From despair to FTW: Jughead's tale

Stu Nettle
Talking Heads

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"Big wave surfers, I think it must be like footy players who suddenly retire. What they love isn't there anymore and a few years later they slip into depression."

It's not something discussed in the carparks or lineups of the world but Justen 'Jughead' Allport has had depression and mental health issues affect his life on various levels.

One of Australia's most celebrated and loved big wave surfers, Jughead lost his brother to suicide, an event that triggered his own battle with the black dog. The darkest hour is just before the dawn, so the saying goes, and it was during his own darkest hour that Jughead connected with Matty Dee of FTW.

FTW - an acronym for Fuck The World - is surely the most unlikely sounding company to help troubled youth, but as Jughead explains that misunderstanding has been the beginning of many important conversations. Conversations that are invaluable to those people reaching out for help.

What was your brother's name Jug?
Brendan, he was 18 months older than me.

Do you have other siblings?
Yeah. I've got two older sisters that are older than him. I was the youngest of four kids.

Did Brendan surf?
Not really, no. When we were growing up he didn't really surf. Once, when we were about 13 or 14 my Dad brought him a brand new Town and Country back from Hawaii. I was so jealous, but then he left it at the beach one day. That was it. He wasn't really into it. You'd say he was a bit of a loner.

Did you have a close relationship?
At certain stages of my life, yeah, though the last few years I sorta I wasn't super close, you know. I started playing chess with him online the last year that he was alive. He was a merchant seaman so he was away a lot. A lot of the time he'd be on the ship and I'd be playing chess with him online.

Do you think being a loner contributed to his troubles?
Yeah, I think so....yeah, definitely.

How did it all unfold with Brendan?
Ahhh...I've never spoken about this....wow.

Take your time Jug.
Yeah, it's alright...I was away in Bali with my family. We'd been away for three weeks and I came home and my Dad said “Give me a call, it's urgent”. Brendan and my Dad share a house together and they lived together. They were both merchant seaman, often away working.

Brendan was due to go back to sea in a week and that's when we started getting really worried 'cos he hadn't shown up. He made no contact with any of us, which was really really strange, 'cos if I rang him he'd always answer. If I texted him he'd always reply.

But he had rung my old man, I think the day that he left the house, he said he was going to get some milk, but he never returned. He also rang my Nan that day, told her how much he loved her and how....how great she'd been as a grandma.

I think it was about a week later, I was at work and I got a call saying the police had found my brother in Sydney and he'd passed away...and ah, some of family have been in denial ever since. They cant accept it and just wont talk about it.

They don't want to talk about it?
No, not at all. That's why I've never really talked about it, but I want people to know that it effects so many people not just the one that takes their life. So many people suffer. And that’s why I've been doing work as an ambassador for FTW and their affiliated government organisation, Suicide Prevention Australia.

img_0491-2.jpgBrendan's death led you to FTW?
Kind of. About eight months ago I had really bad depression, and I didn't know why, and I knew Marti [Paradisis] knew the guys from FTW. So I rang up Marti to ask for their number, but he didn't realise I was that depressed so when he answered he said, “I'm out on the golf course with Chiza. I'll give you a call back later.” (laughs)

“Yeah, no worries,” I said. I didn't want to hassle him. Didn't want to be a burden on him. So later I texted him and asked if he had Matty Dee's [owner of FTW] number. He sent me his number and I rang Matty Dee, had a long chat and it really helped. It really helped.

Matty Dee has been through hell. I didn't know him, obviously, but I felt like I could talk about anything. He's been there, he knows it. He lost a brother and sister, and for years he felt like it was his fault, and a part of him probably still thinks that to this day.

We talk now, and when he's had one of his lows, I've rung him and told him “You're a fucken legend. You pulled me out and you've pulled others out, and just that alone is enough for your brother and sister to be proud of ya.”

Can you explain more about FTW?
Matty just wanted kids that were down, that were from poor backgrounds, to connect with something that could help them. Kids that are vulnerable are going to be kids that can associate with a brand like FTW 'cos its not Lifeline...and don't get me wrong, Lifeline are awesome, but kids aren't the ones ringing Lifeline. I know someone who works there, she's on the phones all night, and she told me most of their clientele aren’t young kids.

Matt's just trying to be an alternative for the people who aren't gonna ring Lifeline. Matt and FTW are about turning negatives into positives. Resilience despite adversity, I suppose explains it best. Not one suicide prevention organisation is working in the demographic that are most likely to take their own life. Every organisation is doing their best to save lives but who is starting the conversations about mental health at the skateparks or in the lower social circles that are doing it tough? They need inspiration and love too. Sliding down a rainbow and hugging a puppy doesn't appeal to everyone and stats already show that youth are more likely to turn to like-minded movements like FTW as opposed to the conservative services. They're a first response channeling service that are saving heaps of lives.

And you're repping for FTW now?
Ha...yeah. FTW, my wife was like “You can't wear that!” And I said , “You know what, I'm wearing it! You say I can't but I'm going to.” My wife now realises it's a smart movement and because she understands what it is she's backing me and FTW (laughs).

Most people will think it has a negative connotation.
100%. I struggled too, but then I thought, 'No, I'll let people know and then they can tell others what it is about and we can spread the word'. I'm happy to go and buy any of it 'cos I know it's helping people out. People see the stickers on my board and say “Oh you're sponsored?” And I say, “No, not at all. I'm just trying to get the word out.”

I'm not wearing it 'cos someone's paying me. I'm not wearing it 'cos I'm given free stuff, I'm wearing it and I'm putting stickers on my board so I can be talking to you about it right now.

If people aren't talking about it then they're not aware of statistics like every four hours another Australian kid kills themselves.

What did it take for you to finally ring Matty?
I didn't surf for about six weeks just 'cos I felt so down. I don't know, I just thought I'd pride myself on not surfing. I don't know why, it wasn't helping me at all! And that's when I texted Marti to get Matty's number.” And Matty just talked to me about how I was feeling.

At the time I didn't even know it had much to do with my brother, you know, the way I felt so down. It just seemed like there were so many parts of my life that I wasn't accepting.

Another huge thing was that I'd been on all these incredible highs from going and surfing huge waves and, you know, you come down afterwards. You keep looking at weather maps, looking at weather maps, wanting to get another high.

But I'd conceded within myself that my family had to come first. The kids, their sport, their school, it had to come first. So all these times, I'd still look at the maps, and my mates would ring and want to chase this swell or that, but I'd just opt out and say “Nuh, my family comes first”. And I didn't consciously know it but the less that I was surfing big waves the more I was getting depressed. Real depressed.

I don't want it to sound like my family brought on my depression 'cos I made the decision not to chase big waves myself. I wanted to be there for my kids.

But big wave surfers, I think it must be like footy players who suddenly retire. What they love isn't there anymore, and a few years later they slip into depression. It seems they've gotta find something else. Often it's not something you can do by yourself.

You say you put your family first for a long time but recently you've had a resurgence in big waves. All of a sudden Jughead is back on the stage.
Yeah...but you know what?

What?
Much of that time I'd been darting down to Victoria or wherever to get my fix. Places the cameras aren't, and 'cos people cant see you they think you're not surfing big waves. So maybe people think I've had a resurgence 'cos I've had no photos but I've still been chasing big waves.

And you chased big waves to Pedra late last year?
Oh yeah, I was on the phone to Marti for that swell when they were booking the boat. There's only ten spots on the boat and I asked if he could let me know if there was a spot. And he did...he actually pulled out of the trip himself! And I still went! (laughs)

He even gave me a board when I got there, while he went up and surfed the west coast. Marti really helped me out on that swell.

download_7.jpegThere was a resounding cheer when you won the Oakley Big Wave Award from a wave caught on that trip.
Yeah, well I've got no problem saying that I was stoked to win. I was pumped!

And when you were on the stage you were wearing FTW gear. Did it give you an opportunity to talk to other people?
Yeah! My daughter put it on Instagram that night and someone wrote, “You shouldn't be wearing FTW”, and later on I saw that person and told them it was about suicide prevention. They had no idea and it was pretty cool that I got to explain it to them like that. 

If you're feeling isolated or in despair contact FTW. If a friend needs help then talk to them.
Photos of Jughead surfing, including homepage photo, Riley Edwards. Other photo by Oakley/ASL Big Wave Awards.

Comments

saltman's picture
saltman's picture
saltman commented Friday, 25 Sep 2015 at 10:18am

Well done Justen anything that can be done to stem this epidemic deserves a lot of air time
Way too many young lives are being stolen and the ensuing pain in families as he has experienced is awful

More power to FTW (I have seen it sanitized to For The Win !)

wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8 commented Friday, 25 Sep 2015 at 10:23am

It's funny, I didn't want to be the first to post a comment for the same reason I wouldn't bring the subject up in a carpark or line up, but it needs to be spoken about! As I get older I'm more aware of people including family who have problems but its always on the grapevine, no-one talks about it openly.

Good on you Jughead for having teh guts to open up and tell your story, more power to you and Matty Dee.

ACB__'s picture
ACB__'s picture
ACB__ commented Friday, 25 Sep 2015 at 10:39am

Awesome Stu. Good stuff mate.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Friday, 25 Sep 2015 at 10:58am

Seconded.

I don't think I know anyone who hasn't been touched by depression. As for suicide, such a simple solution to such a complex problem but just cuts through families and friends like a wrecking ball.

All the best to jug, it's a very noble cause.

Watashi wa metabo oyagi desu.

curly2alex's picture
curly2alex's picture
curly2alex commented Friday, 25 Sep 2015 at 12:01pm

Excellent article/interview....thank you
Brilliant idea as an alternative to Lifeline.
Well done Justen 'Jughead' Allport .

surfinado's picture
surfinado's picture
surfinado commented Friday, 25 Sep 2015 at 3:43pm

Depression and suicide in surfing are rife, and the subject long overdue to be brought out into the open. I lost my father to suicide, and I can absolutely empathise with everything Justin's said in here. Well done for taking such affirmative action mate, and big ups to FTW.

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 commented Saturday, 26 Sep 2015 at 11:48am

as saltman said, anything that can be done to help ... so, here's a couple of simple things EVERYONE who reads this can do:

1. Go the FTW facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/FTWRevolution and "like" it, which in turn will let all your friends know you "like" it ... if you're really keen to help, then also invite all your facebook friends to "like" the page too (note: facebook should automatically give you that option)

2. Buy something from their website. Go here to the shop: http://www.ftwrevolution.com/shop/ buy something, anything ... the money will go to helping:

a. fund their work, and
b. spread the word while you wear what you bought.

Simple hey?

So, go on ... DO IT !!!

Surfboard Design and Construction Kook. Evidence is here: www.ffwsurfboards.com.au
*FFW - Few Fun Waves ... that's what it's all about for me.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Saturday, 26 Sep 2015 at 2:11pm

What a great article, thank you Justen for sharing that.

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules commented Sunday, 27 Sep 2015 at 3:11pm

Thanks Jughead and Stu for sharing that very important story.

One of my best mates brothers just committed to suicide. He was about 45 and the most "up guy" in the whole world - if the eulogies were anything to go by?

Now I'm experiencing the ripple effect on his siblings; and their children as they try and deal with the disconnect between the way he lived his life and the way he ended it. I feel really sad he was unable to reach out to friends or family through that façade and say "I'm not all right, right now".

Being "up" all of the time isn't real, so thank you both for bringing that to our attention in such a respectful way.

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon commented Sunday, 27 Sep 2015 at 5:28pm

Great article for sure.

I find people who commit suicide are the most selfish people on this world anyway?
People close to them should have had an understanding before shit goes all wrong.
But I suppose it's very hard at times.

Good on ya Jugman, but don't give up what you enjoy and do really well.
Good luck champ.

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Sunday, 27 Sep 2015 at 7:16pm

welly, i dont think they are selfish-just disconnected. this is a great step to break down the barriers that separate us.
i would like to invite those that may want to really help those at risk and that is a simple tool to assist thought patterns that assist emotions that assist actions.
brain needs to be operating in alpha or theta rhythms, not mainly beta hertz range.
seek out brainwave entrainment software- 10- 15 minutes a morning and night can enable better choices as brain/mind is working in clarity mode with peaceful programming, empowering people. this stuff works, check it out.

davetherave

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon commented Sunday, 27 Sep 2015 at 7:23pm

Cool as again DRavo:-)

What's ya mate Sheepio up to, hope he's not going to FTW after drinking all that water in the SA desert;)

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

davetherave's picture
davetherave's picture
davetherave commented Monday, 28 Sep 2015 at 4:15am

his wife pretty sick, old mate struggling- my thoughts with them both- hope u r well, love your boards and that u having a crack at tos-too hectic down here.
that brainwave stuff, i have already helped a few people with it.
very sceptical at first but then noticed they were more peaceful and more aligned to make good choices- but u have to commit doing it.
i have made too special compositions, if i knew how to download then from itunes to here i would post link here
can anybody help me do this?
thanks

davetherave

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