Sandy & M att Ryan
Sandy’s the son of Island Surfboards founder Matt Ryan. As a grommet he sat on the end-section of the barrelling righthander at Express Point, watching his dad charging down the line. In a way, that lineage makes him scion of the empire, but he’s 33 now, has his own family and a solid-gold surfing reputation of his own.
He’s deceptively laid-back, likes to smile and speaks quietly. He often paddles a SUP from his home at Sunderland Bay to work at Smiths Beach. But there’s a core of something much wilder under there somewhere: he’s renowned for paddling out by himself at some of the country’s most intimidating breaks – Shipsterns included. The first time he went wandering in there he got lost in the bush, but went surfing anyway, completely unfazed. He’s taken beatings there, broken ribs and earned respect.
Sandy worked for a while as a boat boy at Tavarua alongside Shane Dorian, Mark Healey and Dave Wassel, and his surfing caught the eye of Kelly Slater. But his “big transition”, he says, was meeting Marti Paradisis. The two of them have tackled some fearsome surf, not for the footage, but purely for the act.
On the island, Sandy’s renowned for pioneering a wave that probably isn’t a wave – it’s a slab just near the Nobbies at the western end of the island. “I’d been watching the Blowhole for ages,” he says. “It’s not a particularly good wave – it ledges and backwashes. Ringa was going to surf it, but got destroyed. It looked like eight foot but it was probably double that. I was under the gaze of the tourists watching the seals at the Nobbies. There’s heaps of marine life out there…it’s just the deepest, blackest water.”
Sandy nominates Carl Wright, Simon McShane and Glyndon as the islanders who’ve chased big waves, followed by another generation – Paul Hart, Ant Marlborough, Steve Demos and Steve Smart. There is a strong sense of history in island surfing, he insists. Despite the lack of pubs there’s house parties, but the culture passes mostly in the lineups – one local break is known as ‘cup-o-tea corner’ for that reason: people just sit out there and yack.
Sandy’s wife and his three children all surf – he proudly displays footage on his phone of his 17-month old daughter Tamika standing on a mal holding his hands. Life for Sandy is the surf shops and travelling: “I could be based off the island – I really love Tassie – but here I’ve got consistency and variety.”
Joe and Nikki van Dijk continue to dominate coverage of the island’ s surfers, and for good reason. At just 22 and with three completed years on the world tour that peaked with a number -12 finish last year, Nikki is the island’ s most serious con tender since G lyndon. And at 18, Joe might have the goods to do something similar. Both have Channel Islands and Rip Curl on their boards. The main junior son the island at present are Cody Jeffries, Chad Garrett and a host of girl-groms:12-year-old State champ Sage Goldsworthy( who beat her own mum in the open round sat the state titles ), Poppy and Daisy Corbett and Lanie Fostin. A host of female Phillip Island surfers are dominating the ranks of the state under-18s. In part, this is driven by an elite coaching squad being run at the local high school New haven College by Andy Neal.
It’ s a healthy scene and a perfect irony: Blokes’ Island is dominated by girls.
Father and son team, Sandy and Matt Ryan, behind the counter at the ‘Island Surfboards’ shop.
Main: Nikki Van Dijk lighting up a Phillip Island cave.
Inset: Joe and Nikki leading the charge for Phillip Island surfing.