My Favourite Memories As A Kid: Surf Trips With My Dad
COASTALWATCH | SURFING WORLD CAMP 2017, THE FARM
Dad had a cassette tape that started with Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild.’ When he took us on surf trips, that tape was the first thing packed. “Get the tape ready!” he’d carouse to whoever was in the front seat and we’d push it in at the exact moment he turned the car out from the driveway and pointed its nose up the coast. “Get ya motor running… head out on the highway…” Even in our childlike ignorance, we knew it was cheesy as hell. But we forgave him that, because it was part of the tradition and sometimes, traditions are allowed to be cheesy.
It was Christmas Day when I got my first board and I shouted my thanks up the chimney to Santa, that’s how young I was. I can still remember how it felt tripping alongside Dad towards the water, board under his arm, feeling that mix of nerves and excitement as I realised I was going out there, today. Dad clamped his arm around me and paddled us both out, explaining how to use the rip, how to line up the point, which wave to choose. We’d surf until my fingers were wrinkled and teeth chattering. We’d come home and dig sea urchin spikes out from our soft under soles, reliving the waves, the feeling, me non-stop talking and Mum making dinner and laughing.
They broke up, eventually. And Dad would get me and the brothers on a Saturday morning and we’d go surfing because what else was he going to do with us? The beach wore us out, we couldn’t talk and ask too many questions, we had something shared to discuss when the sun eventually died and we slept, deeply, exhausted.
He’d always make a fire because it’s not camping without a fire and besides, he couldn’t really cook. While we surfed, he’d talk to the local fishermen on the sand and eventually score a bream, or prawns, or whiting. He’d wrap them in alfoil, along with potatoes, and hide them in coals until we were too hungry to wait any longer and then he’d dig them out and we’d eat them right off the foil, tasting smokey and slightly tinny - simple and delicious.
We went on those surf trips every second weekend, or thereabouts. He had a tiny car and it seemed to fit all our boards and a crappy one man tent he slept in, while we crashed in the car, strewn around seats reclined back as far as they would go, wet towels flapping at the windows. We had striped sleeping bags, a different colour for each, and we’d lie there and talk about the waves we were going to get the next day. The sun was already belting down by 6am so getting up for the early was easy. We’d paddle out, the cold water making us catch our breath. By now, Dad rarely joined us, watching from the beach and offering his critique afterwards. It wasn’t until years later that I realised Dad was a rubbish surfer himself. But by then, that didn’t really matter. He had already gifted it to me, along with a healthy respect for the ocean and how it pulled, transformed, energised.
There was one time, at Seal Rocks, where I duckdived under a wave, got caught up and as I was being tossed, dumped, scrambling for air, I popped up and saw a shark right next to me. Nothing gathers your wits faster. Dad had seen it all from the shore. On the way home, we spun out on a slippery road and hit a tree. He bought a lottery ticket that afternoon. We didn’t win.
Another time I paddled through an enormous bluebottle, its vicious violet tentacles wrapping around and sticking to my knuckles. Dad bundled me in a towel, sat me up on the counter of the local fish and chip shop, soaked my hand in vinegar and munched on two bucks worth of hot chips while he waited for the sting to settle.
After every morning surf, Dad would stop by the local bakery and buy a couple of loaves of hot, white bread. His big hands would tear them in two and he’d present us each with half a loaf. We’d sit scooping out its insides, filling up our hungry bellies. Washing it down with chocolate milk, sometimes nicked from outside the local milkbar, the early morning delivery that the shopkeeper hadn’t yet claimed. You’d probably go to jail for feeding that to your kids for breakfast these days but it tasted good.
Then we’d drive and we’d dissect every wave. Until the car would fall silent and my brothers would drift to sleep and I’d hang my salty arm out the window and listen to Dad’s mix tapes and dream about the next stop.
He was a crappy surfer but he didn’t care. He’d grown up with the salt in his lungs and had always found his peace in the ocean. There, he’d made friends, he’d kept busy when his head was too noisy. He’d travelled the world and surfed at every place he could. He trusted the ocean and its unpredictability. He was grateful for it and he wanted his children to feel the same way. We did. There was nothing like those surf trips with Dad.
This story was written by Lulu Wilkinson
*Has this got you hanging out for a weekend away? On the edge of your seat wishing you were surfing an empty lineup with your best mates, followed by beers around a camp fire and the best vibes possible? Surfing World Camp has got you sorted. September 29 - Oct 2nd - a weekend of pure stoke. Check out all the details at HERE!
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