KEEPING THE STOKE BURNING
I can recall the first few waves I ever rode as if it were yesterday, even though I was straight lining in one foot of whitewater I can still see the way the droplets of water came off my rails and the sound the board made, from those first moments I wanted to do this forever. I never grew up close to the beach so I begged borrowed and stole ways to get to the beach. Most likely mum would drop me early morning not long after sunrise and pick me up in the dark after work, where I’d be found shivering in my wetsuit tucked in out of the wind behind the surf club. I never took a change of clothes cause I never planned to get out of my wetsuit, I was gonna surf all day long no matter what.
As I progressed through my teens, while I did have other commitments, all I wanted to do was be at the beach, covered in the black iron sand with my eyes stinging from the salt, cause to me that meant I was in the element I loved. Whenever I was around the ocean I was in the lineup before first light and got out in the dark, I barely even ate most days. This continued till my mid-twenties and at that point in my life I couldn’t see it ever letting up, by now I lived at the beach and even when it was flat I’d just go sit down the beach on sunset and run sand through my fingers. Every birthday and Xmas I surfed! No matter what! Even if there were family commitments, I’d paddle out at 4:30AM and surf till 7, after all no one was gonna be awake back home by then right? So, I wasn’t disappointing anyone. If I did a roady I either left late at night or in the small hours of the morning, through fear if that sun was to rise I may miss out on a couple of waves that someone else may get.
My commitment to the surf lifestyle saw me forge a career in the industry, firstly as a shaper of my own label, but unless it was flat or really horrible anywhere within a tank of gas drive in the North Island, I didn’t work during daylight hours. I’d get home mid evening and head on down to the factory I had in an industrial subdivision, beg the security guard to allow me to work, as policy was no afterhours entry (he soon got used to my habit) then shape, sand or glass boards till 3AM have 2 hours sleep throw another layer of glass on and hit the road again. My parents always worried that I never slept, and of the hours I’d drive, but hey I had waves to score and I’m still here ain't I? During this time, I had built up my surf photography to the point that with this as well, I was nonstop 24/7 365. I was getting so busy with my board orders that instead of taking the hit and knuckling down, I made a decision to re-focus my skills toward my career in the surf media and wound up my factory. This only made sense cause making boards was getting in the way of me being at the beach and if I was a surf photog I’d be at the beach every single day, right?
Well… I owe that move to the career that I have till this day, an incredible journey that has lasted 22 years. But where I’m going with all this is, I began to grow up! Well not really, I began to grow old(er) haha.. I had my first major injury, an acl tear which hindered my surfing for a couple of years. I became so busy in the industry and while on shoots, that getting the job done became priority, and I even had kids and scored myself an awesome mortgage, it's almost as if I was human! I was travelling all round the world to the best waves on the planet and I’d think jeez I’ll never get sick of this. My first trip to Indo was life changing and I couldn’t get enough of the place, but after 22 years of heading there for months and sometimes multiple times a year, while it sounds crazy coming from the lips of a surfer, I was over it! How could I possibly be OVER the best waves on the planet, but years of monotony had driven my love away. Even back home I didn’t wake early anymore, and I didn’t care if I surfed or not.
Right now, someone who is imprisoned in an office in central Auckland who sits on the motorway dead still for an hour morning and night, who is hanging out for a weekend surf is probably saying “You spoilt prick” and I was! My life was everything that as a grom I’d said jokingly that I wanted it to be. But I’d burnt myself out and my flame of stoke was barely an ember. Sure, I picked myself up for the jobs, after all I was professional and I’d never let anything get in the way of my work ethic, it was my personal time that was suffering not the job. I’d see the ads on tv of Sir John Kirwin where he quoted “I was too busy being busy” and this rang true, the very reason I’d gravitated toward a life as a surfer in the first place was being lost. I had friends and other surfers of the same age all going through the same thing, all too busy with careers and family, and given some spare time that was all but spoken for. Only the best of the best days would drag us out from ‘being busy’, but the problem with this is we weren’t as surf fit as we used to be and the session was almost un-enjoyable.
Over the coming years I searched deep into how I could get my stoke back, how I could feel that buzz that fuelled me like a nuclear reactor in my core when I was younger. One day it occurred to me that the most stoke I felt was when I did something new, something un-expected that wasn’t a repetitive same old ground hog day type scenario. I went back to Indo but I never went near Bali. I flew in to the deepest darkest unexplored part of Indo I could find and over the course of a week of scoring the most epic waves you’ve ever seen, in a land that took me back in time 50 years, where we didn’t see another surfer, I right there found my soul and spark once again. I came home and found myself with this re-invigorated appreciation of everything around me, I’d get up early and drive as the sun came up and stay at the beach or where ever I was and marvel at the beauty as the sun went down. Sure, I probably had things to do but they could wait! I was being fuelled by this everyday occurrence that I’d begun to take for granted.
My kids started surfing and just to see the look on their faces and the stoke and hype they had as they ran down the beach and rode waves, brought it all back to me. I was feeding my own stoke off them. That transferred into the job, I was covering events where I’d witness young groms stoked to be at the beach, just as I had been 30 years prior, I’d watch them surf and admire their ability and how much surfing has grown and progressed in this country. I’d meet other parents at events, even mates from my younger grom days, who had also been through the same thing I was going through, they were stoked to be back at the beach and back in the surf and we all had smiles on our dials. The stoke was back. I’m not sure how it ever faded, and when I was young I foolishly believed it never would, but for us all growing up becomes a job and through my own processes and experiences and I’m sure anyone over the age of 30 can relate. Keep it fresh, keep moving and keep that stoke burning!
As life becomes busy and days are filled with commitments that see you miss out on the surf time you once had or wish you could have, when you pull up in the carpark and the first wave you see reels off like this, theres no holding back that inner fire, and the stoke from exploding as you throw on ya wetty and get out there as fast as you can. Photo: Cory