Meet Wayne Deane, 61, Australian surfing's spirit animal, father of Noa, not to be fucked with.
Coolangatta: I was born in Murwillumbah in June 1952. Even back then Coolie was a tourist destination because it was close to Brisbane. We were lucky there for a long time because we could see gotham city (Surfer's Paradise) up the other end getting bigger and bigger. I guess early on in 1967 they built a high rise at Rainbow Bay, which is still there, and I went, 'oh okay.' It wasn't until late 70s that they started to put a couple up here and there around the place and we're going,' oh shit, what's happening here?' But it didn't really take off here with high rises until the '90s really. It's pretty crazy what they do with that sort of shit here. They've got an amazing place so what do they do? They put up a 25 storey fence so you can't see anything. Luckily we haven't had much development in the actual ocean as far as marinas and stuff go.
Grommethood: I started to learn to surf in 1960 and at that point there was a lot of sand in Coolangatta, so Kirra was kind of like it is now. Obviously sand comes and goes but in the late 60s we had a couple of cyclones that moved a lot of that sand away and that pretty much changed Kirra all the way through the 70s, 80s, 90s. The angle of the bank mirrored the angle of the point and the road and the waves peeled down the bank more than closing out like it used to. We were still riding mals at that point, there were no leggies, and we'd still go out there and ride those waves and learn to barrel ride.
Kirra: As boards progressed especially during that late part of the sixties from '67 to '70 we went from nine foot boards down to five foot twin fins, so that was a pretty crazy period. You can imagine being 15 riding a nine foot mal at Kirra and three years later riding a 24-inch-wide x 5-foot x 18-inch-wide-tail twin fin, so it was pretty mad. We rode everything in between in that three year period before boards stabilised into something more sensible. Some of the days we had at Kirra back then were just ridiculous, especially once boards had kind of been developed more in the early 70s with more realistic single fins. '71 to '78 was just ridiculous how good the waves were. '71 to '76, prior to leg ropes, because not everyone would surf when it was slightly bigger so it would only be the better guys out there or the guys with a bit more ticker, you could actually surf early in the morning before all the dole bludgers got out there and catch 20 waves and get stoked and go to work and come home in the arvo and do it all again. There were quite a few guys there. People don't believe you but there could be up to 100 guys surfing Kirra when it was good because everyone would come here from over the coast but you could still get it pumping 'cos there were endless swells you know.
Shortboard revolution: I was a part of it but I wasn't one of the instigators of it because it wasn't actually my full-time job. I was a carpenter. It was a full learning curve for me. I'd make a board and you'd ride it because you made it. Sometimes you'd ride that board for a year even though it was fucking dog. You just put up with it and then go, 'oh well, I've got some more money so I'll make another one.' It was more trial and error and at that point, knowing what to make to ride Kirra, well that was a whole fucking guessing game for me.
The dream team: They came along a bit later. Rabbit (Bartholomew) started surfing in '67 but by that period because of that board development all they did was basically surf. They kind of went to school but when the surf was good they didn't go to school. Rabbit (Bartholomew), MP (Michael Peterson), PT(Peter Townend), Dave Mcdonald, Kenny Hill, oh man, when you start remembering names it becomes hard. I was older than a couple of them. MP was the same age as me, PT was a couple of years younger and Rabbit was a year or two younger. They definitely had pretty healthy egos so it was pretty hard to get along with some of them guys. But yeah, it was always pretty competitive I guess because of the quality of the waves we had here. We were very lucky to grow up in that kind of environment.
Heroin: About '71 or '72 we had heroin hit the scene here from down south and a few of the local guys I knew fucken OD'd on the shit. Peter Evans from Palm Beach he OD'd, and Noakesy from Kirra he OD'd on it. A lot of guys lost there shit on it so it was pretty heavy. It kind of screwed a lot of people up and there was a lot of wild shit going on. It's been here a long time, 40 years or something, so it's kind of always been here so you either dabbled in it or you didn't. I smoked a bit of pot here and there but I've never gone anywhere else with that drug thing. I just couldn't see the sense in it when I saw what it did to people so I didn't really go there.
Self-made: Even to this day, I'm 61 and I still get a fucking buzz out of making a board. It doesn't matter who it's for or making my own board, it's an amazing thing to buy a blank, mark it out, know the measurements and thicknesses that you need to make that board go how you want it to go. To be able to learn all that just by teaching yourself what volumes work and what widths work in certain waves is pretty amazing. I still shape all my boards by hand I don't use profiles off a machine so to get it right with rockers and stuff you just gotta remember the right rocker measurements and that sort of thing. To shape it glass it and sand it and actually go surf it it's a a pretty amazing feeling.
The apprentice: When (Noa) was really young, I'm talking six, he'd watch me do a few boards and sometimes I'd come home and he'd found an off-cut of a blank and he'd start to learn to shape it or he'd make little boards six inches long and shape them while I was doing a board and at this moment in time he's actually been hand-shaping boards with a surf-form only and a hand plane, not an electric hand plane. He's been totally shaping boards by hands with those two primitive instruments and coming up with some pretty interesting attempts. Some of them are really good, he's got a real eye for it, and he gets everything in the right places. They're a a little rough on the finish but all the aspects are there. I come home one day and he's hacked something out and I come home the next day and he's hacked something out and I go, 'fuck, wow.' So he's learned pretty quickly.
The birth of pro surfing: Well, I was never really a pro surfer in the true sense of the word. I went in a few pro events, got an invite to the Stubbies once, and I went to Bells in '76 '77 and '78 and I qualified through the trials for the main event three times. I went to Hawaii the first time on a round the world trip. I went to there to surf not to go in events. My second trip I went there with a tour that they'd organised in 1978. Greg Hodges, who was from Narrabeen, used to charter a plane and buy however many seats and tell the airline they'd put 100 people on the plane so he'd get a good price. You had all sorts of people getting on the plane, people that didn't even surf. Greg was happy he didn't give a shit. I found out about it because the fare was really cheap and a lot of guys were going so you could get together and rent a unit and do it real cheap. Gary Timperley, Mark Platter, Larry Blair, Simon Anderson, Tommy Carroll - there was a whole pile of guys on the plane that went there and obviously Simon, Tommy and Larry were pros but I was still a carpenter who just shaped a few boards who wanted to go surfing there. We did it tough but we still had a roof over our heads and food. We didn't have to sleep in someone's backyard or under the contest scaffolding like some of the others.
Post-Bustin' Down the Door: It was fucking heavy because in that early period of Rabbit and those guys going there they'd stirred up so much shit with the Hawaiians, you had to be careful. I don't know what it was but I ran into a little bit of trouble here and there. Not my own fault just because I was an Aussie and those guys had stirred everyone up so much. There were a lot of good Hawaiians but there were a lot of guys who were hot heads who didn't like the attitude of the Americans and Australians.
The birth of the industry: Gordon (Merchant, Billabong founder) was originally from Sydney and was in the board industry making boards and stuff. He's kind of credited as one of the first guys in Australia to develop a tucked under rail that made the board turn easier. He came up here, oh, late 60s, and he and his wife saw the opportunity to make a living making boardshorts out of their unit they were renting at Palm Beach. They were selling them from their house and out the back of a bar and that's kinda how that got born, yeah…(ponders a moment), it's pretty crazy shit.
Team Deane at the 1989 longboard nationals: There was an airline strike so we rented a Tarago: me, (wife) Colleen, my brother (Robye) and his girlfriend. Colleen won the Womens, Robye won the over 35s and I won the nine foot to qualify for the Worlds (titles) and I ended up getting second in the eight foot. We got pretty membered that night, I'll tell ya.
Noa: We've really enjoyed seeing him get to go a lot of places early in his life and being able to do pretty much what he likes on someone else's…(Colleen yells in the background: "someone helping him"), you know, someone helping him sort of thing, so it's pretty amazing.
- Wayne Deane (as told to Jed Smith)