years earlier that they were calling that unsurfable, a perfect right-hand barrelling wave but very shallow, but now very shallow, steps and ledges and 20ft! 

Anything you want to add?
Yeah by actually walking away from pro surfing I've had opportunities to meet people and become part of their families in places were pro surfers aren't welcome (laughs), so I have no regrets about not chasing that. The pros live inside a bubble and it's hard to branch out and meet other people, or get involved with the culture. There's a big difference, you don't fly into Gnarloo on a private jet, surf the swell for two days and get out of there. You're living in the desert for four months! The pros have got wealth but I know a lot of poor people who are pretty happy.

(Photo credits: top Mick Klaunzer, bottom unknown)


zenagain's picture
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zenagain Monday, 28 Oct 2013 at 7:52pm

Sweet! Nicely done.

And only one reference to his brother and not solicited by the author.

Good to see him enjoying surfing for surfings sake.

southey's picture
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southey Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 1:07am

I've spent a bit of time with a few of the guys that Brett has hung with in Indo and NWA . Personally I've spent time in the water with him at borderline unridable -Macking Deserts . He's the real deal , charging without cameras , for himself only . And one story of him and a WA Lad named Karl B , being at G-Land leading up to a WQS comp there . So impressed with both of their backhand freesurfing before the contest . The organisers ? asked them both to Judge . Someone pulls out late , and Brett fills in ...
Pretty much dominates , and almost wins ???? ( Story second hand , but reliable source ) . Himself and Camel have earnt their respect in waves of consequence .
Power to him .... could have done alot worse than the path he has chosen for himself . well done Brett .

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crustt Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 7:39am

Southy, I surfed with that Karl bloke up NW last year, I reckon it would be the same one from down Albany, best backhand barrel riding I have ever seen and a very unique style, a pleasure to watch.

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southey Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 9:37am

Yeah Karl Beardham ( Spelling ?? ) , he wouldn't like the attention . But he's an awesome backhand tube rider . Shapes his own boards , and more importantly just a nice guy . Only seen one guy contort more than him at Bluff and that would be rubber man - Simon Mcshane . Karl knows the waves up there better than most .
I'm pretty sure he's done a few stints in SA too . Anyway its been too long since I've seen him and a few of the NW "journey men" ... Good times .

uplift's picture
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uplift Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 11:27am

Gidday, 'The Kid', Carl spent a fair bit of time here, and we became good friends and surfed together heaps. He showed me all around around his zone too. (oh no the swine... exposure!!!) When he first came he was still a bit of a grommet, and we used to hassle the shit out of him, and give him heaps, hence, 'The Kid'. He just got better and better, and had the classic backhand in the end, could really square up to the face. He was good forehand too, and actually got a 'best Kirra Barrel ever' shot in one of the glossy mags. He'd love this attention... here ya go 'the Kid rips', but he was a better gyprock flusher than surfer. Got a bit loose there for a while, but survived.

I had to referee many a heat between him and Toddy Archer at cranking blacks, but in the end they were just fighting it out for 3rd and 4th, as me and Gaully kicked their arses time and time again. That's what Camster said anyway.

Pete from here spent lots of time with Brett Herring, up north too, and it really influenced his surfing in an awesome way.

Living in the jungle with Camster... nightmare on elm street, the ultimate recycling, urine on the rocks!

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uplift Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 11:31am

Oh yeh, I forgot to mention, Pete would absolutely detest the exposure too. And Haydy Van Vanity would be spewing that he never got a mention.

stan1972's picture
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stan1972 Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 11:34am

Good on you Blindboy for letting Brett be Brett. Great surfer, good person.

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yorkessurfer Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 3:16pm

I met Brett when he was camping by himself at Cactus on his way to WA back in the 90's. He had a tiny little tent, 7'4" surfboard and no car. I couldn't believe it! Just out there living on the edge. When he needed some supplies one of the locals or fellow campers would pick some things up for him in Penong.

He didn't seem that interested in surfing the smaller waves that were around but one day paddled out at the bombie behind the blowhole on the Cactus cliffs and surfed it huge. I've never seen any other stand up attempt it.
I saw some boogers surf it earlier the year and one lost his lid and almost died being washed against the cliffs!

A few months after seeing him there I picked up a surfing magazine and it had a pic of Brett in WA with the caption reading that it was thought to be the biggest wave paddled into in Australia in the last 20 years at that time. Pre-tow days then of course!

estuspirkle's picture
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estuspirkle Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 4:29pm

A kool interview with a kool surfer. Kool bananas. Oi, Uplift, who the fuck is this Gaully kunt? Is he about 6'8 with a beard? Big scar on one side of his noggin? From Abbott land? Yeah? He owes me $$$$$, 4 and a half slabs, and a Ben Sherman shirt. Where is the kunt?

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uplift Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 5:47pm

Gidday estuspirkle, na wrong guy, Gaully (stones) is in WA, is beardless and scarless (kinda good looking like me, although not as good looking) like me. Although Toddy was the best surfer I've seen at blacks, Gaully is up there, and actually paddled out and surfed the phantom on his own on a huge afternoon, which pretty much shattered Toddy's life. I saw him catch and backdoor this atomic slab one day that made the whole ocean and reef shudder. It made you wonder how there was any reef left. He does awesome dings too and taught Duttsy everything he knows.

estuspirkle's picture
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estuspirkle Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 9:54pm

Dutts?! Who's he? I heard there is one fella in Margs who does the slowest ding repairs of all time! Maybe it's this Gaul bugger! I know a bloke there who's been waiting for a board repair for 3 friggin' years! His name is a beard like Prince. I think he was over your way once...or so he claims. A bit of a boxer and ladies man. Maybe he can sort the prick out.

uplift's picture
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uplift Tuesday, 29 Oct 2013 at 10:03pm

Ladies man!!!! Who told ya that. He had a record breaking drought over our way. Well, actually that's not totally true, he came second there, the one area where Toddy outright thumped him. That fuckn manicured prince thing is a stick on he bought in Spain to disguise himself and get out alive.

3 years isn't so bad. Duttsy looks at them from every angle before he strikes like a panther..

Just because Azza ran over haydar grovelling on his biscuit, and used to have those sparring sessions with blind, on his knees scotty, he convinced all you lot that he was a prize fighter over here. Admittetdly he used to smack jervis around like a human speed ball, but jarvis got booted out of the super flyweight division for being invisible when he stood near the ring posts. Its these sort of blown up stories that are ruining modern surfing.

He could surf though.

estuspirkle's picture
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estuspirkle Thursday, 31 Oct 2013 at 5:30pm

I'm confused. You know Aaron too? Aaron Neville? Is Aaron also known as Gaul?? Is Gaul Dutts as well?? How many Gaullys are there? Who's Dutts? Who's on first?! Too many nicknames (and Es...& EEs). The Jervis name rings a bell though. I think I met him on the north coast of WA...or was that the south coast of SA? Either way, had some absolute blinders with him...the boy could drink for Australia. Just to be sure we're talkin' about the same bloke, this guy was a bit porky and had flaming red hair and a blonde beard...or was it the other way round? As I say, I'm confused...too much Melbourne Bitter....or was that Emu Export? Oh yeah, he could surf too...but we all took that as a given, yeah?

caml's picture
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caml Thursday, 6 Mar 2014 at 7:19pm

Herro has been ripping lately . So much so that those young pro surfers in sw w.a. Could learn a few tricks from the toothless tube master !

blindboy's picture
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blindboy Thursday, 6 Mar 2014 at 7:32pm

Yeh he was ripping up the chop on a windy east coast shorebreak last time I saw him. Big positive change in lifestyle I think. Say g'day for me caml!

udo's picture
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udo Friday, 25 Jul 2014 at 11:53am

A Herring story in the latest tracks mag.