Review: 'Neverland' by Tricia Shantz

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Steve Shearer (freeride76)
The Depth Test

A strange feeling, something like vertigo, overcomes anyone familiar with the famous Northern Rivers area of NSW upon reading Neverland, Tricia Shantz's sumptuous social history/homage of surfer culture in Byron Bay. It's the past, but the recent past, it still feels close enough to reach out and touch, but the place it describes then is now so utterly alien it's as if you are watching a planet in outer space. Hence the vertiginous feelings as you roam through this immensely enjoyable book.

This recent past is just a tiny slice of space and time and in a sense the much larger and deeper history feels more comforting, less alien. There's the geological history. Byron Bay, contra popular opinion, is not part of the Wollumbin (Mt Warning) shield super volcano, unlike Lennox Head to the south. The east-facing Cape Byron headland and Broken Head complex are formed by the much older Brisbane Metamorphic complex. These deeply folded metasediments - which are perfectly visible at Broken Head - were laid down in the Carboniferous/Devonian period between 345-405 million years ago, compared to the much younger basalt lava flows which formed Lennox Head in the Cenozoic Era (70-50 million years ago).

Abundant biodiversity supported semi-permanent populations of Indigenous people. Arakwal/Bundjalung nations enjoyed camps at Palm Valley (The Pass) feasting on seafoods, reptiles, flying foxes, and other mammals. Lennox Head was a place of male initiation, and a permanent fish trap at the base of the point enabled easy harvesting of migrating fish species.

The first white settlers came in the 1840s for the Red Cedar trees growing on the red soils of the plateau, sliding the logs down steep gullies called shoots (Coopers Shoot, Skennars shoot etc.) to be floated down rivers and out through the treacherous bars before being shipped to Sydney. Vast land clearing took place soon after for nascent agriculture: dairying, cropping, sugar cane, pigs, beef cattle. Within decades almost the entire area was deforested.

Byron Bay's semi-sheltered embayment was chosen as the site for a jetty, which functioned as the major transport hub for shipping the agricultural products back to the city. The jetty was destroyed by storms, a second one was built before it too was fatally damaged by storms. Gold was discovered in the sands and strip mined. Whaling was undertaken for a brief period (1954-1962). An abattoir and a butter factory thrived, went broke, and thrived again as primary produce prices rose, fell, and rose again. Sand mining replaced gold mining as heavy minerals necessary for the USA space program were discovered in the extensive dunal systems. By the mid-to-late 1960s as Neverland begins its narrative arc, most of these primary productions were either gone or in terminal decline.

Walker's Abbatoir was a major Byron employer through the 1960s and '70s with offcuts from the 'country killed meat' dumped from the jetty (Rusty Miller)

I offer this brief prehistory to Neverland as context. The orthodox, Morning of the Earth-influenced rose-tinted glasses through which we view this Shangri-La are a little distorted. The North Coast, and particularly Byron Bay of this time, was not an untouched paradise where man was living in harmony with nature. It was a semi-abandoned industrial mine site and degraded agricultural area.

What wasn't degraded was the surfing resource. The newly-arrived American and Aussie surfers weren't the first surfers in the district. The hard-scrabble mining, industrial, and fishing town already had a few local surfers such as Max and Yvonne Pendergast in Byron, the Keevor brothers, and a small Lismore crew who were surfing Lennox Point. What is undeniable is the amount of quality, uncrowded point surf that attracted the newcomers and the impact they made.

Neverland traces the life-stories of these surfer imports; their cultural impacts and influences on shaping the direction that Byron Bay and the North Coast took as these places transformed from primary production to tourism and creative-based economies, including a powerful surf-industrial economy.

The big names are all in here: Greenough, Nat Young, McTavish, Bob Cooper, Rusty Miller, Phil Edwards, Wayne Lynch. Most of that material is well known. It's the stories of the lesser-known players, and/or their partners which brings the book to life. Their stories show the dynamism, creativity, and DIY entrepreneurialism was not just confined to the big names who normally get the credit. The book is worth reading for these stories alone.

While the life-stories are individual, the overwhelming impression is of a group of people subjected to incredibly good fortune. History normally recounts tragedy. World Wars, revolutions, plagues, the conquest of peoples and places are its stock in trade. Neverland offers a history recounting an incredibly favourable confluence of people, place, and time. The circumstances enabled a style of life that is now only available to the wealthy, at least in this area.

Californian surfers who arrived in Byron Bay on the heels of word of mouth and the first surf movies had the amazing gift of hindsight in the present. While the local workforce was subject to industrial decline and fled the regions for the cities, the Californian surfers had seen the development of the Californian coast and realised that, in effect, they had been transported back in time, to a place where coastal property adjacent to good surf was dirt cheap. The USA at the time, and in particular California, was in the middle of a thirty year post-war boom and with the benefit of a favourable exchange rate middle-class wealth could easily be transferred to coastal property acquisition around Byron Bay.

The main street of Byron in 1970 (Neverland)

Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson decried what he called the “grinning hippie capitalists'' that moved into the California Summer of Love scene and it's possible a certain amount of self-aggrandizement and even self-delusion might now attach to the accounts of fortunate surfers fifty years ago when seen through that prism. It will feel like a kick in the guts for some in the present to see blocks of land at Wategos for $500 - signed off with a 10% deposit. Even back then $50 was not a great deal of money. Especially for a piece of dirt that is now worth in the tens of millions.

I'm still prepared to accept they were the recipients of incredible fortune and that they were, as stated by Encinitas emigre and Californian surf industry pioneer Garth Murphy “unencumbered by monetary obsessions”. They were people, said Murphy, who valued, “our emotional lives above all; falling in love, playing music, surfing, yoga, eating well and staying healthy”.

The entrepreneurial drive of Americans like Murphy and his peers cannot be disputed. Even if some of it came as a reaction to a day's work at Walkers Meatworks, the Bay's major employer, as memorably described by Californian Derek Beckner. “I worked a week in the meatworks...I'd never worked so hard. The Keevor brothers worked there. The older brother was up on the line where the cattle come in. He said, “Hey Derek, look at this” and he slit the cows throat”.

Derek decided he didn't need to work after that and after a long series of business and real estate dealings spent time in jail for drug smuggling, after which he was deported back to the US, leaving behind assets and real estate which have been subject to dispute and windfall gains. There were messy dealings and real money behind the peace, love, and mung beans rhetoric and free-wheeling surfers “unencumbered by monetary obsessions”.

Lester Brien was the lynch pin of most of these dealings and his testimony anchors the book. Being the town’s sole surfing solicitor he brokered the deals, drew up the paperwork, acted as the official conduit between the Californian money and the North Coast real estate and business acquisitions.

Brien observed the entrepreneurial nature of the American surfers: “Garth [Murphy] was entrepreneurial from the start. He started buying property right away. He saw the opportunity”.

Conflict with the police was both cultural and socio-economic and Brien was at the front-line of the exchanges. Working class cops from an industrial country town resented the long hair and hippy attitudes and thought, according to Brien, that “the young Americans, who had no visible means of support, were all drug traffickers”. Drug busts were frequent barriers the surfing pioneers had to overcome. Many of which were trivial or planted, as alluded to in Neverland. Others made fortunes and washed drug money into real estate, legitimising themselves in the process.

The socio-economic gap was even larger. Some American surfers had access to a money supply back home, which the cops did not understand, according to Brien.

“American Bob Skinner walked into my office in 1973 wanting to buy 300 acres which cost $38,000. I didn't know him from a bar of soap. He said for me to just send a letter to his dad, so I did, and the money order comes back. I saw that middle class Americans could afford to give their kids $40,000 and buy them a place here. They were on a different wealth scale to us. All the cops saw was that Bob Skinner suddenly has 300 acres, looks like a bloody hippy and all he does is surf all day”.

I'm doing the book an injustice by focusing on the drug busts and real estate porn, although that undoubtedly supplies a lot of the vicarious thrill and ‘vertigo’ while reading Neverland. The nostalgia hit is also immense and deeply intoxicating. Most surfers will have some kind of visceral reaction to the Morning of the Earth imagery but for those who had some physical connection to pre-Instagram Byron the nostalgia is almost overwhelming.

As a kid on Bribie the trip to Byron was a rite of passage for my peer group. Family trips came first, then surfaris with the older guys in Kombis. My first visit to the Bare Nature shop on the corner of Browning and Tennyson streets, with its array of glossy pin-lined singles, twins, and nascent Thrusters out front, the pungent mix of incense, resin, and bush weed inside, the slim-hipped babes in crochet and deer skin who seemed to glide around on silent feet was the most knock down sense of culture shock and exoticism I've ever experienced. It blew my tiny little mind. Seeing the photos of Bare Nature in Neverland gives me that thrill all over again.

Bare Nature was started by American Roy Meisel, shown at left getting married to Diana Green in deer skin outfits they made themselves

Bare Nature was a crucial part of the Byron Bay Surf Industrial complex, an incredibly functional, productive, and influential movement which attracted and absorbed the best talent out of the Brookvale and Californian board manufacturers and transformed the town. It still hasn't been acknowledged in the greater cultural sphere the extent to which this pre-professional surf industry generated such enormous economic windfall gains, even if mostly via real estate gains. To be fair, the protagonists put their nuts and ovaries on the line and created something of immense value at a time when the town was considered an economic basket case. Even deep into the ‘90s Byron Bay was considered by straight society to be Shitsville - a place where dope-smoking dole-bludgers would queue for hours on dole day in between bong rips and surf sessions.

Most of the players in Neverland, by contrast, ended up with multi-million dollar property portfolios, very much counter to the surfer as dole-bludging, drug-smoking loser rhetoric of the time. An error that still requires historical correction.

There are some gaps in the record of Neverland. Some voices speak from beyond the grave, like Lester Brien, who passed away in 2016. Others remain silent, like the influential Russel Hughes who passed in 2011, a champion surfer who remains an incredibly mysterious figure.

Perhaps the most glaring omission is Warren Cornish. Cornish was a complex character who passed away in 2013 from prostate cancer. Cornish could be funny, generous, and his business acumen was legendary - as was his mean streak. He stood atop the Byron surf industrial complex like Genghis Khan and betrayals, or what he considered unwarranted intrusions in his dealings from the authorities, were swiftly and repeatedly punished. His famous technique for sending a message to local authorities was to ferment a bucket of prawns in the hot sun and then inject a syringe full of the foul liquid between window seals into his tormentor's vehicle.

He acquired Bob McTavish's name for a song when Bob was short of cash and needed help, getting a royalty payment for each McTavish board sold and essentially turning one of the pioneers of the shortboard revolution into his employee until Bob was able to buy back his own name decades later.

These stories didn't make it into Neverland. What George Orwell called the “dirty handkerchief side of life” is largely omitted. Which is fair enough; life was a kind of paradisiacal adventure for the Neverland crew, even if all the normal human grubbiness still accompanied it.

Life has reversed order in Byron Bay. The farmhouses that could be rented for $4 a week with electricity and milk included are now owned by guys with names like Hemsworth, by coal tycoons, and CEO's of activewear companies. The $500 blocks of land at Suffolk Park make the news selling for $26 million, breaking some new real estate record or other. Nothing remains of the ‘70s egalitarian ethos, except as a marketing ploy. The town functions more like a Russian feudal society: wealth is concentrated in the hands of a very few, with a class of underpaid serfs who service the elite, struggling to put a roof over their head. The “slow down and chill out” sign on Ewingsdale Road coming into Byron now seems blackly ironic, seeing as you haven't got much choice in the matter when you are stuck in a traffic jam.

Reading Neverland I wondered if anything could recreate those conditions again. A town in decline with opportunity going for a song. Geologically, culturally, historically, Byron has been a place of constant change. Climatic conditions were part of the last decline. Seventeen coast-hugging cyclones or crossers affected Byron in the two decades between ‘56 - ’78, often destroying infrastructure like the second jetty. Natural forces like this could again threaten the town. A 1978 study into erosion in Byron Bay concluded: “..the natural forces producing the erosion cannot be changed, only opposed, and opposition to such forces will prove expensive.”

It would be perverse to dream of a storm-ravaged Byron Bay once again becoming available to a new generation of dreamers and surfers to rebuild and remake in their image - as the surfers of Neverland were able to do.

Much more likely the town will continue on its current trajectory attracting dreamers and entrepreneurs and providing succour for anyone lucky enough to be second generation whose parents didn't sell out or those who can find a toehold in the area. God only made one Byron Bay, one North Coast. Sub-tropical wave zones don't come any more sublime. Even now, you can still rack up a respectable wave count in high quality surf without too much grief.

Looking back at the world described in Neverland invites gazing into the crystal ball. Will there still be vestiges of paradise fifty years down the track? Maybe the main street will be dominated by casinos and the accoutrements of a high-tech city as envisaged by some of the tech-utopians who now call Byron home? Or abandoned to a new regime of storminess brought on by climate change?

It may be that the world that Shantz has so lovingly documented in Neverland is part of a continuously rotating historical wheel, endlessly recycling a vision of the good life to each new generation. More likely it is something far more ephemeral and precious and thus doubly worth documenting and preserving, as a blueprint of how life could be lived and what makes it worth living.

Neverland is an insanely enjoyable, albeit bittersweet read.


'Neverland' is published by Surf Research and can be bought online


brevil's picture
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brevil Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 2:19pm

Its a fantastic read with some amazing photo's to jog the memory.

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stephen Titus Friday, 25 Aug 2023 at 11:23am

This outline of the book so whet my appetite. Will read it. Nature abhors a vacuum. The expat Americans saw an ability to have a different life with great waves and natural beauty and went for it. Yeah, some were trust fund children. I believe most worked.
San Juan was also a big destination for a guy from Wollongong on the trip north in summer.
Lester Brien was someone I admired so much. As a solicitor myself and reading in Tracks, he would not disclose details of clients due to professional client privilege. My partner Arthur Carney had Lester released from jail and I met him once. But his professional life was ended.
I want more Steve shearer articles. the power of words. i agree with the Gra Murdoch comment

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velocityjohnno Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 3:26pm

Loved your write up FR, I thought part veneration, part eulogy. Glad I got to see the place when I did.

"Reading Neverland I wondered if anything could recreate those conditions again"

Looked for that essence over every coast of the country. Found a few, bloody covid pricing.

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AndyM Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 3:27pm

Great stuff FR, lots of research gone into that. Particularly appreciated you putting Byron in context and including geology as part of a broader intro :)

I was at the Byron Writers Festival a few years ago and had the privilege of sitting in on a discussion about "the good life".
One of the key moments was when a statuesque blond influencer from Sydney started to wax lyrical about buying organic food and shopping at farmer’s markets.
Also on stage was a professor of philosophy by the name of Emrys Westacott.
Westacott quipped cynically that ‘the simple life is bought on the backs of other people’.
And so we arrive at neo-fuedalism, with Byron right at the pointy end.

The sooner we re-define what the good life is, the better.

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mickseq Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 7:27pm

"The sooner we re-define what the good life is, the better."

It's impossible, because anything can be defined in an infinite amount of ways.

In 300BC turkeys were worshiped as gods.
In 1908 it was illegal for woman to smoke in public
In 1830 Ketchup was sold as medicine
In 510 BC the ancient Romans often used stale urine as mouthwash

et cetera et cetera

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 7:42pm

Probably the best comment I’ve ever read on the internet

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AndyM Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 11:28pm

Mick what you're showing there is that culture can change in any number of ways.
Our current materialistic culture won't change with the current political/industrial/economic setup but it's not impossible - it's desirable and it's quite possibly inevitable.

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indo-dreaming Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 8:07am

It could be argued humans have always been materialistic we just didn't have access to all the things we have now, i doubt we would have rejected all the things we have today if they had been offered to us long ago.

Even in prehistoric times we would have placed extremely high value on material items like a flint or chiselled axe head or hunting tool, probably even made payments with these items to familys to take their daughter to marry.

Many cultures even buried their dead with material items they valued highly.

It's just humans have learnt how to make material items easily and cheaply so we have so much material crap.

I do think its important to come to a personal understanding that end of the day most of it means little and to let go of that need to have the next new item like the new I Phone and find a satisfaction in appreciating what you have though.

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Island Bay Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 5:07pm

That was great! And I’d love to read the book.

Some strong parallels my little home town.

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Vince Neil Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 5:12pm

'Wealth is concentrated in the hands of a very few, with a class of underpaid serfs who service the elite, struggling to put a roof over their head.'

Sounds like nothing has changed in 50 years if the first surfers included cashed up children of wealthy Californians who ruthlessly / shrewdly exploited the opportunities they found

What surfer doesn't secretly aspire to obtain enough wealth so that they too can be a coastal land-owning, nature loving, carefree, artistic hippy...

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Johknee Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 8:19pm


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Gra Murdoch Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 5:33pm

In an ironic twist the quality of the review makes me hanker more for a Shearer book than to read Neverland.

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mugofsunshine Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 6:15pm


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dandandan Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 8:28pm

Hard same here too.

I was eavesdropping on a conversation between the author, Rusty Miller, and Albe Falzon at Scott's Head earlier in the year as they talked about the book and it became pretty clear that for all the gratefulness they genuinely seem to have, they didn't really realise how utterly impossible it is for anyone to live the life they have enjoyed without inheriting millions of dollars. The whole zone from Newcastle north is basically homelessness + housing stress ground zero and getting worse every day.

But I will put in a $100 pre-order for the Shearer book please. Really great review.

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Craig Monday, 31 Oct 2022 at 2:46pm


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Charlie Brown Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 5:54pm

Like rain follows the plough, real estate dollars follows the surfer. Byron, Noosa, Torquay, Lorne, Margaret River, Yallingup, Bali - it's no coincidence that real estate hot spots often have good waves.

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 7:03pm

Good writing, like good oratory, makes invisible the conduit between thought and expression. You’re a good writer Freeride.

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DudeSweetDudeSweet Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 7:20pm

Byron Bay is the contrast that made the undomesticated WA coast so attractive.

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harrycoopr Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 12:24pm

And then that coast goes the same way

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clif Wednesday, 26 Oct 2022 at 11:21pm

"Reading Neverland I wondered if anything could recreate those conditions again. A town in decline with opportunity going for a song." Yes! Some parts of the UK with quality surf are like that. You have to be cold but. an get a bit grim too lol.

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lomah Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 8:32am

The whole of Tassie awhile back fitted that description and the opportunity has been taken up with a vengeance by people from all walks of life. Derby and theMTB scene is just one classic example.

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john.callahan Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 7:43pm

Indeed, you could do something like this right now in South Africa, a country with more good surf than surfers to ride it, as more than 1 million white, English-speaking educated South Africans have left the country since 1994 and the change to majority rule.

There are fewer active surfers now in South Africa than there were in the 1980's as the demographic has largely emigrated.

Many of these former South Africans live in Australia now.

What you won't have in South Africa are the favourable conditions for property appreciation and the growth of the national economy that are (and were) present in Australia and are responsible for the property-based wealth of the Byron Bay area, and many other coastal areas of Australia today.

But you can buy coastal property for dirt cheap in many areas of South Africa and surf more good waves than you can possibly imagine - but the lifestyle will not be what you previously had, there are many negatives to living in South Africa or so many former South Africans would not have left and the future of the country is an open question.

But if you want to do it, you can.

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Mishad Saturday, 29 Oct 2022 at 1:37am

Sssshhh John, you're giving my strategy away. Perth lad moved to Cape St francis about a decade ago. Bought a house (cash), got a dog, the missuses tend to be transient though, maybe its the lifestyle. All my partners complained I spent too much time in the ocean...maybe a testament to the conditions and why I moved here in the first place. Ahhh my first love is and always will be surfing. Alot to love about the place, alot to complain about and begrudge too. Govt corruption and looting, failed service delivery, high crime rates. As a late and local musician Sid Kitchen wrote..."South Africa is not for sissies".

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john.callahan Saturday, 29 Oct 2022 at 1:49pm

Yes, that's what I was talking about - entirely possible, if you want to do it.

Unlike Australia, South Africa has no guarantees on the future but coastal property is cheap in comparison with Australia. Unlike Indonesia, Mexico, The Philippines and most other countries, South Africa is one of the few countries worldwide that permits property ownership in freehold (fee simple, for the Yanks) for non-citizens and non permanent residents.

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hamishbro Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 6:48am

What a brilliant review Steve. Captures all of my half baked thoughts and then some.

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indo-dreaming Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 8:11am

Interesting read, probably the best coast in Aust too for waves, weather, and just scenery, glad i spent a lot of time there when younger, just wish id got my shit together and settled down and bought a place there.

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abc-od Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 8:38am

Sounds like the title fits.

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harrycoopr Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 12:23pm

In my town almost alll the beachfront shacks are gone, concrete slab mansions that no one lives in for most of the year replace them. Characterless, soulless. If i had the money I'd buy one and demolish it and build a you beaut little shack. If you dont live here in yr mansion and you dont surf then go away. Disgusting bourgeois lifestylers. Vote one, empty mansions for the homeless and rent-fucked.

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Rusty Forest Saturday, 29 Oct 2022 at 12:35pm

Yep my little coastal town is festooned with empty McMansions too. I cast my vote your way

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JackStance Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 12:51pm

Well done Steve. I grew up on Arakwal land, in byron, as my parents and paternal grandparents moved here in the mid 70's .
There's so much of that just-under-the-surface history that is so relevant to the context.

At the same time as being idealistic and free, like many places, it was also a wild and hard place.

When I reflect on what it has become - livin here now with my family due family stuff - we're moving on because I don't want to raise my children in a place that has all that comes along with being the poster boy of extreme capitalism: a local culture that adores Hollywood's Henchmen of the Psyche's of the Young, recruiting both young and old into its unquestioning corporate psychic colonisation, where women's lib equals social media, and on the streets, objectification.

To quote local poet Peter Purden circa mid 80's ".... where have all the young girls gone?.. they've all gone topless like their mums with their g-strings up their bums...." .

Mine is not a critique of young people and all people, but of the class that ultimately profits from the their/our exploitation - in a multitude of ways.

Did the movement, that books like these explore, ever pose a real alternative? Or was it just a temporary escapism?

Was the 60's and 70's thing about Liberation? And if it was a Left Anti-War Anti-Establishment thing, how stark does today's pro war pro authoritarian left now look? (this is a critique of the Left from the left)

Through the early 90's I recall the common comment of people coming here as essentially being "When I come to byron I feel I can truly be myself". that type of thing. That's a 'liberation' type sentiment.

If the capitalist-oligarch-class be the overlord conglomerate of the west, then the complete domination of any place from which emits a ideological challenge at an archetypal level, particularly one that disorientates the deep slave-mindset-type-patterns, must be a form of domination that is total. Because such places are it's natural enemy - and totally profitable because nothing sells like hope, dreams and heaven - and, like all enemies of the overlord conglomerate, it must not only be dominated, it must be enlisted.

And so, to me, as someone who grew up here, lives here, with grandparents and parent buried here, and kids here... and all that - and is not a 'local' because IN MY VIEW, a local is someone who is an Arakwal person ... - to me, this is what non-Arakwal Byron has become.

It is a beacon of capitalist domination which needs to be destroyed. Likely starting at an ideological and archetypal level through public discourse on the psychic and mental health effects and assaults on young people and all people emanating from the central positioning of Henchmen Hemsworthless and his ilk, and all they represent and enact.

That's just what I think.

Unfortunately it is not my mission. Fortunately my mission is raising my kids.

But perhaps in there is a a story or an article, or a take on history to now, that I'd dig to read.

See: Liberation from Corporate Psychic Colonization: New Subjectivity Awakening in Conscience (Nozomi Hayase)

And perhaps write: Byron Bay's facilitation of Corporate Psychic Colonization via implanting Hollywoods Henchmen as the archetypal entity at the centre of a town/place that momentarily shone as an archetypal beacon of liberation.


Why is Byron so elevated by the global north's elite class? It's not just a pretty place.

Again, well done Steve on the write up, I share Gra Murdochs sentiment and call.

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Iced vovo Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 1:21pm

'Vertiginous', had to look that one up, meaning extremely high or deep.
Quality book review & writing as per usual.

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GuySmiley Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 2:05pm

This story would resonate with many as we tend to look back with fondness. I first saw the north coast to Noosa in the late 70s as a wide eyed grom and soon after bought into that surfer-hippy trip. VWs and dope lost its attraction after a couple of years when good friends/surfers turned to harder drugs. That region was still pretty good when I first saw it, surfing Noosa, Byron, Broken Head and Lennox. Ive been back many times, the last time around 8 years ago, its still beautiful if you're looking out to sea haha,

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Surf Nerd Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 4:16pm

Always a big effort when someone takes the time to put together a piece of work like this, huge job.

Sat with this book for a few days. The focus is on American and Australian surfers in Byron Bay in the 60"s and 70's, interesting pictures and stories from a generation wanting to be remembered in history.

I believe there is a responsibility when writing history on this Country any author should properly acknowledge the deep history of indigenous people on this land. Arakwal people have a history here over thousands of generations and sadly there is only a handful of Arakwal people still managing to live on Arakwal / Bundjalung land, the capitalistic culture that's been unbridled since the first cedar cutters set foot in the 1840's has slowly resulted in this area of the coast becoming exclusive to multi millionaires and trust fund kids. Sadly Byron culture has become paid parking, heavy camping fines and over $950 a week rent or F#ck off. [ unsustainable ]

Well done boomers! we got the sweet spot, on to the next beach town. FFS

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Danerock Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 4:22pm

How original.

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monkeyboy Thursday, 27 Oct 2022 at 7:28pm

"Even now, you can still rack up a respectable wave count in high quality surf without too much grief."

Very true - surprisingly !

Still has a rural feel to it in parts and they havent concreted the dunes...yet...

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lindo Friday, 28 Oct 2022 at 10:08am

Looking further ahead, and excluding the increasing risk of war in coming decades, that increased storminess will no doubt produce incredible surf, but the rising sea will create havoc for low-lying coastal real-estate. My guess is that will significantly change the situation in Byron, and elsewhere (parts of Gold and Sunnie Coasts are 'sitting ducks'), not that many of us Swellnet readers will be around to observe the full brunt of impacts. Earlier though, with erosion already happening, local councils and state governments, in Byron and elsewhere, along with the insurance industry, are grappling with the ramifications. Defend with breakwalls, or run-away, so-called 'managed retreat'. If humanity continues on our current emissions path, and the positive feedbacks on the climate system really kick in, those erosional forces will have the last laugh on our hubris and 'he who dies with the most toys' ideology / idolatry. But in the mean time, as the book and Steve noted, millions of $ have been made and lost, the original inhabitants driven from the area, surf eras come and gone - all 'cool and normal'.

Oh Swell's picture
Oh Swell's picture
Oh Swell Friday, 28 Oct 2022 at 5:06pm

Great r/v.
I might even read the book.
I lived in Iluka from 81 to 96.
Byron was still an exotic trip north taking 1 hour and 40 minutes. (We were too young to go up the country early enough). I bought boards there, I still have a Michael Cundith 9/2 and a San Juan minimal.
I remember a house, quite high on the hill, at Wategos for sale for 125K. It seemed expensive.
As always it is probably who you knew.
One day at The Pass I had words with a dropper inner. Might have been in 95.
It was quite unpleasant.
Never been back.

John booth's picture
John booth's picture
John booth Friday, 28 Oct 2022 at 5:02pm

Steve shearer greatvjob. Really enjoyable read. Well written. Your description of bare nature shop bought back some deeply entrenched memories associated with long hangs in that shop as a grom completely over awed by everything in that space.

nickca's picture
nickca's picture
nickca Friday, 28 Oct 2022 at 10:11pm

If your my age just 60 you can probably remember hanging around the beach towns on a Saturday arvo with nothing going on. The Surfcoast and the Bellarine main streets would be deserted in Winter. As teenagers we couldn’t wait to get into Geelong to have something to do if the waves weren’t on or the summer hordes and some of the attractions they brought weren’t around.We got good waves sometimes and by todays standards they were uncrowded. As George H said , “All things must pass!”
Things change .. you can still get waves if your on to it but all these locations have been gentrified and if you don’t own a black down puffer jacket and bitchin monster truck you get looked down upon. But like the penguins just smile and wave coz some of us bought when the tumbleweeds were blowing down the street. Cue the haters …OK Boomer!

Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest Saturday, 29 Oct 2022 at 2:12pm

Boom Boom Boom........ John Lee Hooker...

Not LJ Hooker

Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest Saturday, 29 Oct 2022 at 2:17pm

Parents had a house at Wategos 70's to 80's no longer exists. I miss being there in that time......

spookypt's picture
spookypt's picture
spookypt Monday, 31 Oct 2022 at 2:03pm

I met Warren Cornish in 1987. My mate filled a Kombi full of his new boards and drove us back to the Sunny Coast stuck lying down underneath them all, so I, and the new boards could fit. Warren had a big following in making Sailboards back then. Nice guy......
Had my first Lentil pattie across the road from the pub too. Good times for a grommet!

stephen Titus's picture
stephen Titus's picture
stephen Titus Friday, 25 Aug 2023 at 11:31am

What a great article about a time and place. Nature abhors a vacuum. The first American surfers saw there was an opportunity to be able to have great waves in a beautiful location.. I gather some work trust fund children and others were entrepreneurial.
The picture of Bare Nature and the description of classy desirable women there brought back memories of also going into San Juan on the summer trip up in holidays from Wollongong. I always admired Lester Brien and reading about him in Tracks magazine refusing to give details about his clients the police. As a solicitor I endorsed his view. He was jailed for it. My partner Arthur Carney had him released from jail. I met him once and told him how much I appreciated what he did. It ended his professional life.
I will read a book. I want to read more Steve Shearer articles. I agree with the comment by Gra Murdoch. The power of words to inspire is fantastic.