LIVE IN TUNE WHAT MOVES YOU

Tracks - - Stuff We Dig -

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in Hawaii or he'd be look­ing at the maps and chas­ing a phan­tom swell to Teahupoo. Mick and Joel were re­ally tun­ing into the World Tour which is a to­tally dif­fer­ent mind­set." Later there was the additional pres­sure of be­ing mea­sured against two of the most suc­cess­ful surfers on the planet.

"When Joel and Mick were con­tend­ing for world ti­tles he sort of be­came the for­got­ten amigo. Even though he had this beau­ti­ful style and was in­cred­i­ble at tube rides and un­be­liev­able at reef breaks and was this real surfer's surfer he didn't have the same [me­dia] push. Even in the lo­cal pa­pers they talked about Mick and Joel and Dean wasn't men­tioned. It got to the point where he was never men­tioned," says Rab­bit.

Pro­fes­sional sport is lit­tered with Next Big Things who don't reach their ex­pected heights but the psy­cho­log­i­cal toll this can cause is rarely ac­knowl­edged. The gen­eral pub­lic tend to envy pro ath­lete's phys­i­cal skills, pay cheques and glam­orous life­styles. It's hard to imag­ine they'd have much to com­plain about.

Aus­tralian au­thor Chris­tos Tsi­olkas tack­les these vexed is­sues in his lat­est novel, Bar­racuda. Re­search­ing the book (which fo­cuses on Olympic swim­mers) led him to this stark ob­ser­va­tion. "Fail­ure is lac­er­at­ing. Fail­ure is iso­lat­ing. Fail­ure cuts you off from the world. Fail­ure is shame. Fail­ure is hu­mil­i­a­tion… I spoke to for­mer ath­letes who all spoke about the cost of fail­ure. The sense of shame they felt in not reach­ing their po­ten­tial. In not achiev­ing suc­cess. They talked about fail­ure as the mo­ment when their courage failed. When their faith in them­selves failed. They talked about a mo­ment when no mat­ter how hard they worked, or prac­tised or trained that their skills or will or talent would never be equal to their dreams. And that at that mo­ment of fail­ure they wished that ev­ery­one would dis­ap­pear and their world would dis­ap­pear."

Mor­ri­son is more cir­cum­spect about his own ex­pe­ri­ences. "When I qual­i­fied there was just a lot to han­dle com­ing into it so quick. There was def­i­nitely some pres­sure [around be­ing a Coolie Kid]. Af­ter be­ing so ded­i­cated and fo­cused for so long and then all of a sud­den it all hap­pens and you're like 'whoa'. I think now there were a lot of other things I needed in my life to be able to be present in the mo­ment and just en­joy it. Com­ing out of the sit­u­a­tion that I was in - leav­ing home when I was re­ally young - it felt like there was some­thing miss­ing there. I think over time to be able to be com­fort­able in­side yourself and to be­come a man you need that time to find yourself. It was like I needed to find some val­ues for my­self."

On the is­sue of me­dia hype and pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tion he's real­is­tic. "I think there are big ex­pec­ta­tions on ath­letes in any sport. Ev­ery­one wants to see the next gen­er­a­tion do some­thing re­ally rad and take surf­ing to the next level. But that ex­pec­ta­tion comes with any­thing. It's whether or not the in­di­vid­ual is able to get the best out of them­selves. Ev­ery­one just wants to write sto­ries about the next gen­er­a­tion of surfers and the evo­lu­tion of the sport."

As Shagga points out when things went sour for Deano he had big­ger things to worry about than me­dia hype and pub­lic ex­pec­ta­tions. His en­tire life had been up-ended. "He was in a pretty dark place for a fair while there. I guess he's still try­ing to work out what to do next. It's hard af­ter be­ing a paid pro surfer for so long. You've got the life and it's all good then you have a bad year and the wheels come off and ev­ery­thing goes pear shaped. But in say­ing that I think that what hap­pened in 2010 made him deal with a lot of things that he hadn't had to up till that point. I'm sure he still loves com­pet­ing but he's more driven just to im­prove him­self. He's surf­ing big­ger waves than he ever has, push­ing him­self to the next level. He's more about self-im­prove­ment rather than kick­ing some­one's arse. He's su­per into his yoga. He's like a semi Yogi. Parko calls him the Zen Mas­ter. Af­ter all he's been through … it's helped him. He's def­i­nitely de­vel­oped his spir­i­tual side."

Rab­bit agrees. "Dean's a strong guy. He was def­i­nitely lost for a while but he's got in­ner strength. He had to come through from a very dark place. His whole fam­ily ral­lied around him and it ended up be­ing a heal­ing time for them. When he moved in with me it was at the point of dis­in­te­gra­tion of the fam­ily unit but now he's close to his mum and he's close with his dad again. Like re­ally close. And I feel re­ally good about that. That's some­thing that's re­ally pleased me. I had din­ner with them last night. His mum cooked din­ner and his dad was or­gan­is­ing tick­ets for the fam­ily to go and see the Ti­tans and the Bron­cos. His sis­ter and brother-in-law were there with their young son and Melissa is due again in July. It was great to be there and see this frac­tured fam­ily unit be­come one again."

The seed for this story was sewn in Hawaii last year. It was a big year for Aus­tralian surf­ing – the first time an Aussie World Cham­pion had been suc­ceeded by a fel­low coun­try­man since Lynch and Hard­man in 1988. On De­cem­ber 15 when Joel Parkin­son pre­sented the big tro­phy to his good mate Mick Fan­ning it felt like a warm and fuzzy end to a pretty amaz­ing fairy tale. But it also felt a good time to con­sider the plight of the third Coolie Kid. What had be­come of Dean Mor­ri­son? I didn't have to wait long to find out.

A week af­ter the Pipe­line Masters fin­ished, Mick and Joel were back on the Gold Coast, and Dean Mor­ri­son was in his el­e­ment. A huge west swell swal­lowed up the hori­zon and Pipe­line pumped all day long. Most of the pros had va­cated the beach houses but Pipe spe­cial­ists were out in force: John John, Reef McIntosh, Jamie O'Brien, Damian Hob­good, Kelly Slater, the Ho dy­nasty and Anthony Walsh among them. Back­door was an enor­mous shud­der­ing close­out down to Rock­piles but ev­ery so of­ten a lone surfer would see an open­ing and streak through a 10-foot hum­mer. The crowd would holler for the surfer on the logo-free board: Dean Mor­ri­son.

"He's the best Aussie to surf out there for sure. I don't think any­one would dis­pute that," Joel Parkin­son, no slouch at Back­door him­self, says of his good mate. Mor­ri­son's re­la­tion­ship with Back­door hasn't al­ways been so tight. At the end of his rookie tour year he speared head first into the lava reef and was rushed to hospi­tal, gush­ing claret. It rat­tled him for years but he worked at it, wave af­ter wave, sea­son af­ter sea­son, chip­ping away at it his fear. "It wasn't a plan or any­thing," he re­flects. "You just get some good waves out there and you re­alise no other wave gives you that same feel­ing so you keep go­ing back for more and you be­come ad­dicted to that rush. It's the best feel­ing ever when you get a good one."

Hawaii has re­mained a con­stant in Mor­ri­son's tur­bu­lent life. He goes two or three times a year and

Teeth

Wave-slayer in a slouch hat. Dig­ger Atkin­son

for bat­tle on the world tour.||

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