Wayne Lynch on the coastline that shaped him and the decision to leave.
Few surfers are as synonymous with a coastline as Wayne Lynch is with southern Victoria’s. Now relocated to warmer climes in northern NSW Wayne reflects that he’ll never know a surf coast as well again but also that staying on would have been “like walking around in the bones of a past life.”
You’ve spent sixty years exploring the coastline around Lorne and further west. You must know it like the back of your hand.
I’m fourth generation. I was on fishing boats and in the ocean from the age of four. The weather patterns, the way weather moves - it’s just ingrained in you, it’s almost genetic. You can smell when the highs are coming in, you can smell the earth. The earth gets really strong. Things like that - just basic inherent stuff. You know it won’t be long - another day or two - and it’ll go northerly. So you get your work done. You live around big weather systems. I’ll never know a coastline like I knew that coastline. You just can’t live that long. There are patches of ocean – out where the crayfish are – I used to sail past and think about my uncles and fishing and all the exploration and discovery I was so fortunate to have done. You’re not going to find that anymore. Somewhere is probably still like that but I don’t know where.
What was it like surfing down there as a young man?
There was a small group of surfers– maybe half a dozen at Apollo Bay and half a dozen at Lorne. That’s all there was. Some waves I found by myself; some places a friend would find and we’d trade. Lorne and Apollo Bay were really connected then. Torquay was taboo - it was another world. You never told them anything [laughing] they were the enemy. That’s how it worked. The Otway Ranges and that whole peninsula were a place unto themselves. Quite a different psychology to the people. Fishermen and farmers have lived there – right back from day one. You’ve got these beautiful little places and they were kind of secrets. You only told people you really liked – it was an act of trust and friendship to tell someone or to take them to these incredible places. And that happened not just with surfing but with the whole psychology of that place. It was about looking after it. No one wanted to see it overrun or blown apart. They just wanted it to stay intact. Even when it got a bit more known it still retained that. The people that came in were like-minded. But then slowly that changed and they started grabbing for whatever they could get and started harassing the locals. From my generation everyone has either left and gone to places like WA or SA or over to the pacific islands or they’ve melted away into a different life. They’re very retiring quiet people they just can’t handle what goes on there now so they’ve just moved away. All the originals are gone. I was one of the first and one of the last.
Can you tell us a bit about your family home outside Lorne?
That was my mum and dad’s property. It was 15 acres surrounded by national heritage. We never had a neighbor. There was something like 3000 acres of bush around us – fantastic place. You can see the ocean and hear it. There was a surf break close by, walking distance – not a great one but a surf break. Dad spent two years building his house then Ash Wednesday burnt everything to the ground, including my workshop and our place. Lindy and I have lived there since 1980. We were in a caravan at that point. After the fire dad rebuilt and I helped him redo the workshop then we slowly built our house. Originally it was a little mobile home that government had given us after the fire. It seemed like luxury after living in a caravan with an outside toilet. We sawed out a wall, added a room, slowly expanded.
Must have been a tough decision to sell up and move north?
I regret selling but I had to. We had a bit of debt and I was just never going to be able to pay it back. Y’know things happen in life that aren’t meant to. We figured if we’re going to lose that place – with all its history and its unique location – we’re going to go somewhere warmer. That was basically it. Didn’t think too much about it to be honest. I mean I was caring for mum and dad and mum died and then I was looking after dad for five years with Parkinsons. He was happy to go to an aged care in Ballina and I helped look after him up there. It’s been a hard shift but we’re in a beautiful location. Its magic in the mountains with waterfalls all around and big escarpments and you can see the ocean. It’s a strange thing. In the end I just felt I didn’t want to stay – it felt like I walking around in the bones of a past life. It felt like it was time to go. I’ll always go back and visit but right now it’s time to take on somewhere new.
Footnote: Read about Wayne Lynch’s first return to Bali in 43 years in the latest Tracks, Issue 552 on stands now.