Mike Baird On First Boards, The Aus Open, and Advice For Surfers Entering Politics

10 Feb 2015 25 Share

Mike Baird lines one up in his heat against eventual winner Adriano De Souza at last year's Australian Open of Surfing. Gee wiz, a surfer as Premier. Who'd a thunk it? Photo: Watson

Mike Baird lines one up in his heat against eventual winner Adriano De Souza at last year's Australian Open of Surfing. Gee wiz, a surfer as Premier. Who'd a thunk it? Photo: Watson

From Surfing World Issue 359, On Sale Now

NSW Premier/Surfer – What I know about...
As told to Doug Lees 

First board and beach – My first board was a 6’0” Bennett twin fin. I saw it on the wall of Mark Warren’s surf shop in Narrabeen and dreamed about it every day for a couple of weeks until finally convincing my folks to shout out the difference on the money I had, and I got it. I was actually living at Pennant Hills at the time, so my mates and I used to get on the train from Hornsby and down to Chatswood and get a bus from Chatswood down to Dee Why. We pretty much did that for a year on most weekends and learned to surf out at Dee Why Point. No one had bothered to tell us that if you’re learning to surf, Dee Why Point is probably not the best place to start. I remember 12 months of getting wiped out pretty regularly, but eventually we started to get it. If you can handle Dee Why Point you can handle most spots.

Taking on a challenge – Four or five years ago at the Joey there was a massive, massive swell running, and I remember looking at my mates and saying, “Surely we’re not going out in that?” Of course they said, “Yes we are,” and suddenly I found myself in the water wishing I had heeded my natural instinct to stay on the shore. But those days are exhilarating. There’s nothing quite like pushing yourself beyond your comfort factor, getting out there and giving it a shot. It’s a day that I’ll never forget. It was definitely solid ten foot. I’d like to say it was much bigger, it felt bigger but I couldn’t say for sure I’ve ever been in that next realm. I got a few waves but I certainly won’t be winning the Eddie any time soon.

Line-up etiquette – Hassling, for me, is not a part of the surfing experience. I actually enjoy watching people surf anyway. There are so many more concerns I have than getting the best wave. I’m happy with whatever waves I’m lucky enough to be in position for.

Being the first surfing Premier – I’m not aware of another NSW State Premier who has surfed. Barry O’Farrell didn’t, Kristina Keneally didn’t, Maurice Iemma wasn’t a surfer and Bob Carr definitely doesn’t surf either. Having a surfer as Premier really is a good indication of just how cross-cultural surfing has become. It’s not counter culture like it once was.

Environmental policy – The great thing about surfing is that it’s not just the thrill and the adrenalin of the ride, it’s also about appreciation for our great coastline and our water and we’re certainly working on a range of initiatives to protect our environment. There are a lot of incentives to protect critical parts of the environment, to ensure our parks are protected for future generations. There needs to be more focus on the coastline and our oceans, and I hope that’s something that distinguishes us in terms of our policies going forward.

Defeat – You often learn most from your defeats. I look back on some of the defeats that I’ve had and I realised that I wasn’t quite ready for success, I realised I could have done things better, in a smarter way. If you can ask yourself  “Well what should I have done differently?” and you can be honest in your overview, you’ve got a shot at success the next time around.

Criticism – You have to get very used to it in this job. Both the positives and negatives are not necessarily personal, they are attributed to broad policy positions you’re taking. The trick is not to take criticism personally but to continue at all times to listen. The moment a politician stops listening is the moment they’re no good to anyone. There have been moments that are cut throat, and people challenge your integrity and competence. I’ve found some of the comments incredibly hurtful from people who don’t know you in any way. Ultimately your job is to govern for the majority, and if you govern for the majority then you’re doing your job. That’s why you’re here and any leader that can’t accept the criticisms, well they aren’t going to last long.

The Australian Open of Surfing – I remember growing up and watching the Coke Classic down at Manly and how amazing it was watching the superstars in our own backyard. It struck me that Manly needed a world-class event. Megan Clancy and I made a pitch to Destination NSW and we pushed extremely hard to get it over the line. As it turned out Manly council was first class and were happy to do everything to help us secure it along with Hurley who have been there since day one. The first year I was down there, there was this great sense of wonder. We’d pulled off something really important.

Favourite Surfers – I have a lot of admiration for Ace Buchan. He’s a down to earth, humble guy who charges Teahupoo! That package is pretty powerful. I love seeing a genuine guy succeeding. All surfers dream to win Chopes or Pipeline. He surfed out of his skin to win that event. It was a great moment.

Advice for surfers thinking of entering politics – That’s pretty easy. Get as many waves as you can before you get into politics, because you won’t get many waves once you get in.

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