Surfbeat: Surfing Roadies

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Surfbeat: Surfing Roadies

The ‘road trip’ has been an important part of surf culture dating back almost 100 years. In the twenties and thirties, a trip from Melbourne to Torquay or Lorne was considered a decent road trip. In the sixties, seventies and eighties surfers started to regularly travel up and down the East coast of Australia in search of waves and mischief.

Newcastle surfer Chris Tola has just co-written a book about the great surf road trip with buddies John Waring, Brian Birkefield and Peter Strain. Chris started surfing in Terrigal on the Central Coast of New Couth Wales; “My parent’s started the town’s first restaurant straight across the road from the beach, which was really hard to take. I started surfing on surf o’ planes and the old KFC foamies, then the Boys next door found an old 11 footer under the house which changed everything! The three of us would carry it down to Terrigal (which is usually tiny!) and the three of us would ride it all at the same time. That was 50 odd years ago, and I’m still learning!

“My favourite surf spots when I was growing up it were definitely Terrigal Point and MacMasters, two awesome right handers. Moving to Newcastle in the ’80s and living above Newcastle Baths, I’ve fallen in love with a little rocky inlet called the Cowrie Hole. Super consistent and a fun little wave. Outside of these it would have to be Jeffreys Bay, where I was lucky enough to visit and live while being a Manager for two University Surfing Teams back in the ’90s. A long fast changing wave, and a really interesting town when we were there. I remember in 1990 you could enter the Billabong Pro for like AUS$25 and surf it with three other guys… too funny! Still have the beanie and the t-shirt too!”

Chris fell into writing back in 2007: “I must admit I am not much of a writer, however, when I was involved in Surfrider Foundation Australia (a bit like you Fossy!) I was asked to help out with The Atlas Of World Surfing. This really sparked my interest in the whole book publishing process. Since then I’ve helped out and contributed to a number of surfing publications and also got into proof reading for others as well. A couple of years ago I helped a fella called Colin Fitzgerald with his book about his life and how he took body surfing from South Africa to Europe. Through this we’ve become good mates and I was dumbfounded to learn that Colin was Nelson Mandela’s personal carpenter for many years … classic!

“A good mate of mine and co-publisher, John Waring, hit me with the idea of capturing the stories around the old school Surfing Roadie. I jumped in straight away, as it’s such a historically significant aspect of surf culture, a feature which is rapidly dying out with the ease of transport and the use of technologies. We put a call out to the Surfing Community and did some legwork putting up posters, handing out flyers and getting in contact with our networks. We amassed over 60 stories, predominantly from East Coast Australia, but some from overseas as well.

“We got the book together and I sent it to a surfing friend of mine in Sydney, whom I guess you could call an “Angel Investor.” He liked the idea and the story and sent it to a surfer Publisher mate of his, who eventually agreed that it was a good lark and that it should be published. It took a great deal of time to get it over the line, and we’ve been stoked with the book’s success.
 If anyone has a road trip story from back in the day, send them through to: [email protected].”

Surfing Roadies is now available online and at Dymocks Book Stores and will soon be available at Big W and K Mart. 20% of proceeds are going to SurfAid International and National Surfing Reserves.

By John Foss

Image sourced via Surfing Road Trip Stories socials