High Road - Australia's East Coast
By Luke Kennedy | 04 August 2009
Page 1 of 25 GROMS, 1 FARM, 900 KMS, 3 TOWNS AND 1 BIG SHARK.
MATTY WILKINSON AVOIDING SHARKS SOMEWHERE ON THE MID NORTH COAST.
Most groms probably fantasize about being well-paid, heavily promoted junior surfers; wouldn’t it be cool to have enough talent to quit school and surf for your supper, knowing the move comes complete with a fly-anywhere travel incentive, all the product you want, the adoration of your surfing peers and the additional attention from the opposite sex? But these guys don’t have the regular rights of passage to follow. There’s no apprenticeship to finish or degree to graduate from. It’s only surfing that supplies the benchmarks and boundaries. Navigating your way through all that and achieving a few objective goals can be tricky.
Seeking a more creative route by which to arrive at the Quiksilver Pro, where the established top 45 waited, we decided to do a road trip up the east coast and profile a few of the young surfers from the facebook generation. Garrett Parkes, Matt Wilkinson, and Perth Standlick have all committed themselves to making it as pro surfers. Right now there are no fallback alternatives, or each-way bets on life. That’s a big call when you are on the tail end of your teenage years. Ironically we were also joined on the trip by Damian Wills. Dom, as he is better known, is ten years the senior of Matt, the eldest of the other three. Despite never having made a big impact professionally Dom has enjoyed a Peter Pan surfing existence and created an interesting parallel with the other three who are all aiming to have one of the numbers between 1 and 45 against their name one day. As we drove north under the spell of the east coast, the trip evolved into an opportunity to gain a revealing insight into the modern pro grommet. And it was also a chance to indulge in the kind of random times that only occur when you are on a road trip.
GARRET AND PERTH DOING THEIR BEST TO KEEP ALL TEN DIGITS INTACT.
A FEW YEARS AGO A FRIEND OF MINE MADE A DECISION TO escape the rat race for a while. It wasn’t so much a sea change as a scrub change. The house he bought with a business partner a few miles inland from the beaches around seal rocks was buried behind bush at the end of a road less travelled. It needed some work but Roy was one of those guys with a knack for turning his hand to just about anything. He knew the place could become the classic big-deck country homestead if it was given just a little of the TLC it was crying out for. Six months of Aussie ingenuity, a token tee-pee and a few farm animals later and the farm had been transformed into the kind of picturesque semi-removed rural setting [with the coast in close proximity] that so many of us fantasize about escaping to. To keep the dream alive he started to rent it out whenever there was a demand for it. Meanwhile he’d stay in a humbler setting down by the river, leading a kind of Huckleberry Finn existence – fishing, surfing, and signing up for piecemeal work.
Roy, who is also known as Marty, has since moved back to the city to open a restaurant/bar, which he simply called Roy’s. Instead of rising and falling with the sun he now spends his nights charming the patrons at his tapas venue. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t enjoy the life up the coast it was just time to apply that inclination for anything to a new challenge. But he didn’t let go of the house. It’s still there if he ever wants to step out of the grid again or just feels like some time away. When I knew we were doing this trip I initially thought we would get a place near the beach to keep the energiser bunny grommets happy. But there was nothing available so we ended up at Roy’s. Driving in through tyre-deep water, from the previous week’s rain, in the pitch black I wasn’t sure if we’d made the right call and I could sense the grommets were a little edgy. But the minute you pull up at the semi-rustic house, walk barefoot on to the big deck, inhale a breath of clean air and catch a glimpse of a star that has fallen from a full-cream milky way, it all seems worth it.