Dad loved being out the back. He’d been in the surf all his life. I never saw him swim anywhere but the ocean.
He’d get through the white water with ease. The old man had that wiry, Australian build of the day. So many war veterans seemed to look that way. Not big, but slim and powerful.
My father had a deep tan, from long hours on building sites. His costume of choice was popular at the time. Not Speedos or board shorts. Somewhere in between. I still see old blokes wearing them. And I still cringe.
He’d catch wave after wave, surging to the shore, with his baldy head protruding from the wash. And me watching in the shallows.
I can remember when he taught me how to body surf. One of the best times of my young life. Even better than when he taught me how to whistle.
Work out where the waves are breaking. Don’t waste energy getting there. Pick the one you want. Swim hard. Once you’re on, keep one arm straight. Look up, and don’t crash into large women or kids.
I’ve loved the surf ever since. Thanks to him. If you’ve never caught a wave all the way into shore, you haven’t lived.
It all came back this week. We’re at the beach, spending every available second in the wide blue Pacific.
The girls decided they wanted to learn how to ride a surfboard. Not from me, interestingly enough. Instead, it was decided lessons would be better from Johnny the surf school man, who could take large sums of cash from us.
Between us, this was probably a wise choice. I surfed as a teenager, like all my mates. Even had a trailer for my board. A few of us would take the day off school, if a decent southerly was blowing. But I was no champion.
None of us could afford wet suits, so when the water got icy, we wore footy jumpers, somehow thinking the thick wet cotton would keep us warm. It didn’t. But we provided plenty of laughs for anyone watching.
Anyway, our wads of money this week meant the girls were fully equipped when they entered the surf. Not a Titans jumper in sight.
And guess what? They were naturals. Both up on their feet after their second lesson. One more and they’ll be teaching me.
The lessons did more than allow them to stand up on a surfboard. More importantly, they now feel comfortable in the ocean. Not scared by waves anymore.
I’ve noticed it already. They want to come out the back with me. No fear of the boomers crashing in front of them.
Dad and Johnny were very different characters. Although they shared the same hairline. And both are responsible for something wonderful.
They passed on a love of the surf. That will stay forever. The girls have been smiling like I was, on that weekend all those years ago. Best money we’ll spend this holiday.