Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas waves: a love letter

Christmas day in Byron Bay includes surfing. It just does. For me, that means either my beach (which is a usually quite dangerous beach that is always oddly gentle for christmas) or Wategos. This year, it was a double showing at Wategos - morning, then afternoon.

Beautiful, gorgeous, picturesque, lovely, ideal-beyond-belief Wategos is usually packed with people for christmas day, but this year it was raining so the crowds mostly stayed indoors, leaving the waves empty of that fair-weather crew. The morning waves were nothing much to talk about. They were lovely but slightly, well, meh. But the evening was different.

Izzy collected Jessie and I from our respective homes. We stacked our mals on the roof of her car, bid farewell to our snoozing, post-lunch families and drove into town. When we arrived, we were far from inspired by the small waves, which also seemed slightly busier than we had expected. But we were there, and we are frothers, so in we went.

At first there was a weird vibe in the water - a crew of drunk travellers was being kind of aggressive and a bit dangerous. They were taking over in ways that were weird and unnecessary. We considered leaving, but stuck it out, using our knowledge of and relationships to the break to pick off waves from the drunk folk. Eventually they went in, leaving it calmer and safe - me, Izzy, Jessie (and a delighted, smiling Tom, who is always a joy to share any surf with).

And then something happened. I'm not sure what - The wind dropped off? The tide changed? The swell improved? A combination of everything? - but suddenly our average waves became something special. Suddenly they were long, green, glassy, clean, fast and golden. Suddenly Jessie was zipping along, low in her body, crouched on her board, speeding in trim. We were paddling back out laughing and gasping at how fun it was. Suddenly Izzy was at the front of her board, stepping into a perfect 10. Feet together, knees soft, arms by her side, perched on the nose: technical, aesthetic, beautiful. To her delight, I was witness and cheerleader to her stoke, sharing it with her. Suddenly I was turning hard on waves I thought it not possible: flying along, water sparkling from the tail of my board, Izzy and Jess laughing and hooting. Suddenly I was filled with that feeling of connection - body, mind, time, place, water, air, movement all making perfect sense right then and there. That feeling of balance, presence, serenity, happiness, joy, sadness, luck and love. And I got to share that with my friends.

I shouted to Izzy and Jess as we all paddled back out together after getting consecutive waves, laughing and smiling;

This is officially an excellent surf!

Yew! The girls yelled back, This is amazing!!

We surfed together until 8 o'clock that night, until we were tired, until the waves had run themselves out. We giggled, laughed and squawked our way back to the car, re-stacking the boards and giving in to Izzy's offer of champagne and chocolate at her house. We popped the bottle and talked more about the perfect waves we had shared, until Izzy concluded,

I'm going to remember this surf for a long time.

We laughed again, finished the champagne, put on some tunes - Ella, Dusty, Frank, Ray, Diana - and (I) danced until we all began to ache and yawn!

I cannot begin to imagine a more perfect ending to any day, let alone christmas 2011, nor more perfect people to have shared it with.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I have grown

on sands,

soft and white;

in waters,

blue and warm.

I have grown

on the coast

by the sea,

safe and sound

and quiet.

It is my place

to play and laugh,

to sit and think,

to love and mourn.

It is the place

that offers me comfort.

I have never felt fear there.

I have never wailed,

nor felt the sting of

of its thieving violence.

I have never

been asked to know

the ocean when

it plays

so black and blue,

so sharp and hard

so callous.

So oceanic.

I have never

been asked to pay

for my passage,

for my escape.

For me

the water is;









A beginning.

An embrace.

I have never faced

the ocean as

a barrier;









An ending.

A drowning.

It has never

offered me so much

yet taken

so much more away.

It has never lied to me

(The fiend!)

The sand,

white beneath my feet,

has always offered

a path home.

My heart can

barely bring itself

to imagine

the rocks,


broken boats,


loss and

floating bodies,

as part of the same

Australian coastal

vision and embrace.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Art Park/Atlantic artist residency in Byron Bay

The art folk of the surfing world have developed some pretty cool and supportive opportunities over the years. The latest one I have just seen is two newly created 4-6 weeks artist residencies in Byron Bay.


I have pasted some of the details below, but trot off to the Art Park website for all the info and application forms. And good luck!

Art Park/Atlantic Guesthouse artist residency

This residency program commences in February 2011. Each residency is held in conjunction with Atlantic Guest House Byron Bay, who provide the artist with accommodation and studio space.

We are happy to consider artists who work with wall mounted works, sculpture, photography, new technologies and installation.

Residency length is four to six weeks long. In consultation with Art Park, each residency may incorporate a solo exhibition and a floor talk.

The Art Park/Atlantic Artist Residency Program will supply and fund:

  • Fully furnished accommodation for a period of up to 6 weeks. The apartment is free of rental, gas and electricity charges to the artist in residence. An internet connection is available. This building is part of the Atlantic complex and is a 5 minute walk to shops, cinemas and the beach.
  • A studio space is available adjacent to the accommodation. A larger printmaking studio is also available off site.
  • Economy class travel from the Artists home to Byron Bay and return.
  • An daily allowance of up to $80.00AUS per day will be paid in advance to the artist to assist with miscellaneous daily expenses (food, surfboard hire, etc)

What we require

Each artist in residence is not required to produce a body of work, although we anticipate the environment may contribute to some creative output.

We ask the artist to leave behind 2 works of any size and format. These works will become part of the Art Park /Atlantic Artists Residency Program permanent collection.

**Applications for 2011 residencies are now open and close on December 31st 2010. You can find an application form via here.**

Residency times

Each residency can range from four to six weeks in the following months:

  • Residency 1: Mid February & March 2011
  • Residency 2: Mid September & October 2011 (to be confirmed)

Collaborations with other Institutions

The Art Park/Atlantic Artist Residency Program has an ongoing relationships with key galleries in Australia and will facilitate an exhibition of work should the artist desire.

Successful applicants are encouraged, but not required, to interact with the local community and schools by providing lectures or floor talks about their art practice.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Weeks - Johnny Abegg

Johnny Abegg is someone I admire - as a surfer, a man and as a friend. He is the kind of person who is unfailingly honest, generous and kind, and has a laugh that is impossibly infectious.

His latest film, Two Weeks, is about to start touring from Sydney down to Tasmania. His latest film is raw, honest and brave and is a labour of love documenting two weeks he spent in the Tasmanian wilderness during a tumultuous time in his life. If you find yourself close to one of the venues, do yourself a favour and get along for a look and to support this independent film.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunny, with cloudy periods

Just like a ghost
you've been a-hauntin' my dreams,
but now I know,
you're not what you seem...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A (generic) surf film review.

I was looking through the mess on my noticeboard today, and found three hand scrawled* pages pinned up behind a photograph. I knew exactly what they were - they were notes I sat and wrote on the back of some flyers after watching a surf film showing some time ago. I'm going to share the notes with you, but I'm not going to tell you which surf film it is, as I don't really think it matters. In the end, reading over my thoughts, I think they are pretty generic to many of the surf films I have seen (although there are, of course, some excellent exceptions to this rule).

I do want to say that the imagery and sounds in the film that I prompted these notes were beautiful and thoughtful, and that I'd had a particularly confusing conversation that day, so was feeling a bit raw and I remember both the images of water and the music affecting me in ways I wasn't expecting in terms of my responses. I think I cried. But even that, even that could not hide the fact that it was, in the end, just like every other surf film. Only prettier.

Anyway, here it is...

A generic surf film review,
scrawled hastily by Rebecca Olive, as she quaffed** a glass of wine.
Sometimes, my heart breaks. The rifts that already exist are revealed in voices, sounds, images and ideas. Creative yearnings and aspirations find their way in and through, and it hurts. And then, my heart finds itself again. It slowly clasps itself, like a fist closing. Then there is space to think, to see and to know.
What I see is nothing new.
What I see is enchanting, enthralling, mesmerising but it is nothing new. It is the same people, ideas, waves and perspectives. It is the same talk. The same crew. Stories of manhood, fighting for a place, losing yourself. Playing, enjoying, knowing. There was nothing new. MP and Dora are pointed out and highlighted. They are already recognisable, but are identified to make sure that I know I should be impressed, dazzled.

I'm not.

This is a film by and about men. Of course. The women are invisible at best, window dressing at worst; appearing as ethereal or pink-clad visions. They are, it seems, there, but they just sit still and don't surf.
I hate that the obviousness of their invisibility irks me so, and that it precludes my pure enjoyment. In the end, I find it hard to lose myself within and amongst The Boys. Find it hard to know where and how I fit. I suppose it's because I wonder if I do at all? Or if I ever will? That is, if I am honest, my last hope.

*If you have ever had the challenge of deciphering my handwriting, you will have some idea of what I mean.

**Please enjoy this excellent definition of 'quaff' - to drink a beverage, especially an intoxicating one, copiously and with hearty enjoyment. with hearty enjoyment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

West coast, NZ

So where were you yesterday afternoon?

If it wasn't here, then you were totally missing out.

(Thanks, Holly)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dirty tree.

More and more.
Better and better.
I wouldn't go back a single day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dolphin magnet

I see dolphins a lot. I know that is connected to spending time in the ocean, but I honestly seem to be a magnet for sea life. Especially dolphins.

The other week I was driving into town from the highway when I looked up and saw this cloud that looked disarmingly like a dolphin jumping out of the ocean. Now, I'm notoriously suspicious of dolphins (I find all that "smiling" is slightly creepy and I can't forgive how much they can look like sharks) but I was compelled to stop and record it.

Ok, so I was a moment too late to get it in all its jumping perfection, but you can see what I mean. And that afternoon when I went surfing, the water was slightly murky after all the rain. Not gross, just not clear. I was paddling back out after a wave, when two dolphins jumped out of the water, side by side. They leapt out of the face of the wave and crashed into the water in front of me, speeding under my board and away. It was a very dolphin day that one.

In Noosa there was a dolphin under my board as well. It popped up next to me and then swam away. I didn't see it again.

I know these experiences are cool, and I do honestly feel lucky that I get to be in the water so close to them. Sometimes I feel guilty though, because I know other folk would get more out of it than me. I just don't go much for the anthropomorphism nor the spirituality that people attribute to them, so that stuff is wasted on me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oceanides: a film by Lorene Carpentier

My friend, Izzy, showed me a link to this film, Oceanides. I'm pretty excited to see it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Skateistan: skateboarding and young people in Kabul

My friend sent me a link to this cool film about a skateboarding program in Kabul.

Pretty cool, huh! If you would like to find out more, check out the program's comprehensive website, Skateistan (I especially liked the students' blog).

Skateistan is Afghanistan’s—and the world’s—first co-educational skateboarding school. The school engages growing numbers of urban and internally-displaced youth in Afghanistan through skateboarding, and provides them with new opportunities in cross-cultural interaction, education, and personal empowerment. Our students come from all of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. They will not only develop skills in skateboarding and skateboarding instruction, but also healthy habits, civic responsibility, information technology, the arts, and languages. The students themselves decide what they want to learn—we connect them with teachers who will enable them to develop the skills that they consider important. Since Skateistan has been active in Kabul, we’ve seen that Afghan youth of all ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds love to skateboard. Skateistan brings them together, equipping young men and women with the skills to lead their communities toward social change and development.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

First big wave contest for women!!

The New York Times reported on the first ever women's big wave surfing comp. Excellent news, huh!
With a smattering of locals and members of the news media, flocks of pelicans, a spouting gray whale and some of the best male riders in the world looking on along the central Oregon coast, three women charged down 20- to 25-foot-high waves in the first female heat of the Nelsott Reef Big Wave Classic, one of five stops on the male-dominated Big Wave World Tour.
And they even reported that,

Male surfers agreed it was high time for women to have a competition like this to compete in.

“These girls are putting in time around the world,” West said, “and they deserve more.”

Cool. However, there were a few jolting sections to the article that I think should be highlighted. For example, this is an interesting paragraph,
Officially an exhibition, with no prize money, the competition had the look of something that was thrown together at the last minute. All competitors, men and women, learned only last Saturday that a low-pressure system in the North Pacific was throwing off sizable swells and that the event would be scheduled for Tuesday. Men had been invited as early as Oct. 1, but many of the women learned only a week before the event. As a result, there were some noticeable absences, including Sarah Gerhardt, who in 1999 became the first woman to surf Mavericks; Brazil’s Maya Gabeira; and Jamilah Star of California.
Oh. Well, still - it's a great opportunity! And isn't it great that companies and competition organisers are beginning to recognise and include these cool, brave and persistent women in competitions that should already have been including them. I mean, it's so great that they are giving women the opportunity to do the things they love, right! Exactly! These women are strong, committed and courageous and I mean, that's the point right, to focus on their feats as surfers?
The Big Wave Tour director, Gary Linden, said he thought female surfers would expand the sport’s reach.

“If we have beautiful women surfing big waves, people are going to want to know about it,” Linden said.

Gary!! Seriously, STOP!! They deserve more credit than that. You're ruining everything! Luckily, Keala Kenelly had some words to say too. At the end of the article, she is discussing the heat they surfed,

I watched fellow competitor Savanah Shaugnessy turn and paddle for a set, but she was too deep. Later, Savanah and I split a peak and then shared another set wave. With five minutes left, they asked if we wanted a twenty-minute extension. The competitor in my head was saying, “No way KK. You’ve got this thing won.” At that point, I had three good waves, Savanah had a good wave and a wipeout, and Mercedes had yet to catch a wave.

I then asked myself what would be best for women’s surfing. Mercedes still needed to catch a wave. We asked for the extension, and with two minutes left, Mercedes got one of the biggest waves of the heat. We returned to the beach with big smiles on our faces, high-fiving each other for our efforts out there. Even though I walked away with a trophy engraved with the title “Top Chick,” I think women’s surfing was the big winner that day. I dedicated my win to my childhood friend and hero, Andy Irons.

Imagine being in a position where you are willing to forfeit your win for the good of women's surfing. That is just so great I could cry. I can't imagine being in a place in my life where I carry so much responsibility for so many people. The more I hear about certain women at the elite level of surfing, the more I admire them for not only their surfing, but for their dedication to women's surfing as a whole, and to growing, developing and encouraging it broadly.

Anyway, congratulations ladies - you rock! And I'm always stoked to see more opportunities like this for women to get some kind of recognition for their efforts!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When is a dog worth more than a woman?

In Australia, one of the players for the Canberra Raider's rugby league team, has been embroiled in controversy over a photograph of him apparently receiving oral sex from a mate's dog as a prank. I actually can't believe that is even a sentence. Anyway, to put it bluntly, it was licking his balls. The bare bones of the story is that the photo was widely distributed via Facebook and Twitter, and an edited version has been all over the news. It's been an absolute debacle.

The whole thing seems really weird more than anything and I'm not quite sure to make of it all to be honest - the photo is more gross than messed up, like an odd thing to have yourself photographed doing. However, there is one thing that I am finding terribly distressing and infuriating.

Football in Australia, in fact let's be honest... Sport in Australia is not known for it's particularly ethical attitudes to women and sex. I'm not going to bang on about my opinions on the litany of sexual assault charges that have been laid and then dismissed over the years other than to say that I don't think many (any?) sportspeople have been sacked over sexual assault allegations photographed or not. Yet this one photo, which is more weird than anything, incites nation-wide moral outrage and baying for blood, leading to the resignation by the player (albeit it is predicted he will 'bounce back').

Seriously, what kind of message is this sending?

When did the sexual well being and safety of a Labrador become more valid and worthy of protection than women? When did the Australian social conscience become more appalled by a dog licking someone, than a guy sexually assaulting a woman? Wasn't the dog, like the countless women before it, 'asking for it'? Didn't the dog 'want it'? Or was it perhaps too hard to tell when it changed it's mind? I think we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves, Australia.

Maybe I'm over-reacting, but this whole thing makes me uncomfortable. And slightly ill.

Monday, November 08, 2010

High noon: Noosa

Don't go that way. There's some steps further along here a bit.

I turned from where I'd been looking at the surf and the rocks and the potential entry spots and faced the man who was speaking to me. He was middle-aged, round, with a beard and a kind face. And he was offering advice!

So you're not from Noosa then?

No. I just got inspired to come up for the day. I heard there were waves.

I had only surfed here a couple of times before, earlier this year with friends. But on this occasion I had come up on my own. I drove up from the city found a pretty good parking spot in amongst the chaos, walked down the lane I knew led to the beach, bumped into some friends who were leaving and who lent me some wax, and made my way through the bottom carpark and along the boardwalk. The break was busy - well, it was Noosa on a Saturday after all - but that doesn't really bother me. Especially since there were nice looking waves to be had. And I was feeling relaxed. I didn't expect it to be friendly or welcoming though. My plan was to sit wide and be patient.

Bumping into this helpful guy, Alex, on the boardwalk was a nice surprise. He showed me the easiest access spot and explained that there was a hidden rock in the wave to look out for. He walked down the ramp-like rock and paddled off. I waited behind him as a set came through, gripping the green, cunjevoi covered rocks with my toes. When I got out we were sitting close to each other and chatted as we waited for waves. He was a cool guy.

I was stoked to be in the water. My life has been pretty hectic and challenging lately, so surfing has become a real treasure. It is something that I don't get to do that often, so when I get the chance to be in the ocean, on my board, catching waves, I feel quiet and content. Sometimes surfing can be so noisy and social and fun and chaotic, but at the moment, I just want to get waves and have time to do whatever. I'd driven up here to have all that for the afternoon and assumed that if I sat wide, didn't take too many waves and minded my own business, I'd be left alone. So that's how I went about the whole thing.

I sat for a while talking to Alex, playing with the water, picking at the wax on my board, waiting for something right to come through, taking my own time. Off the rocky point the crew was busy and competitive and, I thought, overly aggressive considering the number of waves that were around. I watched them hassle and panic and strive for more, more, more. I understand that feeling and that game, but it wasn't for me that day. There was only one chick out there. She was spindly and blonde and in a black bikini, and her body was slim and fit - a picture perfect surfer girl - and she was pretty good. But as I watched her, I noticed how angry she looked. Angry and determined and frustrated. I watched to see how she was treated, to see if there was any reason for her to look so cross. She was in the thick of the game, getting loads of waves, but she was also getting dropped in on a lot. I reckon she got dropped in on at least every second wave. Sometimes the dude would pull off. Sometimes not. I could kind of see why she was so angry and frustrated, but I also felt like she was actually getting a lot of waves in there. More than anyone else I'd say. It made me happy with my decision to sit on the outside.

The first wave I got was lovely. It was clean and nice. I paddled into it and watched the others along the way paddle, paddle, paddle, expecting me not to make it. I did. I flicked my board down the line and saw the section where the rock Alex had told me about made the wave suck up. I knew I wouldn't make it, so I kicked over the back of the wave and paddled back out. On the second wave I made it through and surfed through close to Little Cove. I paddled back, having fun, enjoying the sun, the softness of the waves and the quiet lineup.

I'd been in the water for maybe an hour by the time I paddled into my third wave. It was small and fast and I sped along to get through the breaking section. As I did this guy looked at me. He was middle-aged, stocky, shirtless, on a log and angry looking. He looked at me and then turned and paddled into the wave I was on, only a couple of metres in front of me. He'd seen me, he just didn't care. He got to his feet and stalled his board so it slowed and cracked into mine. I was shocked! My board slid along next to/under his leaving me little room to move. He kept his board slow and stalled so I couldn't go anywhere or do anything. He was so close he left me with few options for getting off unless I let myself get caught on the inside, with the rocks.

Hey! I called at him, Hey!!

But I knew I didn't exist. I was invisible. He stalled again so our boards were still tangled.

What are you doing?!!

His back was almost against me, so I reached out and pushed him. Hard. He was solid and didn't go anywhere, but he sped up. I twisted my board over the back of the wave and paddled away, fast.

I was confused.

As I paddled back, feeling a bit distressed by the whole thing, some young guy spoke to me.

I saw that. Do you know him?

No! I don't know why he did that? Why did he do that?

I don't know, but I saw you push him. He laughed.

But I didn't find it funny. It was horrible. And weird. I mean, I was sitting around mostly. Wide. I was only going for waves every so often and wasn't there to hassle and compete. I wasn't hungry. I was no threat. And I don't go about pushing people like that. It was so weird!

Alex came and spoke to me,

Don't worry about it.

But that aggressive man paddled back and sat there, in his spot about 20 metres from me. I recognised him as one of the guys who had been dropping in on that other chick. One of the guys who wasn't pulling off. Yeah, that type.

So I sat there, letting waves go, stewing.

The next wave I caught, I knew he'd be there. I knew he'd go again, but I also knew I wasn't going in. Sure enough, there he was, paddling into my wave. He waited til he was close again, so I had nowhere to go.

What are you doing? I yelled at him. I decided this was crazy and unnecessary, stomped the tail of my board and pulled off, just as he did too.

What's your problem? Why did you do that? I've only had three waves. I'm not being greedy. You're going to hurt someone.

Fuck off!, he grunted at me. As if I'm going to fucken hurt anyone. Hmfph! If you hadn't got that wave, then I woulda. Fucking bitch.

I actually laughed at the ridiculousness of his argument - that if I hadn't caught that wave, then maybe he would have.

Yeah. That's kind of how it works, hey.
Maybe you should start dropping in on some of the guys then. They're getting loads more of your waves than I am.

But I was upset.

Yet another guy spoke to me as I went past,

Don't worry about him. I just let that stuff go.

I understand that attitude, but I find it hard to take that advice for a few reasons. I mean, I'm the first to implicate myself in bad behaviour in the water. I am not always an angel, but I know what I am doing and I know when I'm being greedy/aggressive/rude/disrespectful and I do try not to and I know I wasn't that day. I know I'm not local there, but I was just hanging out really. I wasn't going for many waves, but I was making them when I did. Also, he was only dropping in on me and that other woman out there. I know, because I was watching him. He targeted the chicks and didn't get into tussles with the other guys. What a moron. And from my end, I find it hard to let such aggressive approaches go. Like many women, I'm just not used to being treated like that. I still struggle to get my head around that kind of masculinity and what it is supposed to achieve.

As an incident, I know it's not that big of a deal, but it really rattled me. I wanted so much to go in and leave him and all of that bullshit behind. I wanted so much to get in my car and drive home. But I didn't. I couldn't. I wouldn't! I have as much right to be in the water as that moron - perhaps more considering my low-impact approach to other people's well-being.

Alex chatted to me a bit more when I got back out there. His kindness and friendliness seemed in such contrast to the behaviour of that aggressive guy. I suddenly really appreciated it. Most of the folk out there were nice.

All of this reminded me of my post about lineups the other day. It brought it to life in a way that I would rather it hadn't, reminding me of the dense complexities of these spaces when they get busy and entitled. It made me glad that I pay them so much attention, so I can understand moments like this. So I can keep surfing.

I needed the ocean that day, I needed some waves. I needed it for my soul. As someone whose local is a crazy busy break, I know what it's like when visitors take over, so I am extra careful about that when I do surf other places. I was happy just to be there, quiet and unobtrusive. But it turns out I wasn't. I was invading this man's opportunities and he had to make sure I knew about that. I'm still pretty bummed about it, but I do take comfort in the fact that while I will probably never have to deal with him again, he has to live with himself every day.

As I went in, I saw the chick who had been on the green board.

They weren't making it easy for you out there.

Hey? Oh, no, they never do. I'm used to it now. She shrugged off their behaviour and paddled back out.

A resilient lady.

Nice waves though!