Paarman’s passing leaves a void in local surfing folklore
The stories he recounts, with ruthless candour, are laced with long bouts of drug abuse and alcoholism punctuated by broken relationships and numerous brushes with institutions of the state, from jail cells to padded cells.
He started smoking dagga – not in ganja-addled Cape Town – but in San Diego, California as a member of the Springbok team in 1966 at the age of 14.
He went on to surf for South Africa at the world champs in 1968 and 1970 but a troubled dependency on various chemicals ultimately ruined his surfing career.
I found a link to his blog from his Facebook page, where many folk from various parts of his life have paid their respects. In a post from 2014, he writes: “Even though I never made millions as I had hoped to do, so that I could go to Bali to surf some of those perfect warm water waves before I pegged off, it still went well.”
He was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer in August 2017, and friends and family chipped in with funds to ease the twilight weeks of his life.
There were parallels between Paarman and another surfing legend Ant van den Heuvel, who ‘retired’ from the same South African team at the 1966 world champs in San Diego in a dispute about the length of his hair. He spent two years travelling America, before returning to Jeffreys Bay to live the hippy life making his legendary ‘Ug’ boots.
When Paarman went to Sydney to compete in the world champs in 1970, he missed the flight home and ended up living in Australia. “I put on an Australian accent and no-one ever queried it,” he said.
He was 25 when Shaun Tomson won the world title in 1977. He would have been good enough to be in the same echelon, but never regretted his life choices. I often saw him charging the waves of Vic Bay. He always knew where to sit, and was respected by locals.
He was a house painter who lived in a small house in Wilderness, and had found meaning helping others – a convivial sort who always had time to chat, even if the waves were cooking.
“I find myself very comfortable working with people in very dark and scary places. Before you pull the plug on yourself or submit to psychotic drugs, give me a shout and I will help you get your life back into balance, no judgment.”
RIP Donald Paarman. Clean JBay lines greeted the Billabong SA Junior Champs presented by BOS yesterday as U18 surfers in eight divisions challenged for national titles and team points. They also got a bit of a ‘skrik’ when a dead whale floated by; followed by large, predating white sharks. The carcess was towed 17kms offshore. Lots of swell this weekend, but slightly iffy winds. Today, a crack- ing 6-7’ swell runs in moderate SW onshore winds. Muizenberg has had fun 2-3’ waves lately. This continues, to some degree and a bit smaller, early this morning when winds are light and more west, but are gradually going more onshore southerly. Tomorrow, solid 8’ sets are coming through in fresh becoming strong SSE. Muizenberg blown out.
WAVING UP: Daniel Emslier gets some air during the Billabong SA Junior Championships underway in Jeffreys Bay this weekend.