WISDOM FROM A LIFE SPENT IN THE OCEAN
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)