Greg Ho­gan

Tracks - - Phillip Island Views -

Next door to Terry Klemm, Greg Ho­gan’s plan­ing bot­tom curves. He thinks he’s been shap­ing boards in the Cowes fac­tory for “10 or 20 years”. Glyn­don Rin­grose’s kelpie is asleep nearby in the foam dust. “They love the dust be­cause it’s an in­su­la­tor,” says Ho­ges. “Cool in sum­mer and warm in win­ter.” Ap­par­ently no amount of scream­ing power tools will wake the hound – he’s only dis­turbed when the elec­tri­cal lead whacks his flanks on the way past.

Ho­ges’s history here mir­rors the con­stant move­ment be­tween Gipp­s­land and the is­land. He used to live in nearby In­ver­loch, shaped un­der his own name, and was some­thing of an iden­tity around Kil­cunda and In­ver­loch. He says is­land surfers are more con­nected to the coast­line to their east – that is, the more re­mote Gipp­s­land coast, than they are to the west, to­wards the penin­sula and Mel­bourne.

Ho­ges has been surf­ing the is­land since he was 13. “If you surf Woolies (Woola­mai) all the time, they’re the lo­cals. But not at other spots.” He feels like the is­land is get­ting ever-closer to Mel­bourne as the free­ways shorten the trip. “My mates in Rosanna used to take up to three hours to get here. Now they’re do­ing it in less than two, so they’re more likely to come down for a day. Ev­ery­one’s semi-lo­calised these days.”

He’s a great crafts­man, can turn his hand to any shape. Klemmy and Ho­ges share a house to­gether, and some­times on a day off they’ll go fish­ing. “I wor­shipped Klemmy when I was a grom. Now I get to sit out the front of the garage with him, drink­ing beers in the sun.”

Ho­ges is just ex­plain­ing about how the Is­land Boards model of show­room out the front, fac­tory out the back is such a cru­cial tra­di­tion when Pete Cof­fey, the glasser, hollers at his dog in the pas­sage­way. It’s bark­ing at some­thing or other. Klemmy ap­pears and shakes a tin full of coins at it. It’s hard to know which racket is worse, but the dog de­sists. Ho­ges watches the cow­er­ing mutt in amused si­lence: “This is a great place to work.”

When the Pub Burns Down

The is­land these days is busy ev­ery week of the year, but one ab­sence re­mains baf­fling. There is no pub. That’ s right: since the 140-year-old Isle of Wight burned down in 2010, Bloke’ s Is­land has no pub. There’ s a cou­ple in San Re mo, just over the bridge on the main­land, but that’s it.

Main street is a coastal clas­sic. Flat yel­low cy­press es that de­fine it. Stink­ing hot, West­ern port flat and shiny in the sun. The gap where the Isle of Wight had been. An­gle parks dip ping into the cul­vert in the shade, the grad­ual down hill to the pier. Mist in the gul­lies, not much traf­fic. This is­land is too big to do the fin­ger-on-the-steer­ing-wheel g day( Cowes has got three ma­jor-chain su­per mar­kets these days ), but too small to ig­nore peo­ple.

The na­ture here is sur­pris­ingly di­verse given the pace of hu­man build-up. A midst the many dif­fer­ent colours of bed rock, from bright red to black at Pyra­mid Rock and pale rat the cape. The Cape wasn’ t orig­i­nally at­tached to the is­land: the sands pit of Wool am ai con­nected it grad­u­ally over­time. Maybe sea level changes will re­store it to its orig­i­nal iso­la­tion. There are pur­ple swamp hens, div­ing gan­nets, mut­ton birds, seal sand dol­phins, as well as the much-hyped Lit­tle Pen­guins. Surf fisher men in the gut­ters. You can as­sess the crowd sat Wool am ai with­out leav­ing the high­way by count­ing the cars in the For­est Caves car park.

Vic’s Tow-In

In the late eight­ies, self-de­scribed “shark hunter” Vic His lop left baited lines un­der a bar­rel out at the Nob bi es (nowhere near the main swim­ming and surf­ing lo­ca­tions on the is­land) and hooked a gi­gan­tic great white, which he tri­umphantly to wed back­wards into Cow es, af­ter no­ti­fy­ing na­tional me­dia. The an­i­mal may have been up to a hun­dred years old. These day she’ s still try­ing to ex­plain the ne­ces­sity for do­ing it, but he was per­ma­nently banned from fish­ing Vic­to­rian wa­ters af­ter the in­ci­dent. There has never been a fatal shark at­tack on the is­land.

The Prof­itable Pen­guin

The last time they mea­sured tourism here was in 2013-14, and back then tourism was con­tribut­ing $655 mil­lion per an­num to the Is­land and Bass Coast’ s econ­omy. That’ s nearly 40% of their over­all earn, and it em­ploys 6400 peo­ple. Based on the 5.1% an­nual in­crease in tourism to the re­gion, the fig­ure is now prob­a­bly closer to $850 mil­lion.

To those out­side the surf­ing bub­ble, say in main­land China, Phillip Is­land means one thing and that thing is pen­guins. 693,000 peo­ple visit them ev­ery year, and 57% of those are in­ter na­tion­als. If you want to think about those num­bers in traf­fic terms, that about 10,000 bus loads per an­num, or nearly 200 buses per week. The big game for lo­cal tourism au­thor­i­ties to get those peo­ple to stay overnight.

The pen­guin sand the buses and the surf( and maybe the domi­cile of the He ms worth brothers) have all con­trib­uted to a steady rise in­land de­vel­op­ment, and side by side with that, a whole lot of traf­fic, es­pe­cially in Jan­uary.

Left: Haunt­ing light seeps through a moody, Phillip Is­land sky­line.

Right: Terry Klemm ejoy­ing the fa­mil­iar feel of foam be­neath his hand.

Joe Van Dijk fly­ing high against a back­drop that’s re­fresh­ingly bereft of hu­man de­vel­op­ment.

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