Mark Roughly is one of the world’s most pr olific surfers, and he has the journals to pr ove it.
“Sth Narrawallee, first surf after accident, around head high on Vanessa’s board. Stayed out 30 mins, got about 6 to 8 waves, had a really good surf considering 5 weeks off.”
Dated 15/2/1992, Mollymook’s Mark Roughly had just put pen to paper on his maiden journal entry. Coincidentally, it was an unexpected fin to the family jewels that would influence a record-breaking number of diary entries, spanning 28 years and filling the pages of 64 books. The idea had sprung to mind through Dale Webster, a Northern Californian surfer who infamously surfed every day for 40 years. 16 stitches and five weeks of bed rest later, Ruffo decided he was going to start his own tradition by recording every one of his surfs from that point onward, no matter the conditions, length and location.
Born and raised in western Sydney, the boy from Blacktown answered the call of the coast and moved to Cunjurong Point in 1986, the exact spot where he’d first been introduced to surfing as a kid. Mark quickly became a familiar and formidable face in the lineup, and his bar raising performances soon became a part of carpark folklore. Not one to reflect or harp on about his achievements, Ruffo has been one of the standout surfers on the south coast for the past 30 years. When dabbling in the competitive scene briefly for a laugh, he came away triumphant in the prestigious 1998 Werri Slash, taking down world-renowned names Jake Spooner and Phil MacDonald in the process. Like a fine bottle of wine, his performances aren’t slowing down, although he will do his very best to convince you otherwise. Glance through any one of Ruffo’s journals and you will soon encounter an array of tales, moments shared, and historical sessions; all penned with the same tone of pure stoke that he spreads across the south coast on a daily basis. He was in the lineup with fellow local, Pam Burridge, during the final of the 1997, Rip Curl Bells Beach world tour competition, caddying her to a runner-up finish behind fourtime world champion Lisa Anderson. He once surfed in the Mentawai Islands off Indonesia for 10 hours straight, retiring to the boat for a beloved can of coke and an honest night’s rest to prepare for the following day’s dawn session. Not one to pass up an opportunity to get wet, Ruffo once clocked up 64 surfs in a single month, also accumulating 600 surfs over a calendar year. He does however confesses to having one sabbatical ‘Ruffollupo’ year where he only surfed 120 times, spending a bit of well-earned rest time on the couch and, like Occy, adding numerous extra kilograms of winter coat. His form slump and subsequent comeback are all diligently chronicled in his diaries.
Ruffo’s passion for surfing has seen him venture to all corners of the globe, including Hawaii, South Africa, Indonesia, Fiji and Canada. Despite his extensive travels, he still declares Lakey Peak, Manyana beach and Golfcourse reef as his overall favourite spots. Lakey Peak holds a special place in Ruffo’s heart, he often spends months at a time there during the winter seasons. Hailing from Manyana, the Bartlett brothers Guy, Nathan and Byron, grew up idolising and surfing alongside Ruff. For the Bartletts, and many other Manyana grommets, Ruff was the older role model who used to take them surfing and skating, and to the movies every Friday night. Eldest of the Bartlett brothers, Guy, reflects fondly on their first surf trip away with Ruff as wide-eyed teenagers. “Back in 1999, I was 17 and Nathan was 15 when Ruff took us on our first overseas surf trip to Lakey Peak in Sumbawa. This is where he received his nickname ‘Mr Jaffle’ from the locals. The entire time he was there he ate nothing but cheese jaffles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He had the wave dialled and was always the best in the lineup, often toying with it. He would take his razor out in the lineup and when he back-doored the second section he would pull it out and start shaving inside the pit. He was so good to travel with, especially as kids as he didn’t drink or party; he was just a complete surf pig. Everywhere you went, everyone knew him and loved to be around him. We used to call him the Sumbawa God”.
Clean living and a youthful energy are the essence of Ruff’s approach to surfing and life itself, and he acknowledges the diary is a driving factor for keeping him in the ocean on a daily basis. Drive past Mollymook reef on any given morning in the depths of winter and more often than not you’re bound to see his unmistakable white van parked curbside and a new Channel Islands surfboard going 12 o’clock in the kinds of waves the keenest 10-year-
old grommets wouldn’t surf in their wildest nightmares. Of late, Ruffo has started recording which board he rode and how it performed. Interestingly, he is now riding 5’7” length boards, down from 6’3” in his initial entries. As he has matured, the entries have become noticeably longer and more detailed, while his handwriting skills have gone undeniably south. 10 years ago, a passage from his diary read, “My aim is to get to 10,000 surfs and estimating 200 surfs a year from here on in, I will make it in 15 more years.” He’s well and truly surpassed that, having reached his goal on the 25th of August last year. Showing no signs of slowing down, Ruffo is now holding on to the hope that an invitation will show up in the mail, telling him to pack his boards and trusty diary for a day at Slater’s new wave pool. He claims he’s filled with more surf stoke now than ever and is devoted to staying active and continuing his unique ritual of writing down his surf-inspired memories well into the future.
Mark Roughly clutching one of the many chronicles, which contain a detailed diary of his personal surfing history.