Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Atkins family ties

I didn't grow up in a family of surfers. My dad surfed when he was a teenager. Apparently he surfed quite well, but he gave it up. Now I think about it, I've never asked him why he gave it up, so that should be a conversation I aim to have in the near future. My mum spent loads of time on the beach throughout her life, but never really took to the waves.  My sisters and I grew up next to the beach but none of us took it up when we were young either. My youngest sister did for a while, but she never really committed. And this was despite spending hours of our lives out at the Maddog surf factory, where my mum worked in the office! We were around the beach and surfing all my childhood, but for some reason, it never caught any of us in its grasp. Too much ballet I suppose.

It took me until my mid-20s before I felt any interest in taking to the waves, which I then did with enthusiastic gusto! But surfing has remained my own, and it has never been an experience I've shared with my family. I am often rushing from the sea to make it home in time for family dinners or for christmas morning (always on christmas morning!). They, like my other non-surfing friends - make room for my surfing, but other than dad giving me a surf report, its not something they share with me.
That is changing as my niece and nephew grow. They love the sea, and have no fear in the waves. My niece would have me help her into 'epic' waves all day if she could!

I have a sort of surfing family of my own now. I have friends in Byron and beyond who share wave riding with me - Izzy, Ryan, Brett, Em, Isaac, Erin, Leroy, Jules, and many more - but it's not the same as growing up with the people you share your home and history with. It's not the same as having been pushed into waves by your parents, as fighting over boards with your siblings. I grew up in a noisy family of three ballet girls who practised together, shared costumes and leotards, watched each others exams, criticised each other and choreographed collaborative dances in the backyard, so I know how that stuff would roll.

Image taken by the lovely Yoko over at Slideaholics.

But I've been lucky enough to have been adopted into another family - The Atkins family - who can often be found arriving in their VW convoy to surf together. In the mornings the girls are free, texts fly back and forth as they check breaks around the area deciding where to go. Rachel and Jess grew up surfing with their dad and are very at home in the waves. Their ocean knowledge is amazing, and their courage, skill and technique in the surf always impresses me. I've learned a lot from them. Al Atkins, their dad, is nothing but amazing and he is always a standout in the surf break. He gets so many waves and he always rides them with style and confidence, which reflects his years of surfing for fun and competition. Many of you might know Al, and those of you who don't should probably look him up. He is generous with his knowledge, so if you are lucky enough to have him impart a bit of advice, make sure you listen! Our conversations have taught me history, given me tips, picked me up, shared waves, and (along with Erin) have introduced me to the mighty Geelong Cats!

The Atkins family are the kind of people who you know will be surfing forever. I mean, I know I'll still be finding them out in the water at Wategos for as long as I care to check. Not because its cool or trendy, not only because they love it so much, but because it is an inextricable part of their family history and relationships.

I'm so stoked that I get to share this with them.

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