HE IS THE FASTEST 51 YEAR OLD IN THE COUN­TRY BUT FOR DAR­REN HAN­D­LEY, BE­COM­ING ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST SUC­CESS­FUL SHAPERS WAS A MARATHON EF­FORT. BY MATT GE­ORGE

Tracks - - Surf City Views : Chapter Three -

Dar­ren Han­d­ley has a se­cret for­mula.

It is not a con­scious one, but it is one that al­lows him to shape the most high per­for­mance surf­boards in the world for the world's best high per­for­mance surfers. Both male and fe­male.

This se­cret for­mula has lot to do with what Dar­ren learned grow­ing up in the back­streets of Coolan­gatta, a neigh­bour­hood that Rab­bit Bartholomew once nick­named "The Gaza strip of the Gold Coast".

Dar­ren Han­d­ley grew up poor. Very poor. And he grew up dis­lik­ing wealthy peo­ple be­cause of it. Even though he was to be­come wealthy him­self one day. Con­sid­er­ing his child­hood back­ground, a tan­gle of di­vorces and living with aunts and un­cles and or­phans and half-broth­ers and drugged out strangers that slept on the oor and par­tied with his par­ents … it is a mir­a­cle that Dar­ren sur­vived at all. Early on, he learned two of his great­est fears. Drown­ing and jail. A surfer, the drown­ing part is easy to gure out. The jail thing is a lit­tle more com­plex.

It seems Dar­ren was born with a very deep, introspective in­tel­lect. He could see things in the fu­ture. He had a gift of be­ing able to see where things were go­ing. He had to in or­der to sur­vive.

Teach­ers couldn't gure him out un­til later, much later, he was di­ag­nosed with se­vere dys­lexia.

He has never read a book in his life. Can't re­mem­ber a sin­gle one.

So as a kid, sup­port­ing his bo­hemian, party an­i­mal sort of par­ents, he stole things to help make ends meet. Mostly sh*t like milk money off the neigh­bours porches on the way to school. But be­ing around a lot of the grown up's drugs back in Coolan­gatta, it wasn't long be­fore his crafty ways drew the at­ten­tion of the small un­der­world scene there.

Dar­ren took a look at it. But mostly looked at the older fel­las. Stud­ied them. How strung out and f*cked their lives were. The sto­ries: cops, beat­ings, blood, jail, knives, guns, ho­mo­sex­ual rapes, time in the pen, scary tat­toos, the stink of booze and mull and coke and los­ing at life. This would in­stil a life­time fear of jail and petty crime that Dar­ren still sweats out to this day.

So he stopped steal­ing and he looked ahead, like he al­ways did, and bailed on the whole scene. Pretty heavy de­ci­sion for a 12 year old. But, hav­ing never had any real guid­ance from any con­ven­tional par­ents, Dar­ren Han­d­ley con­tin­ued to raise him­self like a wild an­i­mal.

The fam­ily was al­ways hun­gry. But af­ter his brush with crime, Dar­ren, a keen surfer at this point, walked into Mas­ter Shaper Mur­ray Bour­ton's surf shop and started sweep­ing oors for 2-dollar coins.

It was with pride that Dar­ren was able to put some food on the ta­ble. Even though some­times it was just a loaf of Tip Top bread, and scrap­ings from the but­ter tub. It al­ways made his Mother cry. But that bread was re­ally some­thing. Be­cause Dar­ren Han­d­ley was look­ing ahead. Look­ing ahead at the em­pire he swore to him­self he would build with­out get­ting any­where near a Jail.

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