Nick Carroll On: Two People Surfing Was Lucky To Have

12 Feb 2018 1 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Tom Carroll, who set up this/took it, flew to France this past week alongside other long term Quiksilver crew to lend their support. hey found a big log on the beach not far from where the boat drifted in, and built this memorial on the dune above. Photo: Tom Carroll

Tom Carroll, who set up this/took it, flew to France this past week alongside other long term Quiksilver crew to lend their support. hey found a big log on the beach not far from where the boat drifted in, and built this memorial on the dune above. Photo: Tom Carroll

Naughty boys and pretty girls!

That’s how surfing likes to see itself. It’s often how the non-surfing world is encouraged to see us in return.

A pleasing confection to be sure, though it does have its drawbacks. You don’t often see surfers being publicly admired for their intelligence or reliability, for instance.

I wonder sometimes if it also causes some of us to expect less of ourselves, in a way.

Yet two sad events of the past two weeks have been strong reminders that we harbour the best of adult humans in our midst.

Pierre Agnes and Michael Gordon were from completely different worlds. Pierre was upper-middle-class French to his core, and went on to be a leader of companies. Michael grew up in the rough and tumble world of Australian newspaper journalism, and went on to be a great of the profession. Both absorbed surfing into their bloodstreams.

Pierre grew up and learned to surf in south-west France, just as the first seeds of the Australian surf industry were beginning to take root. Like so many surfers who went on to work in the industry, he fell quite naturally into roles with different companies: first Rip Curl then Quiksilver, where he started as a team manager and pretty much went all the way.

Pierre was hard-nosed. Not everyone got on well with him. But pretty much everyone who worked with or around him respected him, because he was a man of his word, loyal to it and to all his friends and fellow workers. He reserved himself for the people who were close to him, and treated everyone else fairly.

Most of all, maybe because he came from a good family himself, he believed in the sense of family that for many years suffused Quik, as it did most of the surf companies of the time. This sense of family, of connectedness and shared belief, was a priceless cultural asset to those companies, and Pierre nurtured it all he could. Eventually he stepped in to protect it. When he took the reins of Quik in 2015, after a series of post-GFC traumas, it felt like a hospital pass; the prior office-holders had left an impossible job behind them. Yet to Pierre I suspect it would have seemed like something he had to do. Who else but a true believer had a hope of resurrecting the belief behind the brand?

As for Michael, you’d have had to be a long way off the Australian grid not to have heard about him, especially in the past week. He was the elder son of a great Australian journalist and editor, Harry Gordon, and pulled the not inconsiderable trick of following his dad without quite following him. He was the doyen of the Canberra press gallery, members of which must have written tens of thousands of words in his praise. They all mentioned the same stuff all his friends knew: his gentleness, his curiosity and decency, his great mind and lack of side—you never read a cheap shot from Michael Gordon.

Just got word that my dear friend Michael Gordon passed away this am while swimming. I met Michael when I was living in Torquay in the early to mid 70’s. Along wiht Claw, Brian and Dick Hoole we started a surfing mag we called Backdoor. Brian and Claw were editorial directors and contributors, Dick and I were cub reporters who wrote and took photos and Michael was our Editor in Chef following in his legendary father, Harry Gordon (Editor of Melbourne’s Sun) footsteps. Michael was such a good writer and would go onto becoming Victoria’s leading News Paper THE AGE executive political reporter. I always use to call him up when he’d tear strips ever so professionally and with integrity some knucklehead politician who’d obviously crossed the line on some issue. More often than not it would be pointing out how lame the issue was in a moral sense. It was also thru Michael that I met one of my dearest friends, John “Gordo” Gordon, Michael’s younger brother. But that’s another story altogether. To the entire Gordon Ohana, love and aloha always from kelly indi coop and jack just because you can’t see us doesn’t mean we are not there with you.

A post shared by Jack McCoy (@jackmccoyaloha) on

What amazed me was none of ’em mentioned his surfing. Michael used to find every excuse he could to come down to Bells during Easter, and no doubt at heaps of other times. He learned some early trade tricks editing Jack McCoy’s 1970s mag Backdoor, and took chunks of his life out to write terrific books on the Bells event and on Layne Beachley. When his job dragged him away, he’d keep tabs on friends via his little brother John “Gordo the Great” Gordon, one of Australia’s best surf cameramen.

These were very different people, yet with one thing in common: substance. Which they both somehow bore quite lightly. Perhaps surfing had something to do with that.

Pierre disappeared at sea after heading out for a customary morning fishing trip off Capbreton. Michael suffered a heart attack in a community swim race off Phillip Island. I’m not sure if they ever met, but I’m sure if they had, they’d have seen the good in each other.

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