DAVE NEILSON BY WADE GOODALL
Taj Burrow has always been a major influence. He’s still probably my favourite surfer of all time but I’m going to say Dave Neilson. People forget about him but he was The Man, the originator of aerial surfing in Australia. When I was growing up I’d see photos of him in the mags and he was in a very different scene to me. I still remember meeting him. I flew to New Zealand by myself for my first air comp. I was about 15. I had no plan, hardly any money. I just waited at the airport until I saw someone I recognised. Jarred Sullivan gave me a lift and let me stay in his tent. We ate field mushrooms – not magic ones – for dinner and drank rum because it was cold. The next day I met Dave on the beach and I was tripping because I think he had a red back spider pattern shaved into his head, or it might have been a green mohawk. He opened my mind to a different world – the exact opposite of little kids contests in Australia. It was all about real people, real surfing and full on partying. Travelling and living rather than just going in contests. I owe heaps to him for influencing the way I surf – he always taught me to surf exactly how you want, to go nuts and never hold back. Be a psycho but a nice psycho. He taught me how to fight too. He always said if anyone wants to fight you just beat yourself up before they get a chance and they usually just walk away. They either think you’re a psychopath or that you enjoy it. I applied it a few times and it fully got me out of some gnarly situations. You won’t find much footage of Dave surfing – he’s very much an underground dude. He had that punk sensibility and attitude that guys in America were famous for – like Ratboy and Barney – he was the Australian counterpart to that movement. And just a really nice bloke. If you were a nice person he’d really go out of his way to look after you. We did the Airshow circuit together and we never got in any trouble but we’d find ourselves going back to the same towns and there’d be photos of us behind the bars saying we were banned. I loved every minute of partying with him. Dave’s from Umina on the Central Coast but I grew up with a lot of similarly-minded people on the Sunny Coast. For the time his airs were big and pretty technical and he’d send it to the flats. No one was surfing like that in Australia at that time. He was just a good fun dude who taught me how to be myself and not give a rats.