Blog: Life Gets In The Way
Big Sky Wire
By Michele Lockwood
Photos by Andrew Kidman
Windows sometimes open allowing experiences to slip in, people to take over and crush the monotony of your world. Often it happens quick and looking back, it makes no sense, but you are not asking for sense, you are welcoming the nonsense, craving the chaos, needing the spontaneous. The chemical mix of bonding with old friends and new, a couple of kids, a little swell and sun equate to more than just good times; for me, it is exultancy to the highest by way of destroying the daily grind. Personally, I am always looking for a way out, an open window to jump through and an excuse to crumple up the junk of life and light a fire to it. When these guys arrived they were the kindling, kero and spark….
On the beach, it was Ellis Ericson I saw first, he picked the boys up from the Gold Coast airport the day before and took them for a scenic drive around the points up there. He said, “Kirra was firing, it was the best I’ve seen it since Morning of the Earth! But I didn’t have a board!” This wasn’t the first time that Ellis was acting guardian, chaperone and tour guide for the group. He was randomly called to pick Barry and Josh up from the Sydney airport last year when they came to town. He had never met them prior to that day and the only message was to find some old beater D-fins for them; he knowingly scored the dogs from Barry Bennett’s factory in Harbord. And an eternal mateship has been bonded since.
As Ellis and I made the long walk from Clark’s to the point I spotted Josh. He is an easy creature to notice at the best of times but even more so when fitted in neoprene. Josh is as skinny as he is tall, a 6’3” vegan giant. It had been a year since we last convened; he grabbed me for a hug, our boards awkwardly clinking and suncream sticky smearing. Alongside Josh stood a smiling but unfamiliar face; their travel buddy from San Francisco, Leo. Leo is a generalist, someone who knows a bit about everything, including but not limited to: surfing, cooking, beer and music. He and my hubby Andrew were inseparable for the rest of the trip.
Out at the point, I caught sight of a familiar hunched silhouette slicing across the ocean’s surface making very little, if any movement outside of his signature nose wipe. It was Barry. A decade had passed since our last connection; I considered this gap in time as the current swept me down the line into position with the other bobbing Cheerios. I was pregnant last we met; my daughter is now nearly ten. “Life gets in the way,” was my only resolve.
These days Barry Mc Gee is a highly respected artist who gets invited to speak on a variety of art-related subjects. His mid-career retrospective is touring in museums and art institutions all over the US. When his family choose not to travel with him, Barry invites his surf-crazy friends instead. Leo was the alternate for this trip and as for Josh, he and Barry are long time accomplices, partners in crime, so to speak; they are an inseparable pair of yin and yang.
Barry has always had a fetish for crap or “wayward” as he calls them, boards; but when I find out that he and Josh actually brought the boards they are riding with them on the plane, to surf here in Australia, I conceded that they really are nuts. These boards are the antithesis to every other craft in the water today; perhaps that is part of their allure. They are completely obsolete – heavy, waterlogged, flat, thick and so, so long. The D-fin on the bottom, well, it could be short for dud, defunct, dead; don’t get me started.
In their defence, these old pigs do work a treat in tiny point break waves where the board’s inertia will push through sections that don’t even exist. But they are beyond lo-performance they are literally no-performance surfboards, when you pick a line you gotta stick with it.
After completely exhausting ourselves in the sou-east paddle battle torrent we head over to their unit but inevitably get caught up in the underground carpark, feeling up rails, concaves, widths and generally catching up. My kids discover the motorised iron gate and quickly make a game of staying-on-as-long-as-you-can-before-your-foot-gets-chopped-off by-the-wheel. Never a stranger to mischief, Josh shows them how the sensor works- the gate now stopping and going as they will; entertaining them for a cool 30 minutes.
The swell is still up the next day so we meet for a surf out at Tallows. “No cords!” was declared; these guys are purists even if it means possibly beheading someone in the shorebreak. The brown sucking barrels were no place for me or the D-fins so I hang back and body whomp with the kids. Still licking his wounds from getting run over at The Pass, Josh hangs on the top of the dunes and watches pensively. But legend has it that when Barry, riding my 6’11” Frye fish, finally made it out the back, Andrew and Ellis cheered only for him to immediately turn around and get obliterated by the next set. He came in looking completely dishevelled but satisfied. Dooma Hardman was out there too, ripping on a modern thruster and Taylor Steele stole the wedge of the day on an Ellis Ericson single fin (with cord) off Ellis Ericson and he ate shit. Back on the beach, Barry joined the kids in body surfing the sand dunes. My little guy Guthrie, jumping on his back and Barry becomes a human sand board. I think they all pooed sand for days after that.
That arvo the boys came out to our place in the hills for a pizza. Aware of the Shire’s stronghold, it’s nice when friends make the effort to visit. But being an ex-pat living away from home for so long, it’s especially heart-warming to have my kids and my old friends all hanging out in the same space. I really felt blessed.
As the night goes on, the men saunter down to Andrew’s shed. The place smells of petrol mixed with resin and mouse shit. If weird surfboards, musical instruments, and general chaos pique your interest, then atmospherically, this is the place for you. They each emerge with an “Andrew Care Package” which includes a copy of one of his books and Litmus on VHS, talk about obsolete.
Next day, Wategoes was the icing on the cake, although it was small there was no wind and only our gang was out enjoying the peaks that were popping up everywhere. A storm was encroaching making its way out towards the ranges, turning the water silver as it went. As I sat on my board I could feel time slipping by. This was a memory in the making. And as much as I tried to be in the moment, I was distracted by the knowledge that it would all be over too soon, so I slipped some in a bottle as a future doldrums anti-venom.
Big Sky is the property on which Andrew Kidman and Michele Lockwood live with their two children in Northern New South Wales. Once a week they speak to writers, photographers, surfers, artists and musicians for Coastalwatch's Big Sky Wire. To follow Andrew Kidman's film celebrating 40 years of Morning of The Earth, head to the Spirit of Akasha blog and to check out Michele Lockwood's blog click through here.
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