Big Sky Wire: Dale Egan

31 Jan 2013 1

 A Day Late, A Dollar Short

 Big Sky Wire is a regular Coastalwatch column produced by Michele Lockwood & Andrew Kidman. This week, Michele Lockwood visits Dale Egan.

Dale with a quiver airbrushed and shaped by his brother, Shane Egan, with the exception of the eagle spray which was shaped by MP.

Dale with a quiver airbrushed and shaped by his brother, Shane Egan, with the exception of the eagle spray which was shaped by MP.


There are many layers to the man Dale Egan, the longer I know him the more onion-like he becomes. The depth to each of these layers is what is so fascinating, what we covered in the 50-minute interview that follows, are just the cheat notes to a very heady almanac of this man’s life. It is more like multiple lives all in the one, and he has had the foresight to record and archive it all as it has happened. Meeting Dale at the turn of this century gave great promise for things to come.

Each day, after surfing the Basin, we would visit him at his house in Mona Vale, really it was less house and more like a labyrinth of council clean up finds piled in high twisting rows of things that time forgot. I was like a pig in shit in Dale’s place, digging through an archaeological find, uncovering the past in the form of beautiful objects, fabrics, books, paintings, d-fins, single fins, thrusters, mad memorabilia, beach umbrellas, posters, toys, furniture, pottery and the list goes on and on.

These days Dale and a crew of “odd”, as he calls them, friends have teamed up to produce a documentary about his life called, “Day Late and A Dollar Short.” This must be the great promise that I felt all those years ago, to finally have it all laid out, the story of Dale Egan. If there was ever a movie that needed to be made, this is it.

The beginning…

I grew up surfing here in the 60s, just out the back of Warriewood. We used to paddle down the creeks and out into Narrabeen Lake and out to Northy and then to surf in the river mouth out the front of North Narrabeen. And then that led to joining North Narrabeen board riders club when it was renowned for being in its prime – just before, during and after the shortboard revolution. This was when North Narrabeen was the hotbed of contemporary surfing in Australia and had amazing surfers, guys like, Col Smith, Dapper, Mark Warren and Simon so it was like the epicentre of surfing at the time 1969, 70 and 71…


Travelling in the Back of Col Smith’s van…

That’s where I grew up surfing. And also Warriewood, which is just up over the hill, I had heaps of friends there, mostly hanging out with the Warriewood crew. I was in thick with the Warriewood crew all through the 70’s but I never went to school. I was competing, I was kinda like the Narrabeen mascot and I’d be in the back of Col Smith’s van and we’d be travelling up and down the coast and then we went down to Bells to the first Bells pro contest which was in 1972 or ‘73 then across the Nullabor which was just 600 miles of dirt road back then to Western Australia for the Australian titles. I was 14 and I missed so much school that I just kind of hid out on the hopes of repeating the next year but then the same thing happened again.

Early Super 8 films…

My brother Shane moved to the Gold Coast and I moved up with him about a year later and we had this kind of farmhouse up on the hill behind Snapper. Rabbit used to leave his board there and stay there most of the week. And I was really good friends with Guy Ormerod, we just had to walk over the hill to surf. And because I was hanging out with them and I just started filming, I’d shoot a little Super 8 and photos. I filmed the Bells contest and I filmed Rabbit and MP, Guy, Keith Paul, Drouyn and all the crew. And my brother filmed as well. We made a couple of little Super 8 films – we spliced them all together with soundtracks. We filmed locals as well as the best surfers, so that way for example we could have a movie night at the clubhouse at Warriewood. And get the great big screen out to project the films, the place would be full of a hundred local crew and I’d charge 50 cents admission and we’d have some beers and laugh and have a good night.

Dale holding a board shaped by his brother Shane for the Musica Surfica experiments on King Island in 2007.

Dale holding a board shaped by his brother Shane for the Musica Surfica experiments on King Island in 2007.


The Na Fin Experiment…

I’ve carried this on the whole way, not just in the 70s and I’ve been taking photos ever since and not just of surfing but of everything: the shop I had, hunting for furniture, the council cleanup, moving over to England and hanging with Johnny Rotten and the punks. I’ve had lots of magazine articles and photos taken, I always thought it would make an interesting story one day, to put all this stuff together. And plus with the friction free thing and doing all the experiments back then and seeing that now people are starting to do it all over the place, and feeling a little left out of the picture because I did that experiment back then and I actually gave Derek a go on the boards back then as well. I used channel bottom boards with no fins and also the cut down ones, to me the finless or the cut down fins were all part of the same experiment, I didn’t distinguish them. It was all what I called the “Na Fin Experiment.” I started that in 1992, I did little bits before that but that is when I took it on and continued for about a seven-year stint.

I think it is amazing to see what Derek is doing on the boards and where he has taken it. The only bad blood is that people come up to me and see what I am doing and say, “Oh you’ve been copying Derek.” That is starting to get a bit grating. And you see people like Daniel Thompson getting all these accolades for his board and Al Merrick is making them and Tom Wegener and Sage Joske and God knows how many Americans are doing it.


The art of Glenage and life as an interior design icon…

It’s a term that dates back to the 14th Century in France when these land barons would have harvest time and they’d get the peasants to come to work on the harvesting and when it was done, there’d be heaps of stuff left over and the land barons would let them have it all and they would go and do there own markets to sell the stuff and it was called, glenage.

The shop I had was called Lunar Tec Interiors; I had that shop for 10 years. Most of the stuff there was stuff I’d found. Sometimes people would bring stuff in to sell to me. That snowballed into other shops opening all over the place and a whole movement of furniture design was happening worldwide. I’d been on a cover of this magazine called, “Interior Design and Architecture” and in 1990, when I went to New York, I went into a big retro furniture store there and was talking to the owner and he instantly recognized my Australian accent and asked if I’d seen this magazine. When he brought it out, it was the very magazine. And I actually found a copy of it on the last council clean-up…I opened up this suitcase and it was full “Interior Design and Architecture” magazines and sitting on the top happened to be the one I was on the cover of. So I found myself on the council clean-up! It was bizarre.

The shed of Dale Egan.

The shed of Dale Egan.


“A Day Late and A Dollar Short”- The Dale Egan Story...

A friend of mine who lives right at the Mona Vale basin, he’s a professional photographer, called Ben Cregan. He had a nasty accident in Puerto Escondido where he broke his neck and nearly drowned and was in hospital unable to move here for nearly a year. While he was recuperating I’d go see him and see how he was going and as he was recovering and getting a bit of movement he wanted to start taking photos again. He’d been to my place lots of times and he interviewed me for other magazine articles before and I was showing him the old footage I had and old photos and he just thought while he was getting better and to help keep his mind off what was happening, that we should start this film project. I always had it in mind, since I was a kid that is why I hung onto everything, I’ve got all these great photos and footage, magazine articles, TV interviews. I just thought I’ll put it to Ben and see what he says. That is kinda how this documentary came together.

I wanted to get people involved who aren’t professionals. Everyone who is involved is a bit odd, but everyone’s got heaps of talent. There is nothing mainstream about it; there is no budget. But we all have dreams of going to the New York Film Festival one day. There have been lots of obstacles; just getting someone to film me surfing has been really hard. We’ve been on a few trips chasing surf and just got skunked. I tried to get anyone and everyone to film me, anyone I could think of, just to get it down but it’s been really hard. Altogether we are about ¾ of the way done, although it needs a lot of editing and all the sections need to be put together, there some good nuggets in there for sure.


Check out the author's blog here.

To follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog here.

...and for more from Big Sky Wire click your link: Coastalwatch |Coastalwatch Plus

Tags: big sky wire , dale egan , michele lockwood , mona vale , warriewood (create Alert from these tags)

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