The third in a series on Loves.
Surfers. Yes, those who ride weather, water and wave. I love them.
The rapid thunk thunk thunk of footsteps atop the wooden stairs that led up to the flat I had rented that morning at Currumbin Beach, Queensland, jolted me out of my jetlag induced reverie. I had been in Australia for less than 12 hours and had somehow managed to get from Sydney to Coolongatta and into a flat with a rental car in that time. Not bad, but I was tired. It was the second leg of the 1978- 1979 Pro tour for me.
An insistent pounding at the door, had me curiously opening it to a tall tanned guy, who looked at me, smiled and said: “Hey, my name is Peter. I hear you are from the States, here to surf the Contest. The surf is good today. Let’s go!” And in ten minutes I had thrown my 5’9″ Progressive twinfin in the back of Pete’s brown Holden wagon, and we were off to my first surf at Duranbah, a punchy beachbreak. As I paddled out, I saw Rabbit threading a crystal clear, aqua blue barrel. Wow. Welcome to Oz!
Pete and I became fast friends by the time I had to leave to make the trek down to Bells for the next event.
A few days before I left, a huge cyclone swell had hit. I had ridden large Burleigh Heads. Pete had said he would be at work, but that I should jump it from the cove up the point. The double to sometimes triple or more times overhead, looming rights, sort of reminded me of Sunset Point on Oahu. I somehow managed to stuff my little twin into a few of the bigger sets, and streaked across the massive azure walls to kick out in front of the swimming pool that was beach side.
That evening I saw Pete,Â we had a couple 4xes, and I told him about the avo, bummed that he could not be there. “Ah mate, it was okay. I had a good day anyhow”.
A couple months later, back in Santa Barbara, just home from a day working at the surfboard factory, a large letter was waiting for me at the apartment my wife and I shared. It was from QLD. Opening the brown cardboard, I slid out a photo that was inside. It was of me streaking the inside on a triple overhead barrel at Burleigh Heads. There was a note. “Thought that you might like this” and it was signed simply: Pete.
He had been photographing me. I did not even know that he was a photographer.
What I learned from that year on the tour in general, and from Pete in particular, is that surfers are special.
I do not follow professional surfers around, in spite of having been one. To me, surfers are not necessarily the ones whose tax returns read “Professional Surfer”. But they are the ones who live by the laws of earth, sea and God, and having such an intimate acquaintanceship with those elements, frequently manage to show me something special.
So I have always welcomed them, and endeavored to live up to the example of my fine Australian friend.
Now about that photo…….
Click on any of the images in the gallery to toggle through this brief edit. Images were shot in the last couple weeks on the Canon 5D Mark 2 system and are part of a new collection of close to 600 images built over the past 5 weeks swimming every day. The surfers are Lars and Hans Rathje, Chris Vail, Larry Ugale, Donna Von Hoesslin, Jeanette Ortiz, Sierra Partridge, Dave and Mary Osborne. I am very grateful to them all. They remind me of Pete.
Tags: california beach culture, Canon 5D Mark 2, Chris Vail, Corbis Images, Dave Osborne, Donna Von Hoesslin, Jeanette Ortiz, Larry Ugale, Lars and Hans Rathje, Mary Osborne, Professional Surfer, Professional Surfing, Sierra Partridge, southern california, surf photographer, surf photography, surfer, Ventura surfers, women's surfing