WELCOME TO THE BEATING HEART OF YOUR ADDICTION
WE ARE THE SPIT
THE TRADE WINDS
THE HOWLING GALE
WE ARE BACKWASH
You know I was thinking yesterday when I bought a carton of beer…..When I was like 20 in Brisbane (1996) there were 4 beers, maybe 5. If you lived in Brisbane you drank XXXX, VB was for Victorians, Coopers for SA and Tooheys or Fosters if you were in NSW. You were a clean-cut rebel if you drank a different beer to your peer group, like a complete bandit if you say had a Coopers in a pub full of VB drinkers. Aussie wankers were all patriotic-like about their beer a little bit like they (still) are about footy and footy teams. Now, I don't get footy or patriotism and I never felt some sort of supremacy based on the sort of yeast & hops I was necking down my gullet…but I do notice how that has all changed. There are no ‘beer teams’ anymore. I mean, you could be drinking a homebrewed ‘hand-crafted’ ale made from donkey piss, yeast and stormwater runoff and served in a recycled plastic cup and no one would care, as long as it had a cool name like 'amber antler' or ‘moosed goose’ or some psuedo American acronym like ‘JKF hops’.
So beer loyalty is gone.
During the same era as above, the 1990s, when you were riding your 6’2” x 18 quarter x 2 quarter shaped by Al Merrick and drinking your beer that you and your inner tribe were all drinking and wearing the same corporate surf-branded clothes and listening to the same shit music…You rode the same surfboard, specs above, fin configuration modelled off Simon Anderson's 1981 invention. If you didn't ride that style of surfboard, it was a similar wrath (from peers) as if you didn't drink the ‘right' beer. Now, that has all changed, you can ride a fat porcupine of a surfboard with 19 fins and 3 legropes, made from harvested wormwood and polished with a 3-step organic native bees wax…Your surfboard could be 24 feet long with the girth of a bus, or it might be the same size as a Morey boogie; size doesn't matter. It is anarchy out there in board design and beer choice. There is no loyalty anymore to beer or surfboards. Part of me thinks that is great, but the other part of me enjoyed it a whole lot more when the herd mentality was so easy to see, physically. Now you need to get your ruler out and squint your eyes a bit to work out who the fashion victims are, and you need to stay current because there is a brand new fad everyday, just to take someone’s money away.
But don’t kid yourself, we have not evolved in the slightest, if anything we have just become more jaded and judgemental. Everything is judged. Where once you were cool if you drank VB and could make a pro-tour surfboard trim, now to be cool you need to have a pink surfboard, under 5 feet in length handshaped off an original Bunker Spreckels template and finished with a vintage fabric cloth found at an op shop, but the fabric has to be once worn around Jimi Hendrix’s crotch. The surfboard needs to be finished with an organic bamboo resin, laced with genuine unicorn tears and once finished the board needs to be cured in the shade of a local tree planted 40, 000 years ago. It needs morning shade followed by the tint of the new moon under a Sagitarian sky. If you get any of that wrong, when you walk down the beach the real trendy types will snicker and gripe at your attempt, for they will be aware that pink was actually in last month and the Bunker Spreckels outline has already been ripped and duplicated in China.
That is the surfboard.
So, once you've got that bit right, which you wont, then you need to find the green and yellow wetsuit hand stitched by the old lady who gets her neoprene floated in from Amsterdam and has the organic golden-stained hemp cotton to stitch it with……the legs are green, the arms yellow and whatever happens do not get them mixed up. You've got the board, the wetsuit and it doesn’t matter what beer you drink, in fact there is a subset that will only accept you into their inner clique if you drink strictly imported tea. Black Siberian tea harvested off the leaves of an ancient Russian opiate that has sedative qualities. Not only do you need the right tea, but it must be drunk with no milk or sugar, out of a thermost made by the ethically responsible company that sources their tin from re-established tin mines in Cornwall. Mines that strictly employ physically handicapped people who are all under 4 feet six inches in height, and yes they pay them double the award wages to bring that tin to the surface.
So, you've got your board, your wetsuit and your tea — but there is something new on the horizon; you need to arrive at the beach in the right car and at the right time. You need to smile and nod at the right people; you are on display ready to be judged for the way you wax up. Your choice of music is obviously on the judgement radar, but surfers are just as concerned about the style of post-production turntable you have fitted to your vintage car's back seat than what era of soul jazz you are spinning. We are not talking any jazz either, your jazz must be recorded between June 1963 and April 1965 to be considered uber cool and it must be a trio with no horns, and definitely Blue Note with album artwork by Reid Miles. Didnt you know?
Is it sounding stressful yet?
Well now you've got to get in the water and the judging really begins then. If you don’t smile while on the wave, then you are out. You also need to wave your arms above your head at any moment you are doing a turn and in some instances it is considered cool to not wave your arms about at all. This depends on the moon cycle at the time of the surf, and some are suggesting arms UP on a bottom turn, but down on a cutback and others are suggesting it is to do with the falling tide. The jury is still out on exactly when it is hip to be noticed and when it is square to be unseen, but it is clear that some surfers are finding the going a bit tough as they are tea-bagging out there, talking the lingo and nodding approvingly at certain styles, but not catching any waves at all. The sheer stress of the impending judgement of their style is enough to keep most surfers waveless, returning to the sand with dry hair, their ’surf' was merely to pass judgement on the other kooks.
This is serious stuff.
The surfer returns to land and feels relief… it is nearly over. Now they just have to go to the cafe and get a feed and they can return home, plug into their i-world and dream of tomorrow. But the cafe experience is quite different to my era. We used to pack five bucks into the boardies and hit the local café/milkbar for a bacon & egg roll and a banana smoothie and sometimes pick up the local newspaper to look at the synoptic chart. Not so now. You need to choose a cafe that has a 5 star hipster rating and then download an app which tells you which sort of gluten free bread to order and how to have your quail eggs poached. You cannot possible understand what the things are on the menu, as the lingo the menu appears to be sourced from a dictionary written by a gamut of bearded trendies. Perplexed, you order what your friend ordered … ‘what he is having will be fine.' Then you wait for about 300 seconds and to your bewilderment your breakfast arrives, served in what appears to be a vintage pudding bowl accompanied by ‘hanging toast’ on a makeshift minature hills hoist clothesline, actually named a ‘breadline’. You jack it up higher if you want to spread the organic nut butter on, while hanging, and you clip the bottom side of the bread to the upright pole. Or you can just be ‘normal’ and pull the bread off the line and spread the butter in the pudding bowl, but given its round dish at the base, makes it very difficult to really spread the butter, so you try to eat it dry. You do your best to eat your post surf breakfast and you want to enjoy it, because it just cost you a days wages, but really the bread tastes a bit like your desk at work and the quail eggs are about as inviting a powdered, hormone-infused ones from Macca’s.
You return to your car, say goodbye to your surfer friends and they snicker at your salutation as if to say ’saying goodbye is so 2015’. You climb into your vintage VW station wagon through the passenger window, think how close to cool you really are, as you reach for your vintage aviator shades and channel your inner Michael Peterson death glare, complete with pouted lips, as you roll start down the hill and into the distance.
Once home you download the ebay app, advertise your surfboard and kit online and join the local golf course. They sell sandwiches there with meat & salad on white bread (with gluten) and a pint of beer costs $4. Importantly, the other humans at the golf course don't care about your look, your attire, your golf clubs or what brand of equipment you use, all they care about is how well you hit it and putt.
All grown up, you get a bottle of shiraz on the way home and look forward to staying in on a Friday night.
Backwash Issue Two is a surf anthology featuring Japan, the photography of Chris Burkard and Sergio Villalba, Hamish Laing and Woody Gooch. Kalani Lattanzi swims at Nazare, whilst Amy Kotch surfs barrels whilst pregnant and John Peck knee paddles out as he has done since 1958.Purchase