The AUSTRALIAN SURFRIDER by Richard Harvey

CHAPTER I

He had to admit it, this was about the last place he expected to be. Jack “Nugget” Mitchell crouched on a large black granite boulder, his surfboard laying across his knees, his arms resting across the deck of his surfboard. He was perched twenty metres above the water line on a protruding rock and it gave him an uninterrupted view. The sky was now crystal blue as compared to the turbulent cyclonic grey of the last few days. A narrow line of white cumulus clouds bubbled on the horizon, the remnants of Cyclone Daisy that was now heading south east. He could see from Coolangatta in the south to the blue hues of South Stradbroke Island on the horizon in the north. All the patterns in the ocean and the waves that ran around the point of Burleigh Heads were in front of him. In the distance behind the white sandy beaches of the Gold Coast, protruded the tall high-rise buildings of Surfers Paradise, a stark contrast to the national park towering up behind him. Burleigh was world famous for it waves, and like its mirror cousin, Diamond Head, in Hawaii, was a spectacular backdrop to great surfing arena.

The waves smashed onto the black granite boulders sending plumes of sparkling spray cascading into the air. Nugget was fascinated by the ocean, had been since he was pushed into his first wave by his uncle Reggie when he was four years old. He watched the wind create textured patterns on the surface of the ocean and made a mental note of the intervals between the larger sets of waves. The water was so clear that even the ripples on the white sandy bottom were magnified in the concave face of the breaking waves. A sandbank had been formed around the headland by the northerly sweep of the current and after a few days of swell, had now become ruler edge straight from the tip of the cove running all the way down the point. The final section of the wave was like a racetrack. The wave just got faster and faster until the rider had to decide to pull into the unmakeable barrel or straighten out and head to the beach.

Nugget absorbed the scenery, all the colours were so clean and fresh. The salt spray on his skin felt invigorating. The creamy white colour of the Gold Coast sand was so different from the golden orange sand of his home beach of Avalon on Sydney’s northern beaches. The grains of the Queensland beaches were so fine they squeaked as you walked on them. The beach and the surf were Nuggets domain. Whenever he would go to the beach as a young child he would be full of questions. He always wanted to know more about the ocean and waves. Where did they come from, why did they break in a certain way? His mum would say “ask uncle Reggie, he’s the surfer.”  Reggie would explained how the whole of nature works together, from the smallest to the largest part, it was a delicate balance. The land, the sky, the weather and, whenever Reggie mentioned the ocean or waves, Nuggets eyes would light up and he would pay extra attention.Every weekend Nugget couldn’t wait to see uncle Reggie and he would pull out a sheet of paper covered with scribbled questions he desperately needed answers to. Reggie would think for a moment before answering, and always start with the same statement. “Hmm-mm,” he’d start,  looking very seriously into Nuggets eyes.  “The invisible things of the world are clearly seen by the things that are made” he’d say.  All the elements work together to make great waves, Reggie would explain. By understanding nature you can connect to it. Nugget knew the words but it wasn’t until years later that he realized the difference between the theory and the practice.

It was those answers that had led Nugget to be here at Burleigh 20 years later. Although the professional contest scene made him feel a little like a fish out of water, he was relaxed about the whole affair. He looked back out onto the sparkling ocean and watched another set wave begin to break on the tip of the headland. The white water exploding high after the impact of the lip landing in the shallow water on the sandbank. The waves peeled off one after another as Nugget watched in awe. It was very unusual to have no-one in the water but the break had been cleared for the contest. The main competition area was further down on the point allowing the competitors to have a moments peace before starting their heat.

Nugget sat and watched trying to come to terms with his choice to accept a wild card invitation to compete. Thoughts came flooding in. They bombarded him from every area of his life whistling through his mind like machine gun bullets. Some thoughts stayed long enough for him to get a grasp on them, others just sounded like the wind over the sand.

The invitation had come as a result of a chain of events that started when Nugget was at school. He was a terror of a kid, undisciplined, and “could do much better”, his school reports would say. His mum Jennie was at a bit of a loss as what to do with him. She worked in a small coffee shop in the middle of the Avalon village to make ends meet but was always around before and after school to take Nugget to the beach.

Every morning Nugget would head off to school but as the school years progressed the lure of the beach was too strong. He would stash his boardshorts down at the bottom of the track that led from the hill past the golf club and primary school and then through the village to the beach. Skipping school became a regular occurrence and it was only the intervention of Mr Briggs, one of the sports teachers and a surfer, that managed to rein him in a little.

Briggsie had been a surfer at Avalon for years, surfing the area and watching great surfers like Mick Dooley and the winning exploits of Midget Farrelley at Makaha in Hawaii. He realized Nuggets love for the surf, but without some sort of education, life would continue to be hard. He made a deal with Nugget that if he came to school on a regular basis then on the weekend he would take him surfing to some of the other beaches. Nugget had heard about Narrabeen and seen Long Reef from the bus on the way to swimming carnivals at Manly, but as his mum didn’t have a car he never got the chance to go surfing there. So a deal was struck. Nugget would go to school and Mr Briggs would take him for a surf on the weekend to where-ever the surf was happening. Not a bad deal for a eleven year old kid.

Every weekend Nugget and Mr Briggs would check the wind and the swell size and head to where the waves were the best. On the drive they would talk about the wind and swell and Briggsie was surprised to discover that Nugget had an unusually good knowledge of the ocean. Nugget talked about his uncle Reggie, who was away quite a lot, and how he had taught him about waves and the weather. But it wasn’t until Nugget got to travel that all the information started to gel.

Nuggets thoughts were abruptly broken by the buzz of his watch indicating the five minute mark from the end of the current heat. Time to paddle out and get into position for the start of his heat. It was a man on man event, the system of judging devised by Peter Drouyn and now favored as the best method of finding a winner. Peter was quoted as saying “its like a boxing match, man against man.” But for Nugget it wasn’t even man against the ocean, he was wanting to flow with the ocean, catch the rhythm of the energy, connect to nature in the most intimate way.

He like to surf alone in huge seas, giant open ocean swells, man and the ocean, pure undiluted ocean power, fingers running sensually across the surface of the wave like the wing tips of an Osprey lifted by the wind as it soared along the ocean swells.

But here he was at Burleigh, and his heat was about to start. The tide was high and he had to concentrate clambering over the slippery wet rocks. He grabbed the edges of his board, timed his jump onto the back of a wave that washed up to where he was standing and glided out into the deeper water beyond the rock break. The outside bank, thirty metres ahead, had 6 foot waves peeling down it with monotonous regularity. He had timed the sets and there was a short gap between the bigger waves which would allow him enough time to make it out behind the break. The current would carry him without any effort down to the contest area proper. His body felt relieved to be in the water again. As he paddled, the water washing over his arms stopped his mind from racing. Only one thing to do now and was what he loved, and that was ride waves.

The scoring system for the contest was the riders best two waves, each one scored out of ten points. The highest and lowest scores of the five judges scores were eliminated. Nugget was a bit of an underdog, even though as good as his reputation was for free surfing, his competition experience was limited to watching DVD’s of contests in Hawaii or Jeffery’s Bay in South Africa.

Nothing to loose, he though to himself as he paddled to the take-off position, He could see the red competition singlet of his Brazilian opponent Ricardao De Paratica. He was sitting at the take-off spot and waiting for the siren to finish the last heat and start theirs. Two good waves in 20 minutes shouldn’t be two hard, just pick up the rhythm of the ocean and what will be will be. Uncle Reggie always said “energy creates action”, so if there are no waves coming just paddle anyway. It stops the muscles locking up and keeps your connection to the ocean.

The siren wailed and the announcers voice blared over the yelling of the crowd. Even though no solid waves had yet to come through the announcers voice rose to a fever pitch.

“32 of the world’s best surfers battling it out for a stake of the $250,000 prize money”

“Classic Burleigh barrels, here they come” as the first set started to show a dark lines out to sea, the crowd cheered louder. “Red with priority up and riding” was the announcers call. Nugget could see the spray flying high above a section as Ricardao slashed a turn off the top of the wave on his way down the line.

Nugget realized there could be several days of this, so he might as well try to block out as much of the noise and confusion as possible.  The next wave was his, the face was smooth and it had started peeling from the back of the cove, a section had collapsed as it passed the cove reef but basically this was as good as it gets. Nugget sat up, leaned on the back and swung the nose of the board around and with several quick paddles felt that all familiar power of the wave lift his board and in one smooth motion jumped to his feet. The wave surged onto the sandbank and the lip of the wave started to feather twenty metres down the line in front of him. Quicker than Nugget could react the bottom of the wave squared off and before he knew it he was deep within a huge cylindrical barrel of spiraling water. He couldn’t hear it but the crowd went wild. The announcers blurted something about the worlds best free surfer in one of the worlds best barrels.

The wave wedged slightly higher as it passed over a small reef at the back of the point. and compressed. Nugget leaned forward to compensate for the extra power and the water drawing up the face.

From the moment that Nugget had dropped into this first wave he wasn’t quite relaxed, his muscles were tight, he wasn’t feeling anything through his feet. They felt like blocks of concrete. The barrel kept spinning along oblivious of any rider trying to regain his composure and feel. In a split second it was over as the wave raced past him and Nugget was unceremoniously pitched over with the lip into a turbulent sandy conclusion. He surfaced, his board sitting up in the water ahead of him like a tombstone. The water pressure dragging it away as far as his legrope would extend.

That wasn’t a start that Nugget wanted. He tugged on the legrope until the white water broke its grip and pulled his board underneath him just as another wave broke in-front of him.  He pushed his surfboard down, duck diving under the exploding whitewater and made his way, breathless to the back of the break. Now for the paddle back to the take-off zone. His opponent was already out the back and again with priority. The announcer’s voice was blaring over the speakers “Yellow scored a 3 for his last wave leaving him 6 points behind”. Nugget could see the red singlet in the distance further out as he put his head down and started to paddle back out against the current to the take-off zone.

The tide was still high so the current wasn’t running at full speed, but the paddle would take several valuable minutes. He settled into a hypnotic paddling rhythm of arm after arm and tried to get his mind to relax. He watched the pattern on the water and the shape of the waves breaking down along the sandbank. Thoughts started flooding back  about how he came to be here.

He remembered his surf trips with his teacher, Mr Briggs and all he had learned from his uncle Reggie, so it was obvious that for an exam paper in his first year of high school he should write about the relationship of the elements and how waves are formed. The essay was such a success that, without knowing, Nugget became the talking point among many of the teachers. The were so impressed that he was asked to give a talk to the school assembly and some guests from a local environmental group had been invited. “He spoke with a passion,” one teacher was heard to comment. But Nugget knew the truth, he found the beach and the waves were his friends. He spent most of his time by himself in the ocean and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t feel the way he did. The ocean had taught him so much. He had learned from an early age that the ocean couldn’t be tamed and the only way was to work with the forces of nature. Nugget decided to study more, weather, waves, tides, beach and sand movement, coral reef structure, the more he learned the more he realized the delicate state of balance. He realized with the population increase the environment was under pressure. He had to do his part, not only make people aware of the beauty of the ocean and reefs but to help them understand how working for a cleaner environment was critical to the quality of life for everyone.

A final year high school report on the environment helped him to receive a scholarship to University to study Environmental Sciences, It meant a major move away from the northern beaches and part of the insular peninsular, as it is known by the locals. down to chilly Tasmania.  But it was the opportunity of a lifetime. His passion for the ocean broadened his knowledge, and the more he learned the more he wanted to know. He studied Climate Change, Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation and Ozone Layer Protection. As part of his final year thesis he applied to join an ocean expedition that was investigating the environmental effects of modern society on the Coral Sea Reefs. This was partially sponsored by a major surf company, the same company that was presenting the contest.

Never interested in competition, Nugget was just interested in surfing for the sheer exhilaration of riding waves and being in the ocean. It was on this trip that he was offered a wild card entry to the competition. He felt obligated as they had looked after all his travel and expenses while on the expedition.

He now paddled past the point and the south west wind carried the muffled noise of the crowds and announcers voices over his head. The paddle had relaxed him and he felt his muscles pulling smoothly through the water, closer to the take off.

Time for two good waves, he thought to himself, and kept paddling. Lifting his head as he paddled through the fanning spray on the top of a nearly breaking swell he could again see the red singlet of his man on man opponent turning for another wave. Nugget tried not to watch as the wave stood up beautifully, so sparkling and clear. Ricardao with his highly visible singlet paddled confidently down the front and jumped to his feet. A quick series of short turns and his surfboard was racing across the face sending a fan of spray over Nugget as he swung into a carving cutback. For a split second anger started to rise in Nugget and then just as quickly faded away. Fierce competitors those Brazilians, Nugget thought.

Letting the second wave of the set roll under under him, even though it could have been a good scoring wave, he paddled further out. The third wave was larger again and Nuggets eyes lit up as he saw how long and straight it was. He paddled even harder to get as deep into the take-off area as he could, then at the last moment spun his surfboard around. With two quick paddles he could feel the energy starting to lift the board as it began to glide effortlessly down the front.

Nugget could feel this wave was different, he knees bent to absorb the ripples of water that were being drawn up the face and he focused down the swell and let his mind find the projected line of where he wanted to go. The surfboard instinctively followed the mental line. Turning smoothly his surfboard picked up speed and then climbed high on the wave as the feathering top started to tear off in-front of him. It was going to be tight but just run with the energy line that is the smoothest, he thought. Within seconds the curl of the wave raced past him and over his head, creating another Burleigh Barrel. Nugget just crouched lower, kept his balance and chased the diminishing hole at the end of the barrel. It was a see-sawing affair inside the barrel for Nugget. The wave edged away, then he made back some distance, still chasing the opening at the end. In the distance he could see a flash of colour as the red t-shirt paddled back over the swell and had a good look at how deep Nugget was slotted back into this classic wave. But unlike the wave before he needed to make the opening and ride out onto the face or all would be lost. One final climbing turn inside the barrel would lift him high enough and give him enough speed to escape. He burst out onto the open face and slid over the back before the wave sped off down the beach at an unrideable speed. He knew he was still behind on the score line and soon he would hear the announcers voice with the wave score. Ricardao had scored two good rides and would be ahead, as Nuggets first wave was not enough to give him a decent combination score. The announcers voice blared out the wave scores.

“Red now with a combined score of 16 and Yellow with a last wave score of nine now giving him a total combined score of 12″. Nugget knew it wasn’t enough to win but there was still time to get one more wave. The tide had started to drop and the current picked up considerably. There were surge of water swirling down the point so Nugget decided to paddle wider around the break and he headed out to where the ocean was deeper. There was no chance of catching any waves from this far out but at least he would be able to pick up a little time on the paddle back to the take-off zone. The crowd roared and the drums of the Brazilian supporters beat a repetitious thump. The echo bounced from the high rise  buildings across the road from the park and seemed to give a softer back-beat to the pounding. Four minutes to go and still at least another hundred metres to paddle against the rip.

Balancing the thoughts in his head about competing, Nugget thought of the things that his grandfather and uncle had taught him of life and the ocean. A clear picture in his mind was Christmas at his grandfathers place. They would slip away from the noisy conversations, find a quite corner on the verandah and talk surf. Not only talking about riding waves, they talked of the oceans rhythms and the forces that drove the wave and how all nature was linked like a big string of pearls. Shake one end and the effect would carry through the whole string. Nanna always wore a long string of pearls around her neck and they had a soft milky shine. She would always be wearing them at the Christmas get-togethers. They were her reminder of how our lives were surrounded by the ocean. “Just a little bit of grit and determination results in something wonderful,” she would say, whenever she caught Nugget looking at the string of pearls. “The relationship between all things is connected and reliant on each other.”

In what seemed like the blink of an eye he was level with Ricardao but still too far out to sea to catch a final wave. Ricardao turned into another set wave and paddled. From the back Nugget could see the fan of spray thrown high into the air by his turns. His red singlet flashing against the white. An unexpected swirl of water pushed Nugget closer to the bank in time for one last wave. He would have to take it no matter what. Didn’t look as big as the last one that Ricardao caught, but it was long and straight. Nuggets arms dug deep into the water to get enough speed to catch the relatively flat swell. It wasn’t going to stand up like the others he had caught but it could be ok once it hit the sandbank, he thought to himself, trying to boost his confidence.

For a moment he though the wave would just pass under him, but with a couple of longer deeper paddles he scratched down the front until he felt the familiar power of the wave starting to lift the surfboard. The concaves in the tail not only helped compress the water and help drive the surfboard through turns they also lifted the tail higher when paddling, which helped the board pick up the energy to get into the wave.

A quick thought of hearing something Jeff Hackman, a very accomplished Hawaiian surfer, once said “You could pick the right board off the rack. It just has to fit comfortably in the hand and under the arm. All the rest of the bodies dimensions are related to those measurements.” He won some of the world’s biggest contests so the theory definitely worked for him.

Nugget had always drifted off. He was continually getting pulled up by some teacher at school for daydreaming. So many thoughts rattled through his head in half a second that sometimes he thought his head was going to explode.

Now his surfboard was running cleanly down the face. He was connected and feeling the power transferring into his feet. He leaned into a turn and the rail edge cut a clean slice through the waves face. A slither of silver water sheeted of the tail. Nugget looked down the line and forgot about the surfboard under his feet. His mind took over and it set a path into what was shaping up to be a very hollow wave. Swirls of white water lay on the surface from the last set wave that had just broken in-front. Sand mixed with foam was now being drawn up the face of Nuggets wave, aerating the surface. The bottom of the wave dragged on the sandbank and the shape squared dramatically, Nugget relaxed and went with the flow, the path of least resistance. He quickly realized that the wave was peeling faster off the top and that there was no room,  or time for that matter, for any flashy turns. Just tuck tight and pull into another Burleigh Barrel, even if it is a sandy one. Some tube rides are crystal clear, but this one was going to be a sand grinder. Knees bent, he watched the lip came over and the world went silent. There was so much bombarding the senses that his hearing just shut off.  Nugget focused on the curve of the face and the small fluctuations as his board travelled over air pockets and foam filled with sand. It was like riding in slow motion and Nugget was totally relaxed. Nothing like the first wave of the heat.  The rail bit and released as he worked his magic behind the curtain. The wave ended down in-front of the judges stand in an explosion of white water.  The siren blared. Heat four was over. Heat five started and the emotions of those two surfers now would be running at fever pitch just as Ricardao and Nuggets had been. The announcers voice came on as Nugget reached the beach. “Final wave score for yellow 8 Jack Nugget Mitchell wins heat four and progresses into round two.”

With round one under his belt Nugget wandered back up through the park where Sommer, his girlfriend, and mum Jennie waited. They knew it was a close call, especially Nugget blowing his first wave.  ”Lets get out of here,” said Nugget relieved, “my head is about to explode.” There was another week allocated for the contest, 16 heats, 32 surfers. Round one should be finished today, then with only about eight hours of surfing up to the finals, and the waves being this good, the event should be over in a couple of days.

They had rented a house right on the sand at Palm Beach for a couple of weeks although there were many high rise units available overlooking the point. Nugget thought that the hassle of getting surfboards in and out of lifts and the noise of footsteps over his head on the floor above didn’t seem natural.  Boards were thrown into the back of the rented station wagon and they headed south around Burleigh hill, over the Tallebudgera Bridge which formed the boundary to the Bureligh National Park. Nugget was still in a bit of a daze as Sommer drove. He saw the black line of granite boulders that bordered the edge of the creek and the lush green of the hill out of the corner of his eye. He took notice of the street names as they whisked down along the Gold Coast Highway through Palm Beach. For some reason they always bought a smile as he read 27th Ave, 25th Ave, until they reached 15th Ave. A small 60’s style fruit shop on the corner of the highway was an easy marker to the turn off to where their house was tucked away on the beach. The electronic garage door humming open broke Nuggets daydreaming. “I’ll be ok after I have a shower, and a cuppa” he sighed to Sommer. Unpacking the boards didn’t take long, and soon they were all sitting around on the comfy lounge relaxing with a cup in their hands. Through the large windows they watched the waves crashing on the outside sandbank in front of the house. After a few minutes silence Nugget leaned over to Sommer, “Easy to loose direction if you don’t listen to your heart.” he said, she smiled and nodded knowingly. The salt spray settled on the windows giving a misty surreal look to the surf. The lower tide seemed to have increased the size of the waves and Nugget could see the current pushing the white water sideways along the beach. A couple of kids played on the waters edge, running up the beach and screaming as surges of white water pushed up the sand. As they watched the swells, Nugget subconsciously made a note of the time between the sets outside. Tomorrow afternoon will be challenging, he  thought as he drifted into a sleepy sunny afternoon.

CHAPTER 2

Later that evening as three of them tucked into the healthy pasta feast that Jennie had prepared, Nugget asked if she had heard from her brother Reggie. “He’s away working on a surf-tour yacht somewhere off East Indonesia. Out of range.” Or at some secret surf spot not wanting to be disturbed, she thought to herself.  Reggie had been like a dad as Nugget never knew his dad.

“And how is Pop, Nanna and Grandpa?” enquired Nugget. He had only just arrived back to Brisbane Airport the day before the contest started and was disappointed that he hadn’t been able to catch up with all the family down at Manly. “They are all fine and Grandpa said to tell you, he’s very proud of what you have been doing.”

Samuel and Colleen Johnson were Jennie’s parents, they had lived at Collaroy in Sydney, but moved back to Manly to look after Grandpa. He protested that he didn’t need looking after and it was probably true as his mind was as sharp as a tac. So much so he could remember all the guys he surfed with and the places they rode waves since he was a kid, even if he couldn’t remember what day it was. When caught out with his memory he would always say, “I only remember the things that need remembering.” But when they found him sitting, on the dirt floor in a dark corner under the house, talking to friends that had long since passed away, they thought his mind had finally cracked. They found out later that he was high on the paint fumes from re-varnishing his old redwood surfboard that he kept stacked in the rafters under the house. “Old Magic” Grandpa called his solid timber board and it was his pride and joy. At over seventy years old it looked just like the day he made it. “Chemicals,” he would complain later. “No good for the planet or people.” But Pop and Nanna moved in anyway.

“Grandpa” as Nugget had always called him to avoid any confusion with Pop, was Charlie Johnson. He had always been a waterman and more than once told Nugget that salt water runs in our veins and the family wasn’t happy if we couldn’t smell the salt air and feel the ocean on our skin. “The ocean cleanses the air and the spirit” he would remind us, and judging that he was now 97, no one was going to argue with the facts.

Nugget always looked forward to the family get-togethers, especially Christmas. Once Nanna’s home made christmas plum pudding, always fill with threepences and sixpences, had been devoured, Grandpa, Pop, Reggie and Nugget, four generations of surfers, would retire to the back verandah and chat.

The wide back verandah had broad timber shutters at either end that could be opened to allow a cool breeze to blow through. The western end was shaded by a old sprawling flame tree that would spread a carpet of red flowers on the lawn below. The back yard was full of overgrown but profusely flowing hibiscus bushes of every colour imaginable. Grandpa would seem to drift off into a daydream when the hibiscus were mentioned, he said they reminded him of his life with his wife Elizabeth. Bet, as he still called her as if she was still here, would always have the house filled with vases of fresh flowers. Now Nanna would walk down into the garden every morning and carefully select a basket full of blooms. Everywhere you looked in the house an arrangement of amazing colour would catch your eye. Grandpa would wander through the house after the vases had been placed and admire them, occasionally re-arranging some memento sitting underneath on a small cane table. On the back verandah a wide lounge sat along the wall, some large cane chairs were scattered with comfy floral cushions and a low glass top coffee table sat in the middle. It was stacked with National Geographic magazines and books on a variety of subjects from weather to the coastline of Argentina. A well used atlas and a magnifying glass lay on a small table within easy reach of Grandpa’s chair. From his chair he could see all the coming and goings of the household. It was on this verandah that his Grandpa would light up a big cigar and regale Nugget with stories of his youth. Occasionally they would wander down under the house and Grandpa would pull down Old Magic from the rafters and reminisce about the golden era of surf-riding. Over the years Nugget heard about all the adventures and characters that Grandpa had known. and how he got his nickname when he was a twelve year old at Manly.

He had a job after school and on weekends where for a few hours he was a paperboy. He wasn’t very tall, but his shoulders had bulked up from carrying heavy stacks of newspapers down to the wharf each day. With a sly smile, Grandpa would tell Nugget how, whenever he got the chance how he would stash his newspapers between ferry arrivals cover them with his shirt and slip down for a swim beside the wharf. His muscles and natural rhythm in the water earned him a reputation of being able to swim like a fish. It was Graham “Woody” Banks who gave him his nickname. Nicknames were customarily given, due to some physical attribute, so the name “Chunks” stuck. Woody got his because he had arms skinny as sticks, and over the years when ever they got together he was always reminded of the fact, even though he had grown into a tall muscular physique.

Each day Chunks headed down to the wharf to meet the ferries from Circular Quay. With a pile of the “Manly and North Sydney News” under his arm, he would take a quick glimpse at the headlines and his paper selling would begin. “Latest news”, he would call out to the disembarking passengers or those wanting something to read on the trip back across the Sydney Harbour. Everyday, rain or shine, his routine would be the same. Collect the papers, head down to the wharf, glimpse the headlines, then when the ferries had departed the coast was clear and, he would slip off for a swim.

Chunks picked up a headline knowledge of the daily events. Every now and then one would catch his eye and he would read the next paragraph. He read the headlines about the impending war. WW1 filled the headlines and most of the paper with a small section devoted to local news. Chunks occasionally read about the swimming exploits of champion Australian swimmer Boy Charlton. But the headline that really caught his attention was, “Duke Kahanamoku invited to show swimming skills”. Chunks knew of the Dukes swimming exploits and his win in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic games and as every kid needs a hero, the Duke was his. Chunks didn’t know much about Duke apart from his swimming skills. Articles about Duke’s world record breaking were clipped out from old papers and pinned to Chunks bedroom wall. At night he would read them over and over.

Closer to Duke’s arrival in 1915, more in depth articles were published in the paper. Duke was a beach boy from Waikiki in Hawaii and also had a passion for swimming. His brother remarked that when he swam, “he was so powerful that his body rose up out of the water like a speed boat with its prow up.” From the old papers Chunks collected clippings about the Duke, anything he could get his hands on. One such article gave Chunks goose-bumps every time he read it.

“Twenty one year old Hawaiian beach-boy Duke Kananamoku swam the 100-yard freestyle in 55.4 seconds, 4.6 seconds faster than the current record.” the article continued “Later in the day, Duke tied the world record in the 50-yard freestyle, and swept the field in the 220 yard freestyle.” After the race, sports columnists in the article joked “that Duke’s size 13 feet helped propel him to his victory”. “When the results of the event were telegraphed to the swimming headquarters, they were met with disbelief. How could an unknown twenty one year old shatter a world record swimming in a murky flotsam filled harbor? Despite the presence of five certified judges and a careful measurement of the course, they refused to accept the record breaking swims, arguing that Duke must have been aided by some current in Honolulu Harbor.”

Another article on Chunks wall read “1912 Olympics Duke set a new world record for the 100 metre freestyle.” “Duke became an instant sensation among the spectators,” the article declared. “Many of whom assumed that his name indicated a title rather than his given name.” Duke was the fastest swimmer alive and he was coming to Australia.

Chunks knew from reading the headlines that times were changing. The events of WW1 filled the newspapers, but Chunks kept a close eye out for anything on Duke. He was invited to come to Australia by the New South Wales Swimming Association for a two and a half hour swimming display at the Domain Baths. As Chunks read further about Duke he discovered he was also a very accomplished surfer. Chunks would tell all the other kids of stories about the Duke and how he and a couple of his mates, Big Rock and Hawkshaw would do crazy stunts. They would surf waves on their boards while sitting on a deck chair and playing a Ukulele, or with a dog perched on the front of their boards while riding across a wave. All the kids found this hard to believe as they had only seen people at Manly who had bought a board back from Hawaii a year or two ago and they would only lay on it and go straight to the beach.

Chunks found it hard to sleep the nights leading up to the swimming exhibition. It was Duke swimming at the Domain that was the talk all over town. No-one really knew what surfing was except for the occasional story filtering back from Hawaii, but Chunks knew about swimming, the passion filled his life. He knew he wouldn’t be able to go to the display at the Domain Baths but listened to it over the radio at the newspaper office. Duke broke his own world record and Chunks cheered along with the rest of the crowd as if he was actually there.

When Duke finished the display at the Domain Baths he made a tour of the beaches and selected Freshwater for a surfboard riding demonstration. The editor knew Chunks always talked about Duke, and was excited about the surfing exhibition that was going to be held. The beach was now the place to visit and because of the surge in popularity, a huge crowd would be expected for the demonstration.

Everyone at the paper knew that they would be coming over on the ferry to witness the event and this meant extra papers to be printed and sold. He made a deal with Chunks that he could have some time off to watch the surfing exhibition but had to be back to collect the papers, get down to the wharf for the return trip of all the spectators, he wouldn’t be able to stay at Freshwater until the end.

Chunks knew that his boss was tough, he had to be to get the stories out on time, but he also knew he was a fair man. Robert Jameson followed a line of prominent editors at the Manly Paper who would stand up and be counted when they believed in an issue. A previous editor who Chunks had met, William Gocher, was a small and inconspicuous sort of chap. but with a giants courage. The reporters told the story about how only several years ago it was a crime to bathe in waters exposed to view from any wharf, or public place between the hours of 7.30 a.m. and 8 p.m. There was a dinner bell that told everyone on the beach it was time to be back on the beach or else. The penalty was a £2 fine for bathing in prohibited hours and £10 for wearing any costume that did not cover the body from neck to knee. Gocher, decided to crack the stupid law, so on three consecutive weeks he advertised in his newspaper that he would bathe at midday on Sunday from Manly’s Ocean Beach. Once, twice… the law turned a blind eye. Third time as Gocher waded ashore, modestly buttoning his macintosh over his neck to knee costume, a police sergeant waited. The angry little man was hurried off to Sydney. “We’ve heard all about you, Mr Gocher, but in future there’ll be no police interference with bathers at any time of day; as long as they are suitably dressed.” explained the police chief. Freedom in a single blow. It was stories like this that helped Chunks decide he wanted to be a reporter. Chunks wanted to make a contribution to a better life for everyone.

Several days before the planned display, Duke encountered his first obstacle, the absence of a surfboard to ride. Undaunted, he quickly made one from a slab of sugar pine donated by a local lumberyard. Chunks was surprised at how quick it was to make a surfboard when he heard about.

When the kids from around Manly got together it was all they would talk about. Woody was going to get over there early to have a good look at the board, but Chunks would have to sell his papers at the wharf first. He would then have about twenty minutes to run through the Corso, down along Manly Beach over the hill and down to Freshwater.

The day finally arrived and Chunks couldn’t wait for the last of the ferry passengers to disembark. The headline of the paper read “Duke to Surf Freshwater” and Chunks wasn’t going to miss it. A final stern word from the editor as he dropped off the money from the sold out papers, “Don’t be late back Charlie Johnson, we have papers to sell this afternoon.” he said waving a serious finger as Chunks disappeared out the back door.

Chunks heart was thumping, not so much from the run along the beach in the soft sand, but from the excitement of seeing Duke in person. He slowed down to get his breath before climbing the last of the ridge over to Freshwater. Chunks last couple of steps took his breath away as reached the top and saw Freshwater Beach laid out below. The beach got it’s name from a small freshwater creek that meandered down from the hills at the back of the beach and into a small sandy lagoon that disappeared at high tide. Normally a quite uncrowded beach, but today there were hundreds of spectator scattered all over the sand. Chunks scanned the crowd for his mates, he could see men with their pants rolled up or wearing neck to knee swimming costumes. The ladies wore wide brimmed hats and long skirts that dragged in the water’s edge. As Nugget got closer he could see some school kids still in their uniform and their straw boaters. Eventually he found Woody and Snowy in the crowd, excitedly yelling at him to hurry. Duke had just arrived and was getting his newly made surfboard ready.

His mates had been hanging around when Duke pulled up and had heard that he was offered a tow outside the break by the members of the local surf club in their surf boat. He said “No thanks”, butted in Woody. Duke effortlessly hoisted the heavy pine board onto his shoulder and headed through the crowd and down the beach to the waters edge. The crowd surged forward to get a better vantage. Chunks took particular notice of the shape and how it sat in the water as Duke pushed off the beach and paddled into deeper water. A few keen swimmers dived in along side him but he soon outpaced them paddling through the break. As Duke stroked into his first wave the crowd cheered, even the important guests that had been invited and were sitting in arranged deck chairs were now on their feet. Everyone was amazed, he was riding on an angle across the wave. Woody glanced at Chunks with a quizzical expression on his face as if to say, “He’s riding on an angle, shouldn’t he be riding straight?”

Chunks knew a bit about the surf but preferred the still water as he could swim faster. He knew that the conditions were against good surf-board riding. The waves were dumping and followed closely one behind the other. Chunks mates had overheard Duke saying that the board was really heavy, it weighed almost 100lb, whereas the board he uses in Hawaii weighed close to 28lb. Wave after wave, Duke paddled out effortlessly and rode from the back break on an angle all the way into the Freshwater corner. Even producing a headstand on one wave. His style captivated Chunks, it was smooth and graceful just like his swimming. In Chunks eyes Duke had now passed way beyond hero status. Although it was nearly two hours since Chunks had arrived it seemed only like minutes. The whole beach was mesmerized by the demonstration. This was surfriding and Chunks knew he wanted to be a surfer.

Duke rode several waves right into the crowd of excited kids hanging on the waters edge. Chunks heard someone in the background say “This will make the front page of the paper tomorrow”. Chunks attention was abruptly broken from the surfing as he realized he had to be back at the office in a few minutes. He promised his boss he would be back in time to get the papers to the wharf for the first ferry leaving in the afternoon. He knew a special edition of the paper was to be sold and the editor has kept some great pieces of information on the Duke for it. He turned on his heels and without saying goodbye ran reluctantly back up the hill towards Manly only stopping once at the top to look back. It looked like Duke has picked someone out of the crowd and was paddling back out through the break. He sighed and continued the run back knowing what he had seen was going to change his life.

His mind overflowed with thoughts of how Duke paddled, how easily he glided across the waves, like he was walking on water. Chunks pictured in his mind Duke’s relaxed style and how he held his hands.

By the time he got back to the office the folding had finished and a look from the editor over the top of his glasses said that he had just made it in time. The paper wasn’t a big issue but it was an important one. The reporters had come back after the first hour and the stories had been written, edited and printed. “How was it?” asked the editor to Chunks. “It’s going to change the way Australians think about the ocean.” replied Chunks. Impressive, thought the editor to himself as he pointed to the stack of folded papers.  Chunks heaved the pile of papers onto his shoulder and headed off to the wharf.

As the crowd started to swell at the departing ferry, he overheard conversations of how Duke’s surfing was inspiring, even those sceptics were forced to admit it was a wonderful display.

The paper the next day was full Duke’s demonstration and how the guys in the surf boat asked if he saw any sharks. Duke’s comment was “They didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them”. Chunks smiled to himself as he read it. Further on in the article Chunks read how Duke had enticed a local girl to be his partner on the board. It was Isabel Letham from Freshwater who was riding tandem with the Duke. Chunks had read about Isabel, she was well known and had her photo taken while being towed on a water sled behind a boat in the harbour, Chunks carefully tore the article out, neatly folded it and tucked it securely into his pocket. This one will definitely go on my bedroom wall at home.

Next morning when Snowy turned up at Chunks house the conversations was about nothing but the Duke’s surfing display. The one question that Chunks wanted an answer to was “what happened to the board?’  Woody burst through the bedroom door where they were sitting,  “You know Claude, Claude West from Freshie?” Chunks nodded, wondering what this had to do with the Duke, “Well, he showed him how to surf and said he could have the surfboard when the tour was over.” “Let’s go over on the weekend and see if Claude is around, maybe he can share some tips that Duke gave him.”  They all nodded in agreement.

Summer couldn’t have come around quickly enough, not that the colder water was a deterrent, there was just more daylight hours which meant more time to surf. Chunks job selling papers at the Manly wharf continued, he was too young to enlist in Australia’s forces to help in the Great War. All the older guys at the beach seemed to have disappeared and enthusiasm generated by Duke’s visit seemed to vanish. Still there were a few of the younger boys still around, and whenever Chunks got the chance, he would head over to Freshie. Claude showed Chunks and Woody all the finer points that he had learned and they knew they were on their way to becoming surfers. “We would surf early in the morning before school. It was easy because the board was stored at the Freshie surf Club” Chunks had told Nugget at one of their Christmas get-togethers. We had to share the time on the board, it was always the same, Claude would go out first Chunks and Woody next and then there was another kid called “Snowy” that would always be hanging around too, He was the same age as Chunks but quite a lot smaller. It wasn’t long and all four of them became good mates.  “Snowy was that keen to learn he would wag school, take his mothers pine ironing board and rush down to the surf, He got away with it a few times, but when we hadn’t seen him down at the beach for a few weekends, we asked where he was. Seems his mum found out, because he came home sunburnt, and she wouldn’t allow him to go surfing for a month.

It didn’t take long before all four of them became quite proficient on Duke’s pine board but Chunks realized if he wanted to get more surf time then he needed his own.

Chunks had become a familiar face around the Manly wharf and had got to know most of the workers. Their jobs on the wharf would include unloading the cargo as well catching the heavy ropes and tying up the ferry, then load the gang planks and when there were no ferries in, do general maintenance. They were rough and  tough bunch of blokes, but always had a friendly word for Chunks. One of Chunks regular paper customers was the cargo wharf manager, he was bigger and tougher than the rest and ran the wharf with an iron hand, no one messed with “Boss”. Even at 8 o’clock in the morning he had a five o’clock shadow. One morning, while collecting his newspaper from Chunks, he told him he wanted to see him in his office as soon as he finished his papers. Chunks wondered if he was going to be busted for going swimming beside the wharf. After the ferry had left Chunks headed to the office, and tentatively knocked on the door. Opening it slightly he stuck his head around the corner and peered in. A big grumpy woman looked up from a pile of papers and pointed to a large door at the side of where she was sitting, “Manager’s Office” was painted in black letter across it. “Go in he’s been waiting for you, and hurry up he hasn’t got all day.” Chunks shaking in his boots knocked on the door and heard a loud “C’min”. The large heavy wood door opened with a creak and Chunks stepped cautiously in. “Over here, boy” the manager pointed to a chair. They sure are short on words around this office thought Chunks to himself as he sat down. “So I hear you swim like a fish eh!” “Trying to race the ferry, were you?” the managers voice broke from a gruff tone into a full belly laugh. Chunks now knew he was in big trouble. “Also heard you were sharing a surfboard around at the Freshwater Surf Club”. Where is this conversation going though Chunks as he nodded. “Well, what’s a surfrider without a surfboard, then. Maybe we need to get your own board.”

Boss had also seen the display by Duke and had noticed the boys sharing the pine board in the early mornings at Freshwater. He also knew that several slabs of timber had been purchased from the timber yard in the city and then sent to different surf clubs along the northern beaches where they would be shaped into surfboards. Boss was a member of the surf club at Manly, and a particularly good sweep on the surf boat, but Manly club had lost many of their younger members to the war effort. He could also see that the surfboard along with the surf boat would be a great asset to help with rescues.

After several months of doing extra jobs around the wharf as well as the newspaper he had enough money to get some timber for a board. “Boss” as  he now called the manager arranged for a slab of timber to be delivered from a timber yard in the city to the cargo wharf next to the ferry. The next thing Chunks had to worry about was how he would get the timber home to where he could shape it. When the timber arrived after a few days the Boss said not to worry about the freight costs as he would cover it then arranged for one of the wharf workers to throw the timber slab on the back of the dray and take it back up the hill to Chunks home. Borrowing an adze from a neighbor, Chunks set about  shaping his first surfboard. The slab was 10 feet long, two feet wide and 2” thick and Chunks found out quickly that it was also hard a rock. He remembered the dimensions of the Duke’s board and set about creating one the exact same shape. Day after day he would race home after the last ferry, he even gave up his regular swim so he could spend more time shaping. Chipping away with an adze, Chunks worked the slab of timber into shape. After some planing and fine sanding to get out any rough spots his first surfboard sat in front of him.

The shape was 9 feet long, 22 inches wide and 2 inches thick, the nose outline curved into a rounded point about 6 inches wide and the tail was square and about 12 inches wide. The sides were squared with the bottom edge slightly rounded, underneath the nose had been shaped thinner with a small amount of curve creating lift in the front of the board. Chunks was pleased with  his effort. Only thing now to do was a thick coat of varnish which would dry over night and in the morning he would have his first surfboard.

Chunks lay the shaped surfboard over two wooden trestles, brushed the dust off ready for a coat of varnish.  From the time the redwood slab arrived and had finished being shaped it’s colour was a flat dark chocolate, several long grain lines ran down the length of the timber creating only slight variations. Chunks hadn’t worked with redwood before, let alone any timber, but Boss said this was the lightest and would be half the weight of the pine board. He gave an old 6” wide brush an extra clean, thoroughly stirred the varnish in the tin then poured it down the middle of the board. As he poured the varnish onto the deck and it started to spread, his eyes nearly popped out of his head. He hadn’t even thought about the colour until now. The once dark chocolate timber now started to glow like dark golden honey under the clear varnish. Goose bumps  tingled on his neck and arms as he watched the nondescript grain come alive. The board’s colour changed like magic.

After the brushes had been cleaned Chunks stood back and admired his handy work. A satisfied smiled crept across his face, he watched as if hypnotized. The kerosene lamps flickered and went out, even though it was now dark under the house, the surfboard still seemed to glow. Chunks reluctantly left the board to dry and walked up the timber stairs that led to the back verandah.

Chunks lay in bed that evening and stared at the ceiling, he couldn’t get to sleep for thinking about the colour and even more about trying it out in the morning.

The sky had only just lightened when Chunks quietly climbed out of bed, the sunrise was still an hour or so away. Tiptoeing down the stairs from his bedroom, making sure not to wake his parents, he headed down the back stairs. Maybe this was all imaginary, he thought, as he made his way under the house in the shadow of early morning. Curled redwood shavings were scattered around on the dirt floor. A path through them had been created by the number of times Chunks had walked around the surfboard while varnishing and admiring it.  He looked at it afraid to move close as if he might wake from a dream, finally he stepped up and lightly touched the nose to see if the varnish was dry. A smile stretched across his face as he realized it was. He gingerly picked it up, noticing it seemed lighter than he remembered last night.  He already had his swimming costume under his clothes so he hoisted the board onto his shoulder the way he had seen Duke do it and headed down the hill to the beach. The short walk to the wharf went quickly enough, but heading down the Corso in the early light seemed to take ages. His mind seemed filled with too many thoughts. Would it work, had he wasted his time and money, would it even float? Soon all his questions would be answered. He had stopped several times to swap shoulders and was out of breath by the time he reached the beach, even though the board was lighter than the Duke’s board it was still really heavy.

Small waves greeted Chunks, his feet sinking deep in the sand under the weight as he trudged down the beach. The wind hadn’t come up yet and the ocean was smooth. Slipping quickly out of his pants and shirt he folded them in a pile just like he had done so many times before when going for a swim at the wharf. Wading into the water he lowered his board, the morning sun glowed orange as it climbed up over the horizon. The water on the newly varnished deck glistened and separated into large droplets.  The sun sparkled into every one of the droplets as if the sunrise was duplicated a hundred times over in miniature. Chunks stood spellbound. From surfing Duke’s board he knew it was going to be a little slippery, but Claude had shared a trick that Duke had showed him. Take a walk and wiggle your feet in the wet sand before going for a surf, it will soften the skin on the soles of the feet and remove any grease or sweat. Chunks let his board float in the white water water washing up onto the beach, On his short walk back he could see it laying on the waters edge as the white water receded. The reflections on the shiny finish making it blend into the colour of the wet sand. Chunks was amazed by his first lone experience of surfing and he hadn’t even caught a wave yet. Bending over and grabbing the board he pushed it into an oncoming wave, jumped on and started to paddle. The board did float, Chunks knew deep down that it would and as he paddled he felt the way it moved through the water. It gained momentum as he effortlessly pushed through the break, even when the oncoming white-water crashed into him the board kept its balance. Paddling the last section to the back of the break Chunks noticed waves breaking on a sandbank only 50 yards down the beach. The green swell looked smooth and the beginning of the wave didn’t break too steeply. That looks like a great place to start. He paddled over and waited for a wave that had the right size and shape and looked around. He was sitting out in the ocean by himself, although several swimmers were now splashing along the shore line, he felt calm and peaceful and a sense of being at one with the ocean. Out the back a small wave guided by the currents and the shape of the sandbank below headed towards him, without hesitation he turned and started paddling. His arms digging deep into the clear water until he felt the surge lifting him from underneath. The board, as heavy as it was seemed to become weightless as it was lifted on the swell. The surfboard picked up the waves energy and headed shoreward. Chunks sprung to his feet, his knees bent and his right foot forward. Everyone else, including Duke surfed with their left foot forward but Chunks felt more comfortable this way. He leant to his left and the board slowly changed course, he was following the smooth part of the swell that was running alongside the sandbank. Chunks noticed how the deck of the board sat level with the surface of the water giving the impression that he was standing on water. He also noticed if he turned his shoulders the board would respond. He hadn’t got that feeling before, perhaps it was that this board was so much lighter and responsive. Chunks felt the water rushing beneath his feet as he rode the wave, but it didn’t last long enough, it was over in a matter of a few seconds. He reached the beach expecting Woody or Snowy to come running down for their turn but there was no one, he picked up the board turned it out towards the break and paddled back out. This time he noticed different things. a  light gust of wind  lifting the spray of a breaking wave creating a golden glow from the sun still low in the sky. Even in the face of the translucent swell, the colours changed from deep green at the bottom to a light green tinged with the colour of the sun. The simplest things like droplets of water splashing from the front of his surfboard onto his face seemed something new, Maybe he was concentrating too hard at not falling off the previous times he had ridden Claude’s board. But it was different now, this was his board. That morning, time seemed eternal, he paddled, rode and just sat in the ocean like a man that was blind but now was able to see. He was now a surfrider.


CHAPTER 3

Chunks wasn’t unhappy about the colder weather, it was just that the days were becoming shorter which meant less time to go surfing.  Manly was more protected from the winter winds so even though there was less daylight, there were much better waves and of course less people. Chunks like the solitude of sitting out in the water watching the way the swell moved around the outside headland of Fairy Bower. Even though many of the surf club members were away fighting, there was still enough guys in the club to make up a boat crew with of course Boss on the sweep. Whenever Chunks was in the water on the weekend Boss would round up a boat crew and row out to where Chunks was sitting peacefully at the back of the break. Then when the larger sets would roll through Boss would steer the boat crew right through next to Chunks. “This is the man’s way to ride waves, not on one of those kids toys.” Boss would yell from the boat. “And I’ll teach you to surf with no oars.” Chunks would yell back. Over the next few months it became obvious they had great respect for each other. Chunks and Boss would sit and discuss the swell and the weather. Boss had been around the water for his whole life working on and around boats, so he had a lot of knowledge of the ocean and was keen to share it with someone who also respected the power and magnificence of the ocean. Boss explained that the water doesn’t travel across the surface it was energy rolling through the water, He explained that if you threw a rock into a pond and the ripples of water spread outwards, that if it was water travelling then it would leave a hole in the middle. He had a very simple way of explaining the very complex. Initially Boss wanted Chunks to join the Surf club not only to bolster the dwindling numbers of members but also because he recognized the talent and natural ability that Chunks had in the water. Still he would have liked him to join and enjoy the companionship of mates his own age. But Chunks was happy in  his own company and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the ocean. Even when the swell was big and stormy Chunks would find some point of beauty in the power of the waves.  He enjoyed days when the wind would ruffle the surface of the water where the sun would scatter thousands of sparkles off every ripple. On days where there was no swell Chunks would swim around the rocks of Shelly Beach at the back of Manly, admiring the variety of sea life and the be amazed at the under water formations. When the swell rose, he knew where the shallow sections of the ocean bed were and watched how the swells would bend and twist as they formed into waves and how those waves would break. Even the tide became one of the calculations that Chunks included in his knowledge bank of wave shapes.

Chunks surfed the length of Manly regularly, occasionally paddling around to Freshwater. Paddling was much easier than carrying the solid wood board, besides the shape and weight of the board generated a momentum that made the paddle smooth and easy. As he paddled he would daydream about surfing places he had heard about up and down the coast. The only way he would get to some of these places, he thought, would be to join the surf club and then he would get to travel away to carnivals at such places as Dee Why and Palm Beach at the end of Sydney’s northern peninsular. But for the time being he was enjoying the winter of 1916.

As much as Chunks appreciated the conversations with Boss, he enjoyed surfing alone. Sharing a wave with another surfer especially a surf boat was like an artist sharing his canvas. A surfer needed the room on a wave to really connect with the power. As Chunks improved, his ability to angle and ride steeper waves grew rapidly. The more he connected to the point of power, the energy apex. the more he could feel the wave. He recognized that the power was all concentrated at the place where the wave was breaking, the hollower the wave broke the more power became evident to the rider. The water would draw up the face faster and in turn the rider would feel the water rushing faster under his feet. The feeling was addictive and Chunks found that the larger and hollower the waves the more speed, power and excitement the rider experienced. He tried explaining these feeling to Woody when they surfed together, but Woody would just tip his head on the side and give a look as if to say what are you talking about. Chunks tried to explain the feeling to Boss on one occasion but as Boss had never been on a surfboard he could only guess what the feeling was like.

The feeling was one surfer connected to the power of the universe. A spinning earth created wind to disperse the temperature from a blazing sun, this in turn would generate the currents and swell on the surface of the ocean. When the open ocean swell was blown onto a coastline, the shallower sea bed would drag the bottom of the rolling energy and the swell would stand up and the top would crumble creating a wave . The shape of the breaking wave depended on the shape of the ocean bottom. Shallow reefs would create hollow waves, whereas deep and tapering sandbanks would create a flatter crumbling wave. Chunks enjoyed all waves, it was just him and the ocean, a connection to creation that was hard to explain, the feeling just ran straight through his surfboard and was absorbed into his being.

The typical winter days at Manly meant plenty of cold offshore south westerly winds. The warmer ocean would draw the wind off the land and create waves that as they broke the top would billow high into the air creating a spectacular scene. Chunks would stand on the beach and watch the ocean on flatter days where the occasional swell would break on the rocks out at the back of Fairy Bower. He would use it as an indicator of coming swells and could tell how many waves and how big they would be in a set just by watching the height of the spray crashing over the Fairy Bower rocks. He learned from the sky when to predict the storm fronts arrival. The more time he spent surfing the more he learned about the ocean and the environment. It became a home away from home, he loved the beach and the surf.

The shorter days of winter meant that Chunks was carrying his board down to the beach and home again for what was quite often a very short surf. The beach was deserted so he decided he would bury his board in an out of the way part further down the beach way above the high water mark.

Winter storms passed through regularly with the surf conditions varying depending on the storm size. Some storms from further out to sea generated hugh swells that produced large clean rideable waves. Chunks soon realized that the further away the storm was, the cleaner the swell, and if the wind was from the south west then the waves at Many would be sensational. He look forward to reading the weather reports in the paper and could predict when the swell was going to arrive. He tolerated the cold winds that accompanied these storms because of the great waves they produced, but never enjoyed the freezing weather that also tagged along. He remembered that Duke always talked about the warm Hawaiian water and Chunks dreamed of travelling there one day.

It was late winter and Woody and Chunks were looking forward to some warmer weather and longer daylight hours which meant more surfing time. Together they would stand freezing on the beach trying to warm themselves in front of a small fire they would build from washed in driftwood. Assuring themselves that the water will warm up soon. Meanwhile they still looked forward to those surf producing storms. This was Chunks first real winter riding waves and he had become accustomed to the water temperature, also burying his board back up the beach made the run home a lot quicker, where he could jump into a warm bath.

The last big storm of winter bought with it not only a long clean swell but icy winds straight from the Snowy Mountains. After a long surfing session chunks headed home, his board in it’s normal hiding place buried up against the stone wall that ran along between the beach and the park. That night the swell rose bigger and bigger, Chunks lay awake listening to the crashing sounds of the swell. He could hear the waves breaking from way back at home on the hill. He was excited and could hardly wait until the morning. Finally the stars faded and the early morning light revealed a clear and cloudless sky, The sound of the swell often seemed louder in the stillness of the night but as daylight increased the swell could still be heard thumping and cracking like a distant herd of stampeding cattle. It was going to be an epic day. Fortunately it was Sunday and Chunks had the whole day to himself. He grabbed his jacket and an old towel and headed down the hill. The noise from the surf roared through the Corso as he ran the last couple of hundred yards. He was still a hundred yards from the beach and he could see plumes of spray being lifted so high into the clear blue sky that they blocked the normally visible Fairy Bower headland.  The tide was low when Chunks reached the beach, awe-struck by the size and grandeur of the surf. The sun now just above the horizon was being misted by the spray creating a golden hue. Chunks could now see Fairy Bower breaking, the swell so large and long that it was joining up with a big bombora breaking out to sea further north. The beach had been swept clean by the swell on the high tide five hours earlier. Like a hammer blow he stopped and turned to the place where he had last buried his surfboard. He was frozen, jaw agape. No, it couldn’t be, The small sand dunes where he has always buried his board were washed flat. The giant swell had stolen his surfboard. The sense of loss was indescribable. He ran along the beach hoping for a miracle, maybe the water had washed over the top and the board was still buried underneath. He lined up the telegraph pole to the edge of the house opposite and started to dig where he though his Magic surfboard should be. After half an hour of digging and prodding the sand, he realized his board was gone. He walked slowly to the waters edge, sat on his haunches, put his head into his hands, his body seemed numb. He just sat there in a daze, he felt his life was over.

In his mind he could see images of the colours that burst from the dull slab of timber as it was varnished. He took a deep breath as he realized that his most prized possession was gone.

CHAPTER 4

Towering Norfolk Pines speared skywards from the park that divided the beach and the village of Manly. They stood like dark sentinels silhouetted against the sunrise. Shadows from their branches cast tentacle-like shapes across the park and onto the houses along the other side of the Esplanade which ran north towards Freshwater Beach.

There were several boarding houses, mostly double story, designed to accommodate weekend guests and provide great views over the surf beach. One particular guesthouse, “Pacific Views”, was situated only a few minutes walk from the Corso, just far enough away from the crowd who came over for the day on the weekend. Yet close enough to be a part of this popular destination. It’s charcoal grey ship-lapped timber walls with crisp white trimmings around the windows gave the fresh feel of a beach house without being too ostentatious. It’s owner, Mr. Andrew Mills, was well known in the area. Chunks had heard The Boss talk about him being a tough businessman when negotiating freight to be shipped over to the Manly Wharf. Chunks remembered “Pacific Views” as it was opposite the section of beach where he used to bury his surfboard. The top floor windows would reflect back the rising sun which Chunks occasionally used as a marker to get in the right spot in the lineup. It was higher than the worker cottages which sat on either side and was an easy marker along the straight beach. The high pitched gable roof allowed for pinpoint accuracy where for several weeks he surfed a sandbank out in front. The local boys even nicknamed the spot “Pacs”.

Mr Mills owned a property development company with offices nearby the newspaper where Chunks worked. They had several staff and Mr Mills daughter Elizabeth worked there on holidays when she was having a break from boarding school. Chunks had seen her several times and had even smiled at her once, although he knew she was from the aristrocracy and if caught by her father he would probably end up getting a lecture about wasting time from his boss the editor.

Little did Chunks know that Elizabeth had been watching him for several weeks. She had been enthralled by the dark figure gliding so effortlessly on those waves, silhouetted against the morning sun as she walked along the beach in the early morning. The sun shining on his muscular wet shoulders making him look like a bronze statue.

School holidays had nearly finished and she had often tried to muster enough courage to come over and talk to him. But this time she had a reason.

Elizabeth stood in the wet san just behind where Chunks was sitting, his head buried deep in his hands. The feeling of despair and emptiness at losing his board was suddenly broken as water surged up around his feet. He opened his eyes, startled at how quickly the tide had turned and was forcing its way up the beach. It was then he got the eerie feeling as if someone was standing behind him.

As he turned abruptly Chunks first noticed her long hair glowing in the morning sun, then her sparkling blue eyes. She was standing in the wet sand where the last wave had washed. She said nothing as if not wanting to force her way into Chunk’s personal space, but the expression on her face seemed to understand what had happened. For a moment he was speechless, climbing slowly to his feet he then started to explain what had happened to his surfboard, but his voice went quiet as he noticed her soft smile.

Hello, said Elizabeth softly, not wanting to seem to be too forward. Hi, said Chunks with a surprised expression. I’m Elizabeth Mills and I live over there, as she pointed to Pacific Views. Oh, Hi said Chunks again this time a little more confidently. I didn’t recognize you with your hair not tied up. There was what seemed and eternity of silence as both Elizabeth and Chunks searched for the right word to say. Finally the silence was broken as they both started to talk at the same time, then both stopping, more silence. You go, said Chunks, not having any idea of what he was going to say anyway. Well, like I said before, giving herself the opportunity to gather her thoughts, I live over the road and have noticed that you often surf out front and always leave your board buried in the sand just up there, pointing to where the huge seas and the high tide had wiped the beach clean. Chunks head dropped slightly to the side, wondering where the conversation was heading, but not wanting to break the moment of listening to her voice. It sounded like soft music to his ears and her crystal blue eyes were hypnotizing. Chunks all of a sudden became aware of the silence and realized he must have been staring. Elizabeth was blushing. Oh, I’m sorry, stammered Chunks, not knowing where to look and also becoming flustered. Eventually their eyes met and they both burst out laughing as another wave washed up around their ankles. The tide was coming back in.

Chunks attention was momentarily diverted back to the ocean where a giant set had just broken way out to sea, its spray billowing into the sky. We had better move back up the beach as the surge from that set will be here shortly, said Chunks authoritatively. High tide will be in a few hours and if last nights tide is any indication it will probably wash right up to the wall. That’s where I buried my board last night, Chunks said pointing to a clean stretch of sand as they reached the wall and began to climb the steps. It was so loud last night that it woke me up, said Elizabeth, I couldnít get back to sleep so I sat at my window just watching the spray. The full moon just turned the whole ocean silver, everything was sparkling.

Could there be someone that loved the ocean as much as me he though to himself, making sure he wasn’t staring again. It was so bright I decided to walk across the park and sit and watch, said Elizabeth. Chunks head again tipped to the side, this time enthralled. I was sitting just over there she pointed to one of the timber benches that were spread along the length of the boardwalk, that’s when it caught my eye. It was dancing in the waves, bobbing and bouncing as the white-water played with it. Chunks heart skipped a beat and waited with baited breath on her next few words. A large piece of flotsam washed in by the huge seas, Chunks heart sank again. It was only after a couple more waves tossed it that I realized what it was. I waited for the surge of the sets to subside and then raced down the steps to where I had last seen it. The waves backed off just enough time for me to run to where it was. Chunks couldn’t hold himself any longer. Was it my board? he blurted out. I tried to grab it but a large wave washed through, it was so heavy, I couldnít lift it. Chunks heart sank again. More waves came and picked it up and washed it to where I was finally able to get it to get a grip on it and drag it up onto the bottom steps. Chunks mouth was agape. Elizabeth had him in the palm of her hand and she wasn’t going to let him get away too easily. She could see he could not endure any more. I have your surfboard over at my house. A smile radiating across her face. Chunks eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. Come on over and you can get it, continued Elizabeth. Chunks let out a hoot of excitement and a big toothy smile exploded across his face. Shush, whispered Elizabeth you’ll wake the whole neighbourhood. They walked across the road to ‘Pacific Views’ and down the side along a gavel driveway that crackled under their feet, which was a strange sensation as Chunks felt as if he was walking on air. As they reached the the back of the house there it was. Laying on a small patch of grass beside the garage. In the darker shadows it was still glowing deep chocolate.

Chunks was so excited he turned towards Elizabeth and was about to give her a thank you hug when a deep voice from behind startled him and made him spin around. It was Mr Mills standing in the back door way with his hands on his hips. Chunks was waiting for a blasting like, Who are you and what do you think youíre doing? and was trying to stammer out an explanation. Is that your surfboard? his voice seemed to thunder through the still morning air. Chunks nodded sheepishly. Well you better get some identification on it so next time you loose it they’ll be able to find the owner. He turned and was about to walk back inside when he turned and looked straight into Chunks eyes. Oh no, here comes the blast thought Chunks. And by the way, you can leave your board in the shed over there when youíre not using it, save you having to carry it down the hill every day. Chunks turned to Elizabeth who was standing just behind him, He’s not the ogre everyone thinks he is, she said, her smile beaming. Chunks didn’t know which way to look, his head turned from the glowing board to the equally glowing, smiling face of Elizabeth Mills. Elizabeth finally broke the silence, Lets go back over to the beach and watch.

They crossed back through the park and sat on the rock wall, their legs dangling over the edge. Surprisingly Chunks realized he hadnít though about his board since. The swell was starting to really push the tide in so he pointed out the bigger sets breaking out on the Bower and the time they would take before washing against the wall. Elizabeth was enthralled and was full of questions about both the ocean and Chunks. Every now and then the conversation stopped long enough for one of those moments of silence when far more than words are spoken.

I love the sky, it has so many moods, said Elizabeth breaking the silence. Turbulent, stormy, grey clouds or wisps of white that look like they have been swept across a blue carpet by a giant broom. Skies that fade into inky darkness and the stars that sparkle. I think itís amazing how birds can soar along the crest of swells with their wing tips grazing the surface. Even when I was really young I used to sit at my bedroom window for hours and imagine where the clouds had come from and where they were going. Sound silly now. An embarrassed giggle from Elizabeth as she realized she was babbling, it made Chunks smile.

As the sun climbed higher and the shadows shortened they continued to watch in awe as giant dark green swells rose out of the deep water, their tops held momentarily in the offshore wind, before cascading down the face like an avalanche. One larger than normal swell hit the back reef of the Bower and the wind lifted the spray well beyond the top of the cliff. Chunks tapped Elizabeth on the shoulder to point out the huge wave and as she looked out to sea her spontaneous response was to grab a hold of Chunks arm for security. Goose bumps ran up Chunks arm as he looked at the delicate hand grasping his arm. This was a special connection, like me and the ocean, he thought to himself. His thoughts must have registered with Elizabeth who turned and again their eyes met and stayed connected. Chunks could see deep into her sparkling eyes and they reminded him of the depth and breath of the ocean itself.

CHAPTER FIVE

Every day of the next two week Chunks would head down to Elizabeth’s house before sunrise. He loved the stillness of the morning, the orange glow on the horizon just before the sun rose, but that wasn’t the main reason. He would make his way down the driveway beside the Mills home to the shed where his surfboard now had a permanent spot to be stored. He stepped softly on the gravel so as to not wake anyone, but he knew Elizabeth would be awake and up. On those early mornings she always sat on the wooden steps at the back of the house that led to the kitchen, sipping a hot mug of tea. He expected her to be waiting. “Another great day.” said Chunks. Elizabeth’s smile seemed to glow like the sunrise as it became more evident when she lowered her cup. “The sea in winter is such a  lovely blue, so fresh and clean. I can see why you love surfing so much, being a part of the ocean.” sighed Elizabeth “It’s not only surfing I love” he paused momentarily knowing he had her full attention, then continued. “It’s the way the wind creates patterns on the ocean surface. Every day is different, not only the waves, but how it all works together. The wind, the swell, the seascape, the colours. One can’t be complete without the other.” Turning and looking into her eyes he again paused. “Elizabeth,” he said softly “It’s the sky that makes the ocean blue.”  They stood looking at each other for what seemed like an eternity. She felt like running over to him and throwing her arms around his neck.  Not quite knowing what to say next Chunks turned and pulled the heavy wooden door of the shed and swung it open just enough to let in some light. He didn’t have to walk to the back of the shed as Elizabeth’s dad had cleared a spot just inside the door where he could stand his surfboard. A long timber bench ran along one wall, where shelves of tools and paint were stored. Noticing out of the corner of his eye a tin of paint had been placed on the end of the bench. A small brush lay across the top of the can.  Just then he thought he heard Elizabeth say something and stuck his head around the edge of the door. Mr Mills was standing behind the fly screen of the kitchen door, hands on his hips, “Did you see that can of paint I put next to your board?” Chunks nodded. “Well as there is no swell today why don’t you and Betty,” that’s what he always called Elizabeth, “put some sort of design on your board. What about a big C on the front, seeing you spend most of you time in the sea.” Mr Mills let out a belly laugh thinking he was being funny, Elizabeth gave him that ‘Oh dad, don’t embarrass me.’ look that only a teenager can give. “I think I’ll put it in a circle” said Chunks nodding his approval thinking it was a clever idea of Mr Mills. What about some wings on the sides suggested Elizabeth wanting to be a part of the designing. Both Chunks and Mr Mills nodded in agreement. “Make a start now and it will be dry for you tomorrow, I heard there were some bigger seas coming from one of the ship captains that came into the office yesterday afternoon. He must have got some radio report from a ship down south. Oh well, time will tell.” his voice trailed off as he walked back inside. Chunks eyes lit up I wonder how I could get those reports,  he thought to himself.

Some old paint trestles were pulled out from the back of the shed and set up on a spot on the back lawn which would get the sun once it had risen over the top of the house. Chunks lay the board carefully on the trestles and wiped down the section when the design would look best. “How about we pencil the design on and then I can help you paint.” suggested Elizabeth.

A smaller paint can was about the right size for the circle so Elizabeth pencilled in the design. “ Why does your dad call you Betty?” enquired Chucks, as the wings started to take shape. “Mum says it not as formal as Elizabeth, but we only use it around home. You can call me Betty if you like.” said Elizabeth concentrating on getting both wings the same shape “Okay Betty, let’s get this painted, and by the way,” said Chunks very seriously, “you can call me Chunks of the Sea.” they both laughed.

After about an hour the design was painted, they both stepped back to admire their handy work. The C in the centre was solid, not a fancy letter, just clean and straightforward about an inch thick. The circle surrounding it was about the same thickness as the C with a cutaway section on the top and bottom and both sides. The wings on either side ran just underneath the circle C. The whole design was painted in a white which of course matched the trims on the Mills house. Chunks was pleased with the result. Magic now had wings he thought. The timber grain in the surfboard seemed to glow even more now it had his own logo.

Now all they could do was to wait for the board to dry. “Let’s go for a walk around to the Shelly Beach,” suggested Chunks, “it will be protected from the wind.” Betty nodded. She loved being with Chunks, their conversations were always wide and varied. Not only had he accumulated a great deal of  knowledge from his time working at the paper, but his passion and understanding of how the elements of nature worked together always surprised her.

They walked over to the park and headed down towards South Steyne. In the distance they could see a small crowd had gathered on the beach. Some people were pointing out to sea and others were waving their hands about frantically, the swell was very small but several rips had formed making conditions unstable. There was one strong rip in particular that Chunks had been keeping his eye on for several days hoping it would produce a good surf break and immediately knew what was happening. Someone had been splashing on the edge when they lost their footing and had been dragged out in the rip. Chunks started running towards the group thinking he wished he had his board with him. Betty followed close behind. It turned out that two small children had been paddling on the edge when a surge of water knocked them off their feet and dragged them out of their depth, fortunately they were still close to shore, but every surge that came took them further out. Their heads disappeared under a breaking wave, one lady screamed then fainted into the arms of the person standing beside her. Chunks pulled his shirt of, threw it towards Betty and without thinking dove into the rip. Within seconds he had grabbed both of them by their collars and was using the rip to swim towards the shallower sandbank on the side of the rip. They struggled through a broken section of waves and made it to where they could all regain their footing just north of where they had been caught by the rip. Making their way towards the beach Chunks could see the familiar shape of Boss making his way out through the break to lend a hand. The two of them helped the exhausted pair across the deeper channel that ran parallel to the beach as a tearful mother wrapped her arms around the soaking, bedraggled children. Looking up at Chunks, yet not quite sure where to look as Chunks bare chest was a little out of place on a beach where everyone was very conscious of being properly attired. “Thank you” was all she could manage, before bursting into tears again. Chunks seemed to take it in his stride, he was comfortable in the ocean, it was his friend, but very aware that only a moment of inattention could be disastrous. The ocean was to be respected at all times.

Boss guided the mother and her two children towards the surf club to make sure they were OK, Chunks looked around for Betty, who came running over with his shirt. He pulled it on, grabbed her hand and headed along the beach. Walking past a crowd of admiring onlookers, their comments made him look up. “Well done young lad.” called someone from the group. “Very brave.” called another. Chunks smiled, embarrassed by the attention and Betty squeezed his hand tightly with pride. “Life is always exciting when I’m with you.” gushed Betty, which made Chunks even more embarrassed.

They walked along in silence, Betty knew Chunks wasn’t shy, he just didn’t like talking about himself. Even when Betty would ask about some aspect of his life the conversation would always turn around to the environment or some way of making a better world.

“It’s a shame that most of the boys who would normally be around the surf club had enlisted and weren’t available to help in such a situation. Still it was good that Boss came down and helped.” commented Chunks as they neared the surf club. “It would be good if there was some sort of lifesaving device hanging around along the beach.” suggested Betty. “With everyone wanting to come to the beach there are far too many incidents like this happening.”

As they quietly walked away from the gathered crowd and towards the cove, Betty softly squeezed his hand, turned and gave him a smile. Nothing more was said. Just before they reached the steps that led to the path around to Shelly Beach, Betty stopped suddenly, giving a slight tug on Chunks arm, leaning down she picked up a small shell from the wet sand where a wave had just receded and handed it to him, dropping it into the palm of his hand. It was only the top section of a cone shell, bleached white and worn smooth to nearly a circle from years of being polished by the action of waves and sand. Smooth contours spiraled out from a tiny hole in the centre top. “Isn’t it amazing how these little creatures have their skeleton on the outside.” commented Betty. Chunks was always amazed by her insight and was looking at the shell as if it had triggered some deep thoughts. She again tugged at his hand to keep moving, Chunks slipped the shell into his pocket and they climbed the rocky steps up to the path that led around to the cove.

They walked along the path hand in hand, not saying much, just enjoying each others company. Chucks every now and then would be distracted by a splash of white water on the rocky outcrop at the base of the protruding headland that protected Manly beach. Early signs of a swell coming he thought to himself. Betty had seen that distant look in his eyes before and knew to make the most of today, as tomorrow he would be surfing. “Your board should be dry by tomorrow” she said with a knowing tone. Chunks was again reminded that he was an open book to Betty.

Shelly Beach was tucked around inside the headland so tightly that it faced nearly west. A narrow dirt track wound its way up through the scrubby bush and onto the top of the headland where several exposed trees took on a surreal wind sculptured look. Tortured branches bent close to the ground by the south east wind which blasted in from the sea and across the top of the steep rugged cliffs that ran around to the Heads of Sydney Harbour. By the time the wind reached the water again it had left a long section of protected, relatively smooth water. Chunks and Betty watched as beyond this section the wind created patterns across the ocean. Crinkled textured bands snaked their way to the north, getting wider and longer the further they travelled. Chunks could feel the beginning of a new swell, he had seen these patterns before and knew that they were the making of waves. Out on the horizon he could faintly see the mist of a rain squall tucked under a greying band of cloud. From this vantage point he knew they were being pushed by a wind that would soon produce some rideable waves. The sky was still clear overhead but a larger cloud bank was becoming visible out to the south east. “ We had better get back and get your board away before it rains,” said Betty, “wouldn’t want our artwork to be spoiled.” Another, even larger splash of white-water burst against the rocks below and a small swell followed the contour of the rock shelf around into the cove only to dissipate into deeper blue green water.  The swell was now starting to show down the beach. Small waves sent up puffs of spray as they broke on the sandbar in front of the Mills home. “You won’t have far to carry you board for a surf in the morning by the look of it.” laughed Betty.

The wind was blowing and out of instinct Chunks put his hand in his pockets, only to be reminded that his shorts were still quite damp from the earlier event. He felt the small shell which had slid into the very bottom corner of his pocket. His fingers ran across the smoothness and he visualized its shape as another swell smashed into the rocks at the base of the cliff sending spray into the air.

Walking back to Betty’s seemed quicker with the wind behind them. The tide had gone out and it was easier as they walked on the harder sand closer to the waters edge. The sandbank where the two youngsters needed help was more exposed. It was easy to see the deep gutter that had formed along the beach and how the water ran across the sand bar into an inside gutter then along the beach and back out to sea. ‘People should be more aware of the beach conditions’ he thought to himself. They always want to swim where it’s smooth but that’s normally where the rip is and where the water is moving out to sea. Wandering along the wet edge of the beach, Betty occasionally scampering up to higher ground to avoid being splashed by a surge of white-water, made Chunks laugh. After the white water of each wave receded the colour of the wet sand turned darker. It made it easy to see the beach was scattered with more small shells just like the one in his pocket.

A voice from the wall got their attention, Mr Mills was waving his arm and calling both of them up from the beach. “Lunch is ready, your mum is waiting for you Elizabeth.”

“Mum only call me Elizabeth when I’m in trouble” whispered Betty as they walked up the stone steps. They crossed the park and the Esplanade in silence and crackled down the gravel drive. Mr Mills walked quickly in front as if something had happened. “Get yourself into some dry clothes, boy”, he ordered over his shoulder as the screen door banged behind him.

Betty looked at me with shrugged shoulders and an expression of ‘I don’t know what’s going on’. Within a minute Chunks was in a dry pair of shorts that he left in the shed and rejoined Betty who was waiting at the back door. “What’s happening? Did we do something wrong”. “Both of you into the dining room now” the abrupt tone of Mr. Mills hadn’t changed. Gingerly, Chunks followed Betty inside.

As they entered the dining room, Chunks noticed the back of a suited figure sitting with Mrs. Mills. They both turned as Betty and Chunks entered.  It was the editor of the paper Mr. Jameson. Chunks glanced over towards Betty, maybe something bad has happened with the war, he though to himself.

Mr Mills nodded to Mr Jameson who stood up, turned and looked Chunks in the eye then said. “Charlie Johnson” now it was Chunks turn to feel the pressure as he only got called that when he was in trouble, “seems like there has been some trouble today. As you know that swimming without a shirt on is frowned upon by some who feel it is an unacceptable lapse of community standards” He had a very serious frown. Chunks was thinking the worst. Would he loose his job as a paperboy and any possibility of becoming a reporter? Before he had a chance to think any more thoughts Mr Jameson continued. “Seems someone has bought it to our attention that you saved the life of two youngsters from drowning today”. His frown disappeared and a hugh smile lit up his face. Betty and Chunks again swapped glances. “Well” he continued, “we got an anonymous report from the surf club that said you single handedly swam out there and rescued them. You’re a hero.” Chunks face went bright red from embarrassment.

“Better tell me what happened Charlie, it will make a great story for tomorrows paper.” Chunks, with a bit of coaxing from Betty, explained how the conditions created a rip and that the water current  just picked the kids and dragged them into deeper water. “I just grabbed them and pulled them back onto the bank and then Boss from the surf club pulled them back onto the beach. No big deal.”  Just then there was a knock at the back door and Mrs. Mills went to answer it. There were muffled voices and then footsteps heading towards the dining room. It was the photographer from the Manly and North Sydney News where chunks worked. “Lets get a photo of you boy”, announced Mr Mills proudly. Better in the back yard with some light. They all traipsed out and the photographer found the right spot and set up his tripod. Ushering Chunks into a position he prepared the plates, slid them into his camera and pulled the large cape over his head.  After a moment his head popped out, “How about a prop so he won’t looks so nervous.” Looking about he spotted the newly painted surfboard and said “Perfect, that will be perfect.” Chunks lifted the board upright and stood in front of it. The photographers head disappeared again under the cape except for an arm holding a large flash bar. Before any one could blink the flash exploded with a burst of light and it was over.

Chunks rubbed his eyes, Betty smiled with pride and Mrs. Mills motioned everyone inside for a cuppa while she got lunch prepared. “Enough excitement for one day, boy” Mr Mills stated, giving Chunks a wink.

I wonder what the surf will be like tomorrow was all Chunks could think as he stood his board in the corner of the shed. In the darkened light the freshly painted art on his board seemed to glow. He remembered he got the same warm feeling  when he first varnished his board and the colour of the wood came alive like magic. He smiled and nodded his approval.

Movement from the entry snapped him out of his daydream. Betty’s face tilted around the shed door, it was radiant. He nodded his head towards ‘Magic’, she leaned into the shed a little further until she caught a glimpse of the board, they both grinned at each other. “C’mon, our tea will get cold.” urged Betty.

The next morning Chunks headed down to the Mills shed to collect his board. The sky was grey and dull, low cloud had come in over night from the south with a new weather front. It wasn’t cold yet as Autumn was only just creeping up, but there was a change in the air. The wind was from the south west and had a chill in it but the water temperature was still summerish. A small swell had developed and small waves were now showing up all along the beach, especially on the sand bank where the two kids had been pulled from the surf yesterday. Chunks liked the early walk along the beach towards Betty’s, it was peaceful and made him feel good. He liked the colours of the sky before the sun rose especially the orange and purple just before the sun broke over the horizon. It also gave him a chance to see how the sand had moved and where the sand banks were that would produce good rideable waves. The tide was right on high so the walk was further up in the fluffier sand. It squeaked as his feet pushed into the big orange grains. Interesting he thought compared to the crackle of the Mills gravel driveway. His mind started rattling with the events of yesterday but something in his pocket caught his attention. The shell that Betty had given him yesterday. He remembered the beach at low tide was scattered with them and he wanted to collect a bunch of them. He walked into the water about ankle deep and could feel the shells beneath his feet. As the waves wash back he could grab one or two at a time and then drop them into his pocket. By the time he was level with “Pacific Views” he had twenty or so weighing down his shorts. He hoisted them up and pulled his belt a little tighter to compensate for the extra weight, headed up the stone steps, across the grass and the road then stepped quietly as possible down the gravel drive. The colour of the gravel seemed to match the sky he thought as he concentrated on making as little noise as possible.  As usual Betty was waiting with her cuppa on the back steps, the day was special as they were going to have an official launch as ‘Magic’ now that it had its new identity. Chunks suggested Betty go and get a warm jacket while he grabbed the board from the shed, but really he had an ulterior motive. He quickly pulled out the shells from his shorts pocket and placed them at the back of a shelf in an inconspicuous position. Over the next few days he would get enough shells to complete what he had in mind. He was ready and waiting by the time Betty got back rugged up and warm in a wooly jacket. Chunks had a thick shirt that would keep him warm but had to strip down to just a woolen swimsuit when he rode his board. He would have much rather ridden with just his shorts and longed to surf somewhere that he didn’t have to worry about swimming regulations and what people thought.

He picked up ‘Magic’, balanced it on his shoulder and the two of them headed back up the driveway, the crackle now heavier and breaking the morning stillness. The sharp sound of their footsteps changed to the muffled sound of waves breaking as they came from beside “Pacific Views” and across into the park. The clouds had split and the sun created a golden line along the horizon as it rose for the day. A light south west wind lifted the spray and turned it into shades of gold before dropping down on the dark green swell. All up and down the beach small waves rose and fell, lit up by the rising sun, as if a slow motion dance. Contours along the beach creating flowing shapes and shades as the water swirled with each wave washing up the sand. Chunks placed the board onto the sand where a wave had just washed up and motioned Betty to stand on one side as he stood on the other. He put one foot on the deck and Betty did the same. A small rush of white water flowed up and under the board lifting it like it had wings, then settled down in the wet sand again. “I think it wants to catch some waves,” Chunks said with a smirk on his face. Betty’s eyes sparkled and her face glowed in the early sunlight as her smile turned into a grin. Chunks lifted his board onto his shoulder again and waded out until the water was deep enough to paddle. He gently slid his board down and jumped on and started paddling, arm after arm. Chunks enjoyed paddling, the hypnotic rhythm was like a meditation for him. He watched the water spread off the front and flow down the rails, he concentrated to get the paddling flow as smooth as possible. Betty had seen it many times before, his muscular body tanned and silhouetted in the morning sunlight, but this time it was different, she was a part of it. Magic was apart of them both.

Chunks paddled into position for his first wave as a cold gust of wind whipped along the beach, Betty turned up the collar of her jacket then slid her hands deeper into the pockets. Winter was coming, she thought, which meant less crowds on the beach and more time for the two of them to be alone to enjoy their beach. Chunks cooeed as his ride finished just up the beach from where Betty was standing. Betty wandered down to where Chunks had lifted his board from the water and stood it up into the soft sand. As she reached him he was bending down looking closely at the sand, a clump of pearly shells has grabbed his attention and he was sorting through a handful of them. Discarding all but a few he spread them with his finger across the palm of his hand and splashed some water over them. Standing up he showed Betty the subtle streaks that blended with sparkling colours. Betty pointed out her favorites and Chucks handed them over for safe keeping and she dropped them into her pocket.

After several gliding rides he decided to come in and get warm. He knew Betty would be cold just standing on the beach and also knew she would never mention it as she just loved watching Chunks catch those waves and glide so effortlessly to the beach. They loved being together.

CHAPTER SIX

The first icy blast of winter hit Manly early in May,  Chunks shivered in his woolen swim suit while on the beach Betty crouched down to offer less of a target for the cold wind. The sand stung her ankles as it swept in bands across the beach, but even those rugged conditions weren’t enough to deter them from spending every moment together at the beach. When Chunks wasn’t surfing they walked and talked about how nice it would be to visit Queensland and enjoy the warmer water. But for Chunks the walks along the sand had another purpose. It had taken several months but finally he had collected enough shells and now had a jar full stashed in a hideaway spot in the Mill’s shed. When Betty was occupied inside doing chores he sorted them into colours, sizes and most importantly they all had to have a hole that he could threaded onto a thin leather cord. The finished string was at first glance primitive, but the soft pinks, mauves, creams and browns washed smooth by the relentless motion of the waves created a necklace that as the eye moved along it seemed to inspire thoughts of waves washing along deserted beaches, The soothing sound of the ocean seemed to emanate from them. Chunks tied the ends of the leather into a sliding knot so it could be adjusted without having to be untied. He held up the string of shells to the light, turning a few of the shells to best capture their beauty. A final polish and it was complete.

Chunks had made a small pouch from softened leather which he had laced together and created a draw string closure around the top and he dropped the necklace in and pulled it closed. He looked at it as it sat in the palm of his hand wondering what Betty would think when he presented it to her on her birthday which was only days away.

The day finally arrived and Chunks headed down to the beach and to the Mills home as he had done countless times before. Winter had set in and a grey rain squall created swirling textures on the surface of the ocean as it passed heading north. With the leather pouch in his pocket he ran along the sand to get away from another ominous cloud that was quickly approaching from Shelly Beach at the south end of Manly. Better not arrive on Betty’s birthday looking like a drowned rat he thought as he sprinted the last hundred yards to the Mill’s home. He gathered his breath composed himself as he walked down the crackling driveway. As usual Betty had seen him running along the beach from her top bedroom window and was waiting for him at the back steps. He turned the corner to see Betty and at the same time put his hand in his pocket ready to pull out her present. His hand slipped in but he must have put it in the other side pocket. He fumbled in the other pocket looking for the pouch as he wished her happy birthday, but nothing. He had felt that same feeling before when his surfboard went missing from where he used to leave it. Betty sensed  the change in him as he again searched the depths of all his pockets. He closed his eyes and his head dropped at the loss of what had obviously happened. He punched his hip in frustration. Come on lets go for a walk along the beach, suggested Betty. She knew not to ask what had happened but this would calm him down from whatever it was. She grabbed his hand and they made their way silently across the park and down the stone steps and out onto the sandy stretch of beach. Chunks footsteps were still visible on the rain-splattered sand. No one had been on the beach for days with the way the weather had been. More threatening clouds scuttled across the grey sky. Chunks still couldn’t get over what he had done, lost the present he had gathered and made for Betty’s birthday. Waves had created soft smooth lines and different shades and patterns in the sand. Crisp white lines of white water seemed brighter than normal in the muted grey colours of a winters day. His eyes followed the lines and Chunks grip on Bettys hand now relaxed and she knew he would soon be ready to talk about what had happened. At first it looked just like a rock exposed by the high tide, but Chunks knew what it was, he dropped Betty’s hand, his heart pumping as he burst away from her like a sprinter at the starting line. Betty stopped, not knowing what to think, as she watched him race and pick up the rock. He dusted the sand off and headed back to where Betty was standing. She was looking at the changed expression on his face and didn’t really take much notice of the rock in his hand. “Happy Birthday Betty” he said as he stretched out his hand. A quizzical look appeared on her face as she looked down to what she thought was a rock only to be surprised to see a small leather pouch. She immediately noticed the leather lacing around the sides and the drawstring top. She slowly picked it up from his outstretched hand, it was heavier than she expected, she slowly pulled the drawstring closure apart. Still not knowing what  was inside she slid her fingers in and could feel the coldness and smoothness at the same time. Her eyes glanced at Chunks smiling face as she slowly drew the contents out.

Silence, then tears started to well in Betty eyes as she pulled the string of shells from the pouch and held them up. Chunks smile burst into a cheshire grin. She noticed the soft colours and the way they blended from one to the next and the delicate leather slip knot. Looking up into his eyes almost breathless said, “Oh Chunks, they are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” Her arms swung around his neck, he grabbed her around the waist and swung her off her feet.

He gently dropped her to her feet, but Betty didn’t let go her grip from around Chunks neck, she looked into his eyes and whispered, “I love you.”  Silent for a moment in deep thought, Chunks finally spoke. “When I am with you Betty, all the things that I have lost are found. I love you too.”

“If you let go the strangle hold around my neck” said Chunks with a laugh I will put them around your neck.” She giggled in embarrassment and he delicately pulled the sliding knot and slipped it over her head and tightened it to just the right length.  The necklace sat around her neck like stars in the midnight sky. He grabbed her hand and they headed back to the house. It was only then that they noticed it was now pouring with rain and they were both dripping wet. “Lets make a run for it .” suggested Chunks. “I’ll beat you home.” bragged Betty, knowing quite well that Chunks could easily beat her but would always let her win.

CHAPTER SEVEN

The alarm buzzed like an annoying mosquito, then buzzed again until slowly, Nugget rolled over, sleepily he reached across to the bedside table, fumbled for the snooze button and after finally finding the right button, the buzzing stopped. ‘I don’t even remember going to bed last night,’ he thought, ‘I must have been exhausted. That Burleigh current sure takes it out of you. He scrunched his pillow up under his head and rolled over. ‘Just a few more minutes in bed then I’ll get up.’

The next thing he knew Sommer was gently shaking him, ‘Wake up lazy bones, breakfast is ready.’  Nugget stretched and threw the light sheet that was over him to one side of the bed. He lay there for a moment then slowly swung his legs out of bed and onto the timber floor. As he stretched his arm and shoulder muscles, he thought, ‘Wow, that was a workout yesterday, must have paddled what seemed like miles. The current was like a river.’  He tied his favorite sarong that his uncle Reggie had sent him from Sumba around his waist and headed out to the kitchen. Even before he got there the breakfast smells wafted through the hallway. A large plate of warm pancakes sitting in the middle of the kitchen table greeted him. ‘Cuppa?’ said Sommer. ‘Yes please.’ responded Nugget with enthusiasm. ‘Swells up by the sound of it,’ said Jennie. Nugget hadn’t even looked out the front to check what the ocean was doing since he got up. But was now starting to compose himself with the task ahead. ‘Only have to surf once today, so I might go down the front for a swim after breakfast to loosen up.’ He loaded several pancakes onto the plate in front of him, sliced a banana on top and poured a liberal amount of honey over the mound. ‘This should keep the fires burning for the morning at least, thanks for cooking mum.’ Jennie smiled. Not much conversation passed between the three of them as they enjoyed their breakfast. I think you have to surf about eleven this morning so maybe we should leave about ten to give you time to check the point and get the feel of what’s happening.’ said Sommer.

Sommer was the organised type, good with names, dates, times and the finances. She remembered all the important stuff that just seemed to float in and out of Nuggets head. They were good for each other. Sommer was the stability in Nuggets life and especially now he was now part of this pro circuit event. Nugget on the other hand was often a little naive, always thinking the best of people even though they may not have deserved it. But he always saw the best in everyone, which made it an challenging contest environment as he was prone to giving the better waves away, not such a  good idea when they were his competitors.

Nugget sighed, ‘That was great, Think I might go for a quick swim down the front to get the feel of the ocean. Lots of energy out there today. I’ll get my boardies on and be back in a mo. Coming down to the beach Som?’ ‘You go ahead I’ll help Jennie clean up and be down shortly.’ Nugget felt a tinge of guilt as he nodded and headed out through the large glass sliding doors, across the lawn scattered with coconut palms  and down the rock wall that protected the block from erosion of larger seas. Rock walls needed to be built along the front of all the beach-front properties when the rutile was mined in the late 70’s, he had read as part of his study. As a result it took away the stability of the sand and then combined with the groynes that had been built, created major erosion problems for the Gold Coast and particularly Palm Beach. ‘When will they understand that it’s all connected.’ thought Nugget.

The swell definitely had risen from yesterday and waves surged up towards the rock wall. Nugget watched as sets broke on the outside sandbank then within thirty or so seconds the tide surge reach the beach. It changed from a calm low tide beach to water pushing up near the high tide make. Several waves in each set, he observed then nothing for a few minutes.  He waited until the next set surged and then retreated before he dived under a small wave of white water. He could see a large set approaching on the outside bank and made his way back to the safety of the rock wall. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a group of children had headed down the steps, run down and dived in to the surf just up the beach. The large outside waves rolled towards the beach, and along with the side currents made for a dangerous conditions. One of the younger swimmers had been caught by surprise and was swept of her feet and was yelling to her friends who had managed to just escape the grasp of the wild sea. They watched in terror as the youngster struggled helplessly against the oceans grip and was being dragged back into the waves. Without hesitation Nugget ran down and dived into the waves. He knew the current would pull him swiftly parallel along the beach, but his concern was that the current would drag the swimmer under before he could reach her. For a moment he lost sight of her as white water exploded on a sandbank in front of him. Then just metres away a hand and then an arm burst up from the maelstrom. He stretched and grabbed it just as another wall of white water reached them and they went under together. Nuggets had a good grip and they really weren’t that far from the beach. They needed to use the sideways current and the push of the waves to get back to the beach. Terrified eyes looked at Nugget as they dived under several waves and made their way towards the beach, They were now a hundred metres from where Nugget had first ventured in for his swim. Some of the children has followed the unfolding rescue from a safe distance on the rock wall, while others had run for help. By the time Nugget and the utterly exhausted swimmer reached the safety of where they could stand. Parents and children gathered along the shore line.  As Nugget lifted the young girl up over the last couple of waves a hysterical mother, wading out into the surf grabbed the sobbing girl in her arms and whisked her away from the dangerous surf conditions and up the stairs that led to their holiday beach house. The rest of the crowd followed leaving Nugget and Sommer who had now joined him standing alone at the waters edge. ‘Shock sure makes people act in strange ways,’ said Sommer comforting Nugget. They walked back to the house silently just holding hands. Reaching the front of their house Nugget turned to Sommer, ‘I just hope the rest of the day isn’t as eventful,’ said Nugget. ‘We had better pack the car and head over to the point.’ Jennie who had been occupied making some sandwiches hadn’t seen all the commotion up the beach. ‘What kept you two?’ Jennie said hardly lifting her head from packing some fruit and juice into the esky. Sommer was about to tell the story but Nugget just put his finger to his lips. ‘Bit of a sweep out there today’ he mentioned casually, ‘Better go and get ready,’ Nugget took every second step up the stairs, he surprised even himself how much energy he had considering what had happened. After a quick shower he shuffled through his travel bag selected his favorite t-shirt, another gift from his uncle Reggie’s travels, pulled on a pair of dry board shorts that had been given to him by the contest sponsor and was ready for the circus, as he often called the pro contest scene.

His boards were tied on the roof of the rental and he gave a tug on the rails to check they were still securely attached to the roof racks. ‘I’ll sit in the back, I want to check the weather map in today’s paper, if you can stop at the corner shop, I’ll run in.’

Climbing back in they waited for the lights to change and turned right onto the highway. The Gold Coast Bulletin had a section with a tide chart and a weather map. The barometric pressure lines showed where the low pressure system was now located several hundred kilometres out to sea, but still in a position to create bigger seas for at least a few more days. ‘Looks like there will be good waves for the rest of the contest.’ commented Nugget. There was no mention of the drama earlier as they drove north along Palm Beach and over the Tallebudgera Creek bridge. Nugget could see large waves breaking across the shallow bar entrance and small waves washed up the creek where a scattered group splashed in the calmer water. A life guard tower with its yellow pyramid roof stood protection over the swimmers.

The highway wound up and around the south side of Burleigh National Park and then a quick shortcut to the right, past some classic old Queensland homes with their large shady verandahs then down to the point.  An area had been allocated for competitors parking and Sommer flashed the competitors pass to the large security guard stationed at the entrance. He nodded approval and they found a spot with a little shade from the blazing sun.  I’ll leave the boards here until I get ready for my next heat.

Nugget had advanced into round three because of his first round win. It would start soon, as there were only several heats in round two left to be completed, so he would be in the water shortly. The heat draw had been written up and he was against Bobby Roberts, one of the top rated surfers in the world. Whenever he heard that name it would make him smile at the way the Americans doubled names like that, but he was still a fierce and experienced international competitor. From this round onwards it would be a win or elimination. Nugget was pleased that he had even progressed through the first round, so getting eliminated in round three wouldn’t be so bad. The disappointing side would be that he would miss out on riding more of those waves on Burleigh Point with only one other surfer out. Something that he had never expected at Burleigh let alone expected to happen with waves like this. The surf was bigger than yesterday and the water was surging around the point with every set. Giant surges of water moved down the point with the current, swirling way beyond the breaking waves. The park was packed with spectators that cheered their approval as a competitor managed to escape the jaws of one of those classic Burleigh barrels. The locals clambered onto the roof of a shelter shed when one of their favorite surfers entered the water. Loudspeakers blared with commentary, results or general chit chat while the surfers paddled  to stay in position  for waves. The seasoned pros normally only rode two waves in their allotted time. They carefully selected the wave that they wanted and then went to town on it. The horrific paddle back out against the current was one of the reasons for them not to catch any wave that could result in a low score. Not a lot of waves were being caught, which meant the announcers waffled on about everything and nothing trying to entertain the crowd.

Nugget, Sommer and Jennie found a quite spot in the competitors section and settled in to watch. Jennie and Sommer knew they wouldn’t get any conversation from Nugget, he switched off from the goings on and switched into the waves. Some of the contestants plugged into their favorite music to amp up, but Nugget just hooked into watching the rhythm of the ocean. It wasn’t even a conscious thing, something inside connected him to the timing, the feeling that only years of being a surfer can give. Where ever he was, the ocean always made him feel at home, at peace. His mind wandered as the sounds of the contest faded into a quite hum in the background. His thoughts drifted like a gull riding the updrafts created over long clean ocean swells. It carried him to a place where he was alone with creation. A place of harmony where water, wind and earth were one and he was a part of it. Invisible things became tangible, he could feel the energy as it transfered from the wind to the water and then into waves. He drifted…

A soft tap on his shoulder made him open his eyes. ‘Time to get your boards Nugget,’ said Sommer softly. ‘Your heat starts shortly.’ Nugget was surprised as it only seemed like minutes since they sat down. The blare of the contest grew louder and the announcers voices seemed to cut the air, ‘Back to the real world’, he said to himself.

He slipped unknown past the throng of autograph hunters crowding at the entrance of the competitors area and headed across the road to get his board. He knew which board he was going to ride and selected the thicker rounded pintail. It wasn’t going to be a day for a showy display of top turns and slashing cut-backs but this was all about being deep in the barrel and paddling against the sweep. As he untied his board he felt the soft low rails and their fine tucked under edges that would give him the water release and speed. His relaxed hand slid over the rail shape and it fitted perfectly. He was glad he had a great friendship with his surfboard shaper who understood Nuggets approach to riding waves. Nugget always wanted a board that was part of him. The feeling of connecting to waves came from pressure on his feet alone, no handles or straps, he wanted to feel every ripple his board travelled over. Blake Olsen, his surfboard shaper, understood that Nugget didn’t want to feel the board when he surfed, he wanted to feel the wave. The surfboard was to be a neutral vehicle that allowed Nugget to be free to connect to the wave and let him flow with it’s energy rather than  aggressively dominating it.  As he came back from the car with his board under his arm, the bulky security guard gave him a suspicious glance. ‘That yours?’ he questioned. Nugget nodded and kept walking, ‘Got some ID? Nugget pulled out his competitors pass and flashed it towards the guard. ‘Sweet, can’t be too careful.’ ‘Sometimes it would be easier with a bit of popularity’ thought Nugget, but quickly changed his mind when he saw the hordes of autograph hunters corral one of the well known pro surfers until a security guard came to his assistance. Nugget slipped by unnoticed.

Round three, heat 2 was being called. “Jack Mitchell in red, Bobby Roberts in yellow,” called the marshall. Nugget gave his board a light top up of wax, grabbed his competitors singlet and threaded his way through the crowd up the point and followed the path out towards the back of the cove. The path was part of the Burleigh National Park and was lined with overhanging pandanus trees. The sun filtered through their leaves above creating patterns on the ground as walkers strolling around the headland stood aside to let him past. Nugget climbed down from the path and onto the large granite boulders to where he would have to carefully time his jump into the pumping surf. He remembered from his eventful swim earlier in the day the interval between the sets and stood waiting. ‘Don’t slip Nugget.’ a voice came from behind. Nugget turned to see Bobby negotiating a path through the rocks towards him and just smiled back. He was aware of the intimating tactics that competitors used against each other, but wasn’t going to be apart of it. Nugget just wanted to ride waves. Silently, he watched the ocean and waited for a time to jump. The tide was rising and broken waves surged high up and over the smooth but deceptively slippery boulders that were the jump off spot to get out into the surf. The swell was large and Nugget knew that as soon as he hit the water the sweep would carry him parallel to the shore. There was no easy way out to the break when the waves were this big. Timing the jump was critical.

The first waves of the set exploded out at the back of the headland, they both moved down closer to where they would jump onto the back of the last wave and waited for their opportunity. There was a gap and Andy made his way past Nugget onto the jump rock and launched. From earlier in the morning Nugget knew that there were two sets close together so he waited for the next one to show before he jumped. Bobby was now half way out and the current had carried him across the cove reef and towards the point when the second set started. It was bigger than the first and white water exploded along the sandbank. Huge sandy barrels funneled down the point where Bobby was now duck diving as deep as he could to avoid being pummeled. ‘Patience,’ a voice in Nuggets head whispered. He waited until there were no visible waves at the back of the headland, then launched into the swirling water remaining from the previous waves. Nugget paddled not straight out but used the current to deflect him out over the cove reef and over the shallow sandbank. There were only a couple of smaller waves for him to dive through and he was out behind the break. Nugget lost sight of Bobby as he been washed way down the inside of the point by the second set. ‘Should be able to find a good one without be hassled’ he thought as he watched several smaller waves from the back peel mechanically along the sandbank. Watching the backs of the wave revealed how shallow the water was, even for the higher tide. Sand-filled white water exploded out the back of the breaking wave, the only place the energy could escape the internal pressure of the wave.

Back in the park Nugget could see the heat starting green flag had replaced the red one that finished the last heat. The announcers prattle about who was in this heat was carried out on the gusts of the south west wind but Nugget switched off to the noise and switched on the the energy of the waves. He had to maintain a steady paddle against the current to hold his position in the line-up, it was a smooth, hypnotic repartition of arm after arm into the water. Nugget focused on the next set of swells starting to show out to sea and wasn’t long until the first one started to peel it’s way around the headland from Tallebudgera Creek toward where he was waiting. Bobby had been paddling frantically to get to the take-off area from down the inside of the point where he had finally managed to burst through the waves and make it to the back of the break. Nugget let the first two waves in the set go, much to the surprise of the announcer, who was calling these waves the best he has seen. Nugget was selective, he knew what type of wave he was looking for and decided that the third wave was it. It was ruler topped and came steaming along the sandbank like a steam locomotive, spray billowing high as the wind caught and lifted the edge of the lip. Nugget made a quick assessment of how fast the wave was peeling and decide he could catch it. The first two had drawn flat any ripples on the surface of the water and now he turned and paddled, arms digging deep and hard. He wanted this one. He felt the familiar lift as the wave built under his board and started to run down the face. It was a frantic paddle to catch it but Nugget kept the paddle rhythm. It lifted him and he pushed up to his feet, leaning forward to compensate for the increase in speed. Looking down the line he could see the lip of the wave was longer and faster than he expected. He pushed the rail of his board into the wave face to gain speed from the compression of water yet making sure there was no resistance to his line. The first bottom turn accelerated him to top speed and high along the top as high as he could get. His body compressed and bent into a speed crouch as his board sped off the top and down into a section that was starting to hollow out in front of him. Then something just clicked, his board seemed to just dissolve under his feet, it was just him and the wave. He could feel the curve of the wave and ran his fingers across the crystaline face. Nothing to do now but let the wave be his dance partner. The lip feathered thirty metres ahead and tore off the top, the wave oblivious of any rider who may have ventured aboard. Things seemed to move in slow motion as Nugget climbed and dropped on the vertical face. He saw the shades of blue turn to green and the colours of the sandy bottom below reflect in the transparent face of the wave. He felt the water compress under the pressure of breaking over such a shallow bank. He hardly noticed how far back into the wave he had become, his mind was still projecting down the line and wasn’t concerned with anything other than becoming one with this wave. For about five seconds he had disappeared from view of the hooting crowd on land and although he was aware of how deep he had been in the wave it was all about the rhythm of the wave. He pulled off and slid over the back of the wave and turned to see how far he had ridden. ‘This is why I ride waves,’ he smiled to himself as he started the paddle back out. He was now at least 150 metres and a very long arduous paddle back to the take-off zone. He switched back into hypnotic paddle mode, head down, arms pulling hard down along the rails.

It took Nugget a lot longer than he expected to get back to the take-off and Bobby had got a hooter just after his, but hadn’t ridden it as far and was now paddling in front of Nugget. He would have priority and could block Nugget from getting another wave, but he also needed a second wave. so they both paddled hard around past the tip of the point, halfway into the cove where the waves allowed them to take-off again. Bobby covered Nuggets every move as they paddled. Nuggets tried to put these tactics out of his mind but knew that if Bobby waited to the last seconds to catch a wave he would win. Nugget battled with negative thoughts as they positioned themselves in the take-off. Time was running out and Bobby was again smirking at Nugget. ‘Patience,’ the soft voice whispered in Nuggets mind. He breathed deep and waited.

The count down to the end of the heat started and Bobby could feel he had control. The last wave of the set was coming down along the bank as Bobby turned and started to paddle. “See ya, Nugget” and he slid into a long clean wave and proceeded to throw spay of the top with his signature tail sliding turn. Nugget, was watching his wave and hadn’t noticed the second set had arrived earlier than before and the first wave hit the sandbank with gusto. It was smaller and didn’t look much but it was a wave and Nugget paddled in towards it. He had to be on his feet by the time the blaring hooter that signaled the end of the heat went off. He paddled hard towards the oncoming wave and jumped to his feet just seconds before the hooter sounded. “Better make this a good one, no mistakes, just make it and whatever will be will be.” he said aloud to himself.

The wind swept the face smooth and the small reef at the back of the point focused and drew the swell in to create a higher section in the swell. Nugget watched as the swell grew in front of him. He had surfed waves that were bigger at the end than they were at the beginning but not this long and clean. His board climbed higher responding to the pressure being applied to the inside rail and then rode over a small ridge that had formed on the swell as it passed just inside the reef. To Nuggets surprise the small ridge joined the larger swell and started traveling down the line as a slight peak in the wave. It was pushing him from behind, and whatever speed the barrel went the ridge pushed him at that same speed. He settled and relaxed and allowed the wave to do it’s thing. As it went faster so did Nugget, it slowed, so did Nugget. His board became a toy for the wave and Nugget was just along for the ride. He crouched low to the board sat there deep inside it’s belly, like Jonah in the whale. He didn’t want to be out on the face slashing fancy maneuvers, he was happy.

The wave finally closed out as it reached the straighter section of the beach and Nugget slipped out from under the watery curtain and lay prone as the white water washed him to the beach in Kiddies Corner. Standing in the shallower water he pulled the quick release on his leg rope and swung it in one motion around the tail of his board and wandered up the beach. The next heat was in full swing,  announcers continuing their prattle about the new competitors. It was only then that Nugget realized he hadn’t heard one score of any of his or Bobby’s waves. It didn’t really matter anyway, he had surfed two of the best waves he had ever ridden, and besides he also knew from events in the past the judges often made their decision based on the showy side of surfing.

As he walked up the dry squeaky sand towards the competition site, a small group had gathered on the beach and were pointing towards him. “Hey, stop.” someone called. Nuggets first thought it was some smart aleck or someone harassing for an autograph and he kept walking. “Please wait.” came the call again. He turned, not immediately recognizing anyone, then someone familiar emerged from the group. It was the young girl who he has pulled from the surf earlier in the day. “We are very sorry we didn’t get the chance to thank you for the risk you took this morning saving Alison our daughter.” He reached out and offered his hand and Nugget shook it as he replied. “No worries, Glad to see you swimming between the flags, much safer here than on the open beach.” “Are you part of the contest.” enquired Alison. “Yep, just for a couple of days. Enjoy the rest of your holidays guys.” Nugget was a little embarrassed by the attention and excused himself. “Better go and find out how I went, bye.”  The group again thanked Nugget and he walked around the corner to where Sommer was waiting.

“Well, how did I go?” he asked. “Half a point difference that’s all that was in it.” said Sommer. “Oh well, it was good while it lasted.” shrugged Nugget. “No, you won.” said Sommer and she burst into a big toothy grin.

Nugget wasn’t sure how to react. But the Burleigh boys did. They hooted and whistled as he walked back to the enclosure to drop off his contest singlet. A couple of photographers snapped away as he stopped to talk to Bobby. “Next time Nugget.” he smiled, knowing that this time Nugget got the better of him. Nugget nodded knowing that there wouldn’t be a next time. This was his one and only contest.

“Change of plan, you’ll be surfing again this afternoon, Nugget, about 3.” said one of the contest directors. Some autograph hunters has surrounded him and were pushing t-shirts and programs towards him to be signed. When a buxom scantily clad bikini girl, wanted a signature across her breast, Nugget knew that was enough. “That’s all part of the circus.” laughed Sommer and they headed off to get some lunch.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Summer of 1918 came and early one Monday morning Chunks arrived to collect the papers for his regular shift at the Manly wharf. “The editor wants to see you in his office before you head off this morning.” said the despatch manager. Chunks often wondered how long the job would last especially as the war was coming to an end and there would be lots of soldiers  returning home.

He knocked on the dark mahogany door, glancing at the gold lettering on the name plate. A voice from inside called him in. “Hi Charlie, take a seat.” ‘That had never happened before.’ thought Chunks, ‘must be bad news.’ “Well,” continued the editor, ‘you have been a news boy for quite a few years now, ever get bored with the job?” Chunks wasn’t quite sure how to answer. His hesitation allowed the editor to continue. “You have been a hard working lad but I think you need a change of career Charlie.” ‘So this is it,’ thought Chunks, ‘what’ll I do now.’ The editor continued, “Over the years you have shown a lot of interest in riding your board, so after much deliberation I have decided it’s time for you to finish up as a newspaper boy.” Chunks sigh was audible. “There are some large surf carnival coming up this summer and we need a reporter to travel and cover these events for the paper.” Chunks wasn’t sure he heard it right. “You are being offered a full time job with the paper, Charlie.” There was silence as Chunks sat opposite the editor his jaw agape. “Well, do you want it? You will get paid a wage and your accommodation and expenses will be covered while you are away, but it will mean you will be away a bit over summer. Have a think about it and let me know.” Chunks couldn’t believe his ears. “I’ll take,” he blurted out, “when do I start?” “The first big surf carnival is still a few weeks away, but you will have to do a bit of time in the office so you will know what sort of details we want.” said the editor. “Today is your last shift at the wharf. Come and see me tomorrow morning you start at 7. See you then Charlie.”

Chunks floated out of the office on cloud nine, the words reporter, travel, echoed in his ears. “One more thing Charlie,” the editors voice bought him back to earth, “Better thank Boss for recommending you, he says you are the man for the job and please close the door on the way out.” It hit him, not only was he getting the dream job but Boss had called him ‘the man for the job,’ the words ‘Man for the job.’ now replaced ‘reporter’ and ‘travel’  He felt like his head was about to explode. He headed out the back door towards the wharf when a voice called out. “Hey, don’t forget your papers.” He picked up a large stack of the early edition like it was a pile of feathers and headed down to the wharf  just in time to meet the first ferry arriving from Circular Quay.

CHAPTER NINE

Peace was declared on the 11 hour of  the 11th day of the 11th month 1918 and there was great celebration. The war to end all wars was over. Men were finally returning home and they had a different view on life and comradeship. The surf club was the perfect outlet to wash away the war-hardened weariness of the typical digger. Clear the soul of the dust and memories of war. A place where the young nation’s men with their irrepressible spirit could rebuild their personal and social lives. As the membership of surf clubs exploded teams of surf boats from every club up and down the coast came together at major surf carnivals.

Chunks first major assignment was to cover a large surf carnival to be held at Bondi. The boat crew from Manly decided it would be quicker and easiest to row their three boats out from the surf club across the Sydney Harbour Heads and down the coast to Bondi. They would stay at the surf club at Bondi and needed very little for the overnight stay. Boss arranged for Chunks to get a ride over in one of the boats, and was happy that Chunks was finally part of the boat crew, even if not a competitor.

The Saturday of the carnival finally arrived and Chunks was like a cat on a hot tin roof, it was his first assignment. He arrived at the surf club before dawn, his clothes rolled tightly into a water tight pack, and proceeded to help prepare the boats and equipment. Boss also arrived early barking orders to some of the crews who, although very fit, hadn’t been part of this sort of adventure before.

There was a late addition to those going over to Bondi resulting in one too many for the boats. When Chunks volunteered to paddle his board two other board riders decided that they would also paddle. There were plenty of others keen to fill the empty rowers positions and Chunks was happy to have the company of other paddlers although the boats would be with them most of the way.

The swell was small and the summer wind was light out of the north as the boats launched. Boss, standing like Captain Cook at the sweep of the leading boat, was still giving directions as they headed through the break and towards Fairy Bower. Chunks, Snowy and Bobby tagged the boats until they reached the open water out behind the headland. The paddlers could hear the loud voice of Boss above the sound of the ocean. Stroke, stroke, stro… the voices faded and they watched as the boats pulled away.

The north wind was up earlier than normal and was creating lines of chop that Chunks found he could catch and ride making his paddle much easier. Snowy and Bobby shadowed Chunks and also tried to catch the small runs of chop. Snowy’s light frame helping but he was no match for the pure rhythm and power of Chunks, so he settled back and found his own pace. Chunks magic surfboard slid across the surface, every little pulse in the ocean lifting and pushing him with ease.

The rising sun sent a golden sheen across the ocean as he reached the North Head of Sydney Harbour and he waited for Snowy and Bobby to catch up. Beyond the tall dark cliffs, glowing chocolate by the light of the early sun, he could see tall masts of sailing ships at anchor further down in the harbour. Chunks imagined the distant shore that these queens of the ocean had seen and wondered what it would be like to travel to some of those exotic destinations which he had only read about.

After several minutes Snowy caught up, breathing heavily as he paddled alongside Chunks. “What did you have for breakfast?” puffed Snowy. “I think we’ll have to name your board ‘Pisces Volans.” The quizzical expression on Chunks face made Snowy explain. “The Flying Fish”. Chunks smiled that big cheesy grin he was known for but said nothing. Bobby caught up then the three of them set out across the heads and within minutes were bearing down on South Head. The wind hit the outgoing tide of the harbour and created larger runs which made the paddle much easier. “I hope the wind isn’t as strong tomorrow afternoon when we have to paddle back”, puffed Snowy, between strokes.

They followed the rock line around the base of the towering escarpment that lead to the southern beaches of Sydney. A small group watching the sunrise from the cliff top, watched the dark shapes of the three paddlers make their way across a golden ocean. Faint whistles of encouragement sounded above the wind and waves crashing on the rocks. The intrepid three waved back.

The surf boats they had been tagging had now disappeared around the headland at the northern side of Tamaramma and the next beach after that was Bondi, their destination, so not far to go now. Bobby who was now lagging behind called for a slower pace and just as Chunks turned he saw him grimacing in pain. Chunks knew immediately he was severely cramping. Dehydration was a major problem for long distance paddlers and Chunks knew that Bobby was unable to continue. Chunks told Snowy to get in front and they would sit the nose of Bobby’s board on the back of his board and then he would get behind and with the tail of Bobby’s board on the nose of his they would paddle this three man, 25 foot jointed surfboard to Bondi. Bobby lay on the middle board suspended between Snowy and Chunks and trying to get his knotted muscles to relax. The paddle was slower but Chunks could feel the extra length helping them glide as long as he kept in line. “More like the flying eel” he thought to himself as he struggled with the swell to stay directly behind Snowy and Bobby. Bobby was now relaxing and the cramp had eased slightly, Their progress was slower but they made reasonable time  towards Bondi. Relieved, they spotted a surfboat from another club, out for a warm up paddle and came to there aid. They pulled Bobby on board and hauled his 70lb solid pine surfboard into the boat. “We’ll be right” waved Chunks, and both he and Snowy paddled around the North Bondi Headland and into the semi protected waters and the excitement of the 1919 Bondi Summer Surf Carnival.

This was one of the first big Surf Carnival since the end of the war and clubs from as far away as Greenmount in Queensland has made the arduous journey to compete. As Chunks and Snowy paddled in they could see a beach lined with spectators flags and surfboats. This was going to be a big event and the reality of why he had made the paddle across came back with a thud. They found the rest of the club members and stood their boards up in the sand so they would dry a little as they got so heavy from being waterlogged after a long time in the water. Grabbing a change of dry clothes from his wrap in the surfboat he went to work. Making mental notes of every scene, colour, sound and emotion, he remembered how the editor had told him to gather the facts and write so the reader feels like they are there. This event was so large, it was overwhelming, but this was Chunks first big assignment and he wasn’t going to fail. Over the two days he watched intently and absorbed the smallest detail, whether it was the rescue and resuscitation, beach sprints, the surfboat races or the grand finale, the march past, Chunks made notes and took mental pictures.

Sunday’s sky was clear but Chucks could see the tell tale signs of the cloud bank way down south and the dark pattern on the surface of the ocean rushing towards them way before the southerly buster actually hit the beach. A strong southerly change hit Bondi early on Sunday afternoon. Thousands of spectators who crowded the sand, many of them women in large hats, were all taken by surprise. Hats blew like leaves in a winter storm. Those holding their club’s flags at the head of the march past were straining to keep them upright. The march past finished in disarray. Chunks had seen enough and decided to take advantage of the fresh southerly wind. As Bobby had decided to get a ride back in one of the boats, Snowy and Chunks set off for Manly. Judging they should reach the protected shores of Manly about the same time the boats arrived back they started paddling. Out into deep water they headed, north past Tamaramma and back below the rocky cliff edge of South Head. The swell was rising quickly, as they had seen it do many times before, but they weren’t concerned as they would slip into the harbor and paddle in sheltered water with the wind still behind them.

In the distance over their shoulders they could see the ferry from Circular Quay on its course to Manly heading towards them. “It would be good if we could hitch a ride and save a bit of energy.” shouted Snowy. Then as if someone switched a light in Chunks mind, he yelled back, “Follow me and be ready to paddle fast.” Chunks veered of their direct course towards Manly Pier and headed to intercept the path that the ferry was on. “The ferry won’t stop for us.” shouted Snowy, but Chunks just kept paddling. The two paddlers were on collision course with the ferry as it sounded a warning blast. They were twenty feet away as the ferry, now appearing much bigger from water level, motored past not stopping. Chunks kept paddling. It was then the same light switched on with Snowy. The wake was spreading out behind the passing ferry and a small wave was being formed. “Paddle hard now.” yelled Chunks as the first of the wake waves reached them.

Several passengers had walked out onto the deck to see what the commotion was with the horn and to their amazement they saw two surfboard paddlers who had caught the wake of the ferry and were now standing up and riding the perfectly formed peeling two foot wave behind they ferry. Chunks was waving to the passengers. “Yahooooo” yelled Snowy with excitement and the passengers waved back. They had caught up with the ferry just inside the heads and had ridden over a mile by the time the ferry finally slowed and the wake faded. As it reached the pier, the two hitch-hiking surfers glided off towards the east side of the pier. They landed on the beach just as the gangplank was dropped into place and passengers started disembarking, wondering where the mysterious surfers had gone. Chunks and Snowy were jumping up and down hooting and hollering like indians around a camp fire. finally hoisting their boards onto their shoulders they couldn’t stop talking and laughing about their perfect endless wave, They arrived back at the surf club before the boats had even shown up around Fairy Bower. “If only summer was endless too we would be in heaven.” said Chunks. Snowy’s grin said it all.

That night the thoughts of the weekend rattled around in Chunk’s head so loudly that he could hardly sleep. He was trying to put together all the happenings of the Bondi Summer Surf Carnival and the free ferry ride on the way home. He came to the conclusion that he shouldn’t mention the free ride, Boss mightn’t be happy, beside who would believe him.

His mind finally allowed him to get some sleep in the early morning hours before sunrise. Slowly awakening, he lay in bed staring at the white ceiling, not quite sure if it had been a dream or it really happened.

Chunks headed down to the newspaper and prepared to write. He closed his eyes and visualized the boats, the beach sprints and swimmers with belts and ropes who pulled and carried the helpless swimmer in the belt rescue. Chunks knew he could have pulled the victim onto his board and been back to the beach in half the time, but the Surf Life Saving movement was more than just rescue, there was mateship in these traditions. This was more than evident when the rescued swimmer was carried high on the shoulders of his club mates who were more concerned with stepping in time and their posture than quickly saving a drowning soul. ‘Better not get political with the story.’ he though to himself. Within a few hours he had outlined the story an presented it to the editor. After a quick read the editor suggested Chunks finish writing the article ready for tomorrow’s paper. “Oh, by the way Chunks, don’t mentioned the ferry incident, we wouldn’t want to get you in trouble on your first assignment.” he winked as Chunks walked sheepishly out the door, wondering how the editor had found out.

Next morning Chunks raced down to get a copy of the Manly and North Sydney News. He reached the wharf and spotted the new kid that had taken his place as paper boy holding out a copy towards him. “Page 6.” he said as he handed the paper over. Flicking through the pages Chunks found his story under the heading Surf Carnival Success and his eyes lit up as the say the all important. ‘by Charlie Johnson – Sports Reporter.’ ‘Seemed strange to be called Charlie Johnson, I normally only get called that when I’m in trouble’ he though as he started to read.

“Clear skies and large crowds greeted the thousands of enthusiastic competitors to the Bondi Summer Surf Carnival. Traveling from as far away as Greenmount in Queensland and Torquay in Victoria, Surf Club teams competed in a wide range of events to showcase the Bronzed Aussie’s mastery of the surf.

The wide golden sands of Bondi were spread from north to south with boats beautifully finished and gleaming in the morning sun, as Saturdays competition commenced. In the first event teams dashed to save a hapless victim from the perils of the sea. The beltman swam out through the breakers while the rope was peeled out from the reel and above the heads of the team as they set about the rescue. A precision display from the Bondi team was rightly rewarded with a first place in the Rescue and Resuscitation. The story continued, In Australia, a mate is more than just a friend. It’s all about mutual respect and unconditional assistance, that’s what the Rescue and Resuscitation is all about. Mateship is the relationship between men during times of challenge.

Saturday morning’s boat events resulted in Manly’s two boats crews qualifying for Sundays final. The sweep of one boat was quoted as saying, “Our crew worked as a team and put in the hard yards through the break to get an early lead and from then we were never headed. We are looking forward to the finals and best of luck to the others in the final.”

The afternoon was capped off by a spectacular display of surfing prowess in the board-riding exhibition and had the spectators in awe and loudly applauding every ride. “Not since the display of Duke Kahanamoku at Freshwater have we been treated to such a display.” the local mayor concluded.

A tap on his shoulder interrupted Chunks from his reading, it was Betty. She had been standing there silently watching the concentration on Chunk’s face, waiting for him to finish.  The carnival must have been wonderful, I just finished reading your story myself, I wish I was there with you. sighed Betty. Chunks turned and giving her a big smile said, Next time we’ll see if we can arrange it. With the prized newspaper folded neatly and tucked under one arm Chunks grabbed Betty’s hand and they walked down the Corso towards the beach, the world was theirs.