Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Legacy of Stoke

This week a lovely surprise landed in my mailbox — a copy of Legacy of Stoke, a collection of surf tales from around the globe compiled by Joseph Tomarchio that I was invited to be part of. The book is available through Amazon, but in the meantime I thought I'd post my story in full here.

Married to the mob

“I do.”

Those two words, said in front of 300 friends and relatives at the end of an old cricket pitch in country NSW, marked the start of my surfing journey.

Everyone warned me about marrying a surfer. “You'll be a surf widow,” they said. “Get used to sharing him with his boards,” they said. I can't say I really paid much attention; after all, I had plenty of hobbies of my own, like making art, playing music, generally enjoying city life. How different could surfing be? Growing up in an inland city, I always loved the beach — it signalled holidays and a change of pace — but apart from the odd splash in a friendly shore break, my knowledge of the ocean was practically non-existent. To me the beach was more an occasional place of quiet reflection from a respectable distance than somewhere I could go to be fully involved. And as much as I loved the idea, it certainly wasn't somewhere I'd ever consider changing my whole lifestyle to be closer to.

But on that day, almost ten years ago, my perspective was about to be radically changed.

*   *   *

I’m not sure why I chose Lennox Head as our honeymoon destination. Naturally my new husband Joe was stoked, especially as there was a particularly good swell running. I can’t say it did our fledgling marriage any favours though. Until that point I hadn't realised what a big part of his life surfing was, and after a few days of sulking around the house fearing that what people had warned me about was true, I knew it was time for me to at least have a go at this surfing thing and find out why it had such a hold over Joe and others like him. I figured I would either end up embracing it, or (more likely) confirm for sure that it wasn’t for me.

I still remember my very first go-out. We hired a soft board at a local surf shop and decided to take it out at The Pass. The board had a name, “Flanders”, applied to the deck in permanent marker. It was a deceptively friendly monicker because rather take to the waves with aplomb, I struggled to even lie down on the thing, let alone paddle it out. Up until then I’d never even been out in the ocean over my head, so to see white water coming at me (even if it was only a foot high) while trying to navigate this cumbersome chunk of foam was absolutely terrifying. I spent the entire session in tears — cursing Flanders, cursing the break, cursing myself and most of all cursing Joe for ever thinking this was a good idea.

After that session, we decided that maybe Flanders and I should go our separate ways.

Being a naturally competitive (and stubborn) person, I was determined not to give up until I'd satisfactorily proven my hypothesis. Secretly, I also couldn't stand the fact that my husband — and indeed every other board rider in the water — was better at surfing than me.

In his infinite wisdom, Joe suggested we hire a boogie board instead, so I could just get a feel for being in the surf without fearing for my life every time a wave came through. Although reluctant at first (I had standards even back then!) I decided to give it a go. About halfway through my first session on the Boog, I saw a neat little runner approaching. Amazingly there was nobody on it, so I swung around and paddled hell for leather. Even more amazingly, I caught the wave and rode down the green face. I rushed along the peeling wall, beside myself with delight. Another surfer hooted me. I was grinning from ear to ear. Even now, after countless waves at countless breaks, I still remember the thrill of riding that little peeler at The Pass on a rented boogie board. Whenever I reminisce about that moment, I can actually feel the sensation of taking the drop and locking into the curl. The feeling was electric. I was hooked.

From there I figured I'd outgrown the boogie board and it was time to try stand-up surfing again. Rather than become reacquainted with Flanders, Joe took me out on his 9’1 Ray Gleave model McTavish longboard — a faithful old friend we still have today, although it’s in retirement now. On the last day of our honeymoon, right on dark, I caught a tiny ripple at The Pass and stood up for the first time. I was stoked. Even after all the major milestones I’d celebrated over those last few weeks, I honestly felt like standing up in 3 inches of whitewater was the biggest thing I’d achieved in my life so far.

*   *   *

Since that day, my surfing journey has been a slow but enjoyable road. Each session learning a bit more, respecting the ocean more, improving my technique. Becoming better at judging the wind and tides, taking the guesswork out of finding a good break but also being able to find fun in average conditions.

Over the years I’ve developed a pretty well-rounded appreciation of the surfing life. As well as becoming more proficient in the art of wave riding, I’ve devoured everything I can on surf history and culture, which continues to enrich my surfing experience. I've travelled to some of the places I've seen immortalised in surf films and found out what it's really like to go surfing in ‘international waters’. I've had boards shaped by some amazing craftsmen, which have been lugged through airports, lost, run over, dinged, and strapped to cars, vans and tuk tuks. My personal quiver now includes multiple wave-riding craft ranging in size from a 6 inch hand plane to an 11 foot SUP, and we even own a beat-up boogie board. I've been involved in the global surfing community through my art, and have met some of my surfing heroes. We moved from the city we’d established ourselves in to a coastal town, so we could live closer to the beach. We're now raising our family in the sort of place I could only dream of living in as a child.

Ironically, even though my journey began a decade ago it wasn’t really until I became pregnant with my first child that I became what I'd call a “dedicated surfer” — going out almost every day whatever the conditions, pushing myself to progress farther up the learning curve, striving to become a more well-rounded wave rider (although physically, that was a piece of cake). Surfing while pregnant is an interesting thing — apart from steadily getting heavier and more rotund, your hips and legs move into different positions, making it doubly hard to balance. There's a constant fear that you'll fall or be hit by a big wave (or a board) and somehow damage the little person growing inside you. But that fear is, for the most part, outweighed by the overwhelming desire to just keep surfing. Some people might call it irresponsible, but after having both my boys ride tandem with me for almost nine months before I met them, I'm proud I've been able to give them a taste of that inexplicable rush before they were even born. I'm also thankful that I was able to experience the magic of both of them kicking me for the first time while paddling my board back out after a wave — it was almost like they were saying, “wow, that was fun! Let's go again Mum!”

After giving birth, your body feels so unfamiliar that it’s almost like learning all over again. I remember my first surf after my eldest son was born. It was my 30th birthday, and all I wanted was to catch a wave. I went out in fairly ordinary conditions, although still friendly and fun. I was so unused to my new physicality that I only caught one wave in an hour. I was equal parts elated and devastated, but determined to climb back up the curve. The next time I fell pregnant I made it my mission to maintain my surfing fitness and competence, and found I was actually a better surfer after having my second baby than I ever was beforehand.

Most recently, I’ve been able to share in the challenges of combining working, raising children and surfing with other mothers through Surfing Mums, an Aussie association that encourages mums (and dads) to get back in the water after having kids. It's basically the best mother's group ever — we hang out at the beach, taking turns looking after each other's children and going surfing. Our local group meets once a week, and although I surf almost every day anyway, there is something so deliciously indulgent about being in the ocean with friends while still officially on “kid duty”. The best part is the community of parents and children that has formed around a shared love of the ocean, and an ever-expanding crew of grommets to cheer us on.

When I look back over the last ten years, I find it difficult to imagine surfing ever not being a part of my life, and even harder to believe I didn’t cotton on sooner. Surfing and the attitude it naturally imbues has been a big influence on our family relationships, our priorities, our health, wellbeing and happiness. Our kids think it's normal to have two parents who are surf-obsessed, and I'm fine with that. I don't ever want to be the mum sitting on the beach while the rest of my family go surf together. I want to be out there pushing my kids onto waves on whatever craft they choose to ride, sharing in their stoke and passing the legacy on.

Taking a stroll at Scotts Head

The family quiver, December 2014

Friday, May 1, 2015

A new home

A little cross-promotion if you’ll allow me to indulge... it’s been so long since I posted anything on here and this is partly why — the day job, AKA running Design & Opinion, a consultancy specialising in design of all sorts and, of course, opinion (it’s not just a clever name). In between managing the business and looking after small children, I don’t have much leisure time — and when I do, I always choose getting out in the water over getting out the pens.

My company website was in dire need of an overhaul so I’m pleased to announce that this week I’ve launched a brand-spanking new one, complete with a shop where you can buy some of my prints (so there is a direct tie-in to this humble little blog after all).

Take a look and see what I spend most of my time doing!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Every man and his log

This week I’ve been reminded of what I love so much about surfing in winter. Apart from the totally ‘alive’ feeling that only comes with standing wet in a bikini in a windy carpark at 7:30am, there’s a distinct lack of crowds. This past winter I can’t count the number of crowd-free sessions I’ve enjoyed while the majority of people either stand huddled around coffees on the beach, or just stay in bed.

With the official lifesaving season (and school holidays) starting this weekend, the water has suddenly been inundated with people who were missing in action all winter, and apparently trying to make up for their lack of waves over the last few months...

Don’t get me wrong, I do love the busier seasons too — there’s a real excitement in the air when everyone’s in ‘holiday mode’ and just enjoying being outdoors (until someone inevitably runs into someone else of course). But you can’t beat being out early with nothing but a cold headland, a brilliant dawn and empty waves for company.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The first shall be last...

A couple of Mondays ago, in a rare turn of events, I found myself the first person to paddle out at my local break just after the sun came up, and the last to come in as it went down.* As a mother of two kids under three, even being able to go for one surf in a day demonstrates good fortune. But thanks to the glorious school holidays (and a teacher for a husband), on this day I indulged in not one but two sessions—top-and-tailing the day in the best way possible. How could anyone hate Mondays when they pan out like this?

*It is of course a possibility that someone else decided to have a super-quick session in the dark after I'd gone, but for the purposes of this story let's assume that didn't happen. Oh, and to clarify—my surf-filled day comprised two separate sessions, not one all-day marathon (although that would have been nice).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sing along if you know it

… with boughs of holly, fa la la la laa, la laa laa laaaaa. Or if you live where I do, deck the verandah with bits of driftwood.

It's been a huge year, with not much time for drawing lines either on paper or in the water. But I've thoroughly enjoyed the times I've been able to get stuck into either; between work, children and life in general.

Whatever you're doing on Christmas day, I hope it makes you stoked.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Beyond the Veil

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the third issue of Sea Stoke, an online magazine exploring broader surf culture. It’s the second time I’ve been involved, and as per last time I feel very humbled  (and maybe a little inadequate!) to be included among so much talent. The article I illustrated is about women’s surfing in Iran—absolutely fascinating subject matter, and very inspirational. It’s articles like this that make me so proud to be involved with Sea Stoke. Stoked!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Art show

My husband teaches at a local primary school, and like all teachers is often called upon to help out with extra-curricular events. Sometimes this means I end up helping too. This year the school is putting on a fundraising art show featuring a number of local and established artists, as well as (of course) the students. I drew this little logo for the show—a small contribution to a worthwhile event. If you're local, make sure you get to the opening night where you might just take home a masterpiece!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Four is the new three

One week down... and all is well. Hopefully a taste of things to come!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sea Stoke

I recently realised I haven’t posted anything here since July last year. I’m not sure if anyone has even noticed, but regardless I thought it was high time to do something about it. Since my last post things have been extremely busy with work, family and as much surfing as I can fit in before our next baby arrives in 5 weeks (admittedly it’s getting pretty tricky by this point!).

There has been the occasional sketch though—this one was for online magazine Sea Stoke. The article I was asked to illustrate examines the plight of seahorses in Cambodia. I love surf publications that look a little deeper into what it means to be a surfer (or simply someone who loves the ocean). So I was honoured to be involved in this issue. Issue #3 is coming up soon, an illustration for which I’m currently working on—stay tuned to see the results... hopefully in less than a year :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cycling goes surf

Pactimo creates limited edition custom cycling apparel from their Colorado base. They approached me with the idea of producing some Australian/Surf-inspired kits to add to their already impressive designer gallery. Naturally I was stoked!

The first design to roll off the line is inspired by some of my favourite Australian surf breaks. Check out the gear here. To celebrate its release, Pactimo are offering the Surf apparel at 20% off for a limited time — what better excuse to treat yourself to some cycling goodness before they run out?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Drawn Lines on Liquid Salt

I'm honoured to be featured on Liquid Salt this week, amongst some pretty illustrious company. Not sure how I managed to sneak in but I'm stoked! Big alohas and mahalo to the editor Glenn for tracking me down.

You can read my interview here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's ok to get skunked

Originally inspired by a section in Thomas Campbell's Sprout, we recently visited Sri Lanka — specifically Arugam Bay. Naturally expectations were high. But like all real-life surf trips (as opposed to the ones you see edited in movies) the forces of nature don't always come together in the way one would hope. In our case, this meant that some of the breaks we (well, mostly I) wanted to surf weren't working at all, and the others, while fun, weren't performing to their full potential. After traveling for thousands of kilometres to surf it's a bit disheartening to know that for whatever reason, you'd lucked out.

Despite this, we had a great time. What surprised me most was firstly the number of stoked surfers we met in the water who came from landlocked countries, who either only surfed once a year or who were complete novices, absolutely charging. The second surprise was how amazing the local people were: genuinely friendly, funny, hospitable and with freakish memories — after a few days you couldn't help but feel you were friends with everyone in town.

Even though we did manage to get some fun waves, at the end of the day I still think that on the surf front, we missed out. But as this trip proved to me, sometimes it's ok to get skunked.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


It's been a while since I posted anything here... The day job has been really hectic of late, involving scooting back and forth across the ditch (for the uninitiated that means going to New Zealand — land of the long white cloud and the world's best ice cream). So I haven't had much time to do any drawing, let alone post about not doing any drawing.

However, good mate Azza has been busy shaping me an Old Salty model pig. I decided to go with a pretty traditional colourway, but wanted to spice up the fin. I have a couple of metres of Mambo fabric with a Reg Mombassa print that I procured from an outlet sale about 10 years ago, and have been wondering what to do with it ever since. I reckon it's been put to pretty good use here! Now I just have to decide what to do with the rest of it...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stoked on shelving

You might be wondering how a post about shelving made its way here. How are shelves surf-related? If I may draw a slightly long bow...

Ever since a very small person came to live with us, it's become increasingly imperative that we get some adjustable storage. And what better than custom-made shelves constructed from 60-year old reclaimed timber and industrial steel? The whole process was such a labour of love that it seemed only fitting to document the final construction.

And the relevance to surfing? The wood originates a stone's throw from MR's home break. The builder Kyal is a shredder in his own right (and now also a minor celebrity thanks to appearing on a recent season of reality renovating TV show The Block). And the shelves are now home to, among other things, our precious collection of The Surfer's Journal — safely out of reach of tiny hands (and mouths).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jolly Roger

Finally, The Jolly Roger. This model is still in prototype phase, so if you want to find out what the finished boards are like, check back at the Sealegged blog.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fat Kid

As well as old-school aficionados, Sealegged caters for shortboard enthusiasts with the Fat Kid — but don't let the name fool you, this thing is more like 'phat with a ph' than Norm from Life Be In It (remember him?).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ten Pin

If you're looking for an all-conditions longboard the Ten Pin is a good start — lighter than a log but tough enough to withstand a few knocks. And hopefully a board you can get your piggies over (mmmmm, there's that bacon again).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Old Salty

Old Salty is the name given to Sealegged's pig model. I love a good pun, and I also love bacon. This may be the perfect board for me.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Captain's Log

Azza has been shaping various longboards for a while now, but there are some shapes that are requested more frequently. The Captain's Log is, as the name suggests, a heavy single-fin longboard, perfect for navigating with style through little peelers.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Boiled Lolly

The Boiled Lolly is a 2+1 stubby that got its name from the delicious colourway of the very first one Azza shaped. It's almost good enough to eat, but probably better to ride.