THE SAGE

WIS­DOM FROM A LIFE SPENT IN THE OCEAN

Surfing World - - Introduction - BRUCE RAY­MOND

Surf­ing then… Surf­ing started for me at Bronte and Bondi Beach. It was a com­plete es­cape into that world. I got my first board in ’64, but I was surf­ing a few years be­fore that. The beach in­spec­tor saw me float­ing about, he plucked me out of the wa­ter vir­tu­ally by my hair, pushed me out the back and said stand up. And that was it. Surf­ing now… I’m re­ally im­pressed how the women’s tour has ma­tured into great styles and grace­ful surf­ing. Young guys now are trav­el­ling down the coast, like we did, in­stead of fly­ing over­seas. It’s like a Morn­ing of the Earth re­nais­sance. I like how reach­ing your fullest po­ten­tial doesn’t mean hav­ing to win a World Ti­tle. It could just be eat­ing good food af­ter a full day of surf­ing. Hol­ly­wood… It was 1977, Peter Tow­nend, Ian Cairns and Mark War­ren got dou­ble roles in the film Big Wed­nes­day. At the time there was only half a dozen Aus­tralians in Hawaii. We were all broke and starv­ing, you could go a cou­ple of days at a time with­out eat­ing. If you did well in a con­test you’d take all your mates out to din­ner. In that same sort of spirit, Peter Tow­nend told the film pro­ducer I’d take off on any­thing. I de­scribed to him my first wave at Waimea where I got drilled feet first through my board. All he said was, “Can you do that again?” So we sawed two thirds of the way through the deck of this board, with the idea that I’d go for a bot­tom turn on a big wave and it would snap in two for the shot. Low and be­hold, when I jammed the rail in, it ac­tu­ally flexed and went re­ally good. I had a great ses­sion, but they didn’t get the wipe­out. So George Gree­nough and Dan Merkel had to smash one of the hous­ings into the deck to weaken it. Sec­ond time round, I pulled in, slid out and went down with the lip in the chest. It would have been great but they missed the shot. They had to use some other footage in the end. Sun­set… When I was 11 years old my aun­tie gave me a mu­ral poster. It was off Mikey Dora pad­dling up the face, and Rusty Miller tak­ing the drop. That shot was the first thing I’d see ev­ery morn­ing when I woke up and the last thing I’d see be­fore I went to sleep. I used to mind­surf it ev­ery day. I fi­nally got over there when I turned twenty. I was in a house with Mark War­ren and Grant Oliver and Bruce and Hugh from Surf­ing World. The morn­ing we all woke up and the con­di­tions were ex­actly the same as that poster. It felt like I’d been surf­ing it all my life. Jeff Hak­man in­tro­duced him­self, and asked if he could take a look at my board. I was meant to be there. I have surfed there for forty years, ev­ery win­ter up un­til the last two. It’s a vain glo­ri­ous mo­ment you have when you drop in. Not a spec­tac­u­lar ma­neu­ver but it’s just a mo­ment you get to feel. It’s the drop, hold­ing on by your toes wait­ing for the spray to clear, and the board’s hold­ing on by an inch of fin. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence like moun­tain climb­ing or some­thing. The first day I surfed it Ed­die Aikau was out there. He wasn’t turn­ing, and at first I didn’t get it, but he had this clas­sic style and stance, right in the sweet spot, all sense and feel on the West Peak. It took me a while to ap­pre­ci­ate how spe­cial that was. Women… If the right girl comes along, they’ll make a man out of you. That means stuff other than sex. They will sup­port you, and in­spire you to do bet­ter. Money…. The first 35 years of my life I never even thought of it. I was just pas­sion­ate about what I was do­ing and the op­por­tu­ni­ties came along. Most young peo­ple are time rich and cash poor, but they’ll have in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ences. The more bread you’ve got, the more life’s like a shit sandwich. You don’t have to be a slave to it. We could all get by on three days a week of work, but it’s the forth and fifth days that pay for the things we don’t need. Busi­ness… When I first went on the pro tour, my mates were just start­ing Quik­sil­ver. I re­alised over time I had plenty of stoke, but I wasn’t go­ing to sur­vive against MR and Rab­bit and so forth. My mates start­ing Quik­sil­ver were as­pir­ing to do the same thing as me in an­other way; travel to great places to go surf­ing and pay your way. So we’d go to Re­u­nion Is­land with a bag full of board­shorts, sell 200 pairs and setup an ac­count there, then go surf­ing for a month. Same thing when I got mar­ried I said to my mate Greeny, “I need a flight for our hon­ey­moon,” and he said, “Well you’ll have to sell two thou­sand pairs of board­shorts and setup a dis­trib­u­tor.” So there I was try­ing to sell polka dot board­shorts to Ital­ians wear­ing speedos. One guy of­fered to buy 200, and I said “It’s gotta be 2000.” For 25 years we were tight as, like brothers. Ev­ery­thing was based on trust – that’s how we got things done. When we got re­ally big, like New York stock ex­change big, those friend­ships couldn’t be held re­spon­si­ble to hold it all to­gether. I won’t pre­tend it was all peace, love and hap­pi­ness be­cause it wasn’t. But there’s no love lost. Just like if you fell out with a fam­ily mem­ber, you still main­tain love and re­spect for one an­other. We never had a goal to get that big. Our goals were about go­ing on a great surf trip, or go­ing to the moun­tains. Kelly Slater… The re­la­tion­ship was pro­fes­sional in the first in­stance, but we be­came very close as a con­se­quence of that; fa­therly from my point of view. He would com­pletely con­found me with what I thought the pa­ram­e­ters of our world would be. He would go be­yond to ar­eas that I didn’t even know. You could never un­der es­ti­mate him. He never saw any lim­i­ta­tions in any­thing. Lives it. Breathes it. And he can be very proud of that. He’s a thinker, he doesn’t mess with small talk and per­haps comes across as a lit­tle ar­ro­gant, but he’s the real deal. He’s given it his ab­so­lute best shot as an ath­lete. He thinks about be­ing a good ex­am­ple to peo­ple. We were sup­port­ive of his en­de­vours as he was of ours. I helped him get the loan for his place in Avalon, but un­for­tu­nately we lost him to kirra in the end. But he was here for over ten years. Hap­pi­ness… The sim­ple things give me hap­pi­ness, I play sax­o­phone and I paint. This year I en­tered a self por­trait in the Archibald Prize, but noth­ing beats be­ing in the wa­ter. That whole amp of rid­ing to the beach and com­ing back is a to­tal spi­ral up­wards. As my surf­ing skills de­crease, my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the en­vi­ron­ment sur­passes it. If you say, ‘the surf’s shit’ that’s not true, it’s what’s be­tween your ears that’s shit.

Bruce Ray­mond to­day. As surf stoked as ever. (Ben Ray­mond)

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