Some of my earliest surfing memories are of dad disappearing down the driveway with a Sky twinnie gripped firmly under his arm.

Some of my earliest surfing memories are of dad disappearing down the driveway with a Sky twinnie gripped firmly under his arm. Our cheaply rented Mermaid beach house was a hundred metres back from a long expanse of beach, which stretched as far as young eyes could see; the perfect playground for both him and me for different reasons. It was the early 80’s, a time when wax was still heavily scented, boards were brightly sprayed and the best surfers were starting to gain rock star status.

I’d often chase dad down the street on my red bike and pepper him with a thousand questions about the waves. The most commonly asked one was, “When are you going to take me out?” Surfing seemed to contain so much mystery and I wanted in but at the age of six I wasn’t quite ready. And even in my father’s chuckled responses to my demands I sensed that surfing was something he truly valued and wanted to protect. He made it feel like a higher order pursuit–something worth spending your life trying to master. He didn’t want me thinking about it as being like some toy I could pick up and do away with by next Christmas. Becoming a surfer it seemed was a major life choice.

At home certain waves were always spoken about in reverential tones. Kirra was one of them. Sometimes we’d drive south to Coolangatta so he could surf it. On the way dad would recount vividly the times he’d surfed it with only a few guys in the late 60’s. In the car his anticipation for what would be there when we came around that famous bend was palpable. If it wasn’t on and we ended up somewhere like D’bah I could sense his bitter disappointment. It must have been something pretty great if dad was so shattered when it wasn’t happening. All the time that was the message I was getting; that surfing was something wondrous you didn’t want to miss out on.

Eventually he took me out on the twinnie. I can remember the firm carpenter’s arm holding the tail of the board through heavy white water and then thrusting me in to that first wave. I remembered feeling like I’d just been handed a whole new world. Somewhere in that first session, I clambered to my feet for a few seconds and by Christmas I had my own board.

When the family moved to Sydney my surfing life entered in to that obsessive super-grom phase where it’s not uncommon to spend six hours a day in the water. Meanwhile Dad’s water time was suffering at the expense of work and knees that were wearing thin from a lifetime spent up and down ladders. Still there were a few moments of shared time that stood out. One day when I was around twelve we drove across the bridge from the southside to go and surf Narrabeen. I was very much under surfing’s spell by then and while it wasn’t Kirra, Narrabeen felt like another one of those special places. The local crew surfed incredibly well and there would always be one or two professional surfers in the water. This always gave the experience an edge and sense of excitement. As the pros and Narrabeen locals tore apart the lineup I scrambled for whatever I could get. One wave however stood out. I took off late, revelling in the extra power that Narrabeen waves seem to have. Then just as I was about to attempt some turn my grommet brain had imagined a million times, a short stocky figure on a thick yellow board swooped down the wave with surprising grace and purpose. It was Dad. He’d burnt me heavily and was laughing to himself as he sped out on the face and started to angle his cutback towards me. I had to react quickly to avoid the gnashing of rails. By the time I came out of my turn I’d gotten over the disappointment of the drop in. I was just stoked to see Dad tearing – happy that I could still be humbled by the old man. When we pulled off the wave we both had big smiles. Without saying anything there was a genuine awareness of the fact that surfing was something that spanned two generations between us. It was a passing of the torch moment. While Dad’s own surfing career was entering its twilight he would be able to take solace in the fact that his love for riding waves would live on in his fortunate son.

By Luke Kennedy