Where are you from?
I live in Sydney but I’m originally from Yamba on the North Coast of New South Wales. It’s a country town two hours south of Gold Coast. I grew up about 40 minutes inland in a town called Casino and learned to surf on the North Coast around Byron Bay and Evans Head. I used to work doing paper runs when I was young and poured over surf mags. All I wanted to do was live by the beach and I always said I’d live as close as I possibly could. Then, when I just turned 13, my parents bought The Pacific Hotel in Yamba overlooking the ocean and my life changed forever. It was the ultimate place to grow up. Almost a different wave for every wind and swell direction.
For all us Northern Hemi folk, tell us about the area you live in.
If you surf, I believe Sydney is one of the greatest cities in the world. It has all the metropolitan upshots, like opportunities for career and business. Plus, it’s a real cultural hub. The climate is great: we get really hot summer days, heavy-duty storms, the snowfields are relatively close in winter. And we often get world-class surf. Both a few hours north and south of the city is some unbelievably good surf.
What is your favorite part of your home and why?
Certainly the view. It was built in the 1920s and when I bought it, it had one tiny little window facing the ocean. I guess in those days it was all about protecting yourself from the elements. The moment I knocked out those walls and the view opened up, I couldn’t believe where I actually lived. And I like the use of the hallway as a galley kitchen.
What is the surf scene like in Bondi and how are the waves compared to California?
The day-to-day waves are comparable in that we get a lot of small and sloppy surf. There’s probably more backwash here than California. But the main difference is that we get a lot more swell. I know you guys have Northern California and monster waves, but we get 8-foot-plus waves a lot. We get waves like Hurricane Marie maybe a half-dozen times a year.
Tell us about Stab Magazine and how it got started.
I started the magazine with Derek Rielly after I wrote a how-to surf book with Taj Burrow. Derek wasn’t that keen initially but I kept pushing and he came around. I knew we could make an impact. He had big ideas and I did the grunt work to make them happen. The combo worked. A lot has changed in the past five years. It wasn’t until we invested heavily in our website that we went global quickly. The decline of the surf industry and the changing of media was our greatest opportunity. When other media were scared about their future, we got lucky. We like to plug surfing into elements of the world that aren’t as affected by the kind of cultural vacuum that surfing can exist in. We try not to be too serious. I feel like we both inspire and infuriate our readers. We’re not parochial. We don’t favor an Australian over a Californian or Frenchman. Talent is talent, regardless of origin. And, we love inspired photography. From surf concept shoots to shooting product to portraiture. That’s always been a big focus.
You have had the opportunity to cover some pretty awesome stories and personalities over the years. What are some standouts in your mind?
The Irons family have always been very good to Stab. And Andy has always been one of my favorites. Super raw and passionate, and not dreary or politically correct, which can be polarizing and not always that pleasant. Wind back a few years to the Globe Pro in Fiji. It was a free-surf day before the contest started. I was on a set out at Cloudbreak and Andy was paddling back out. I could hear him screaming from the channel. Not hooting, screaming. Like, really making a scene paddling out. He always wanted the best waves and he was furious I’d managed to get a set. At the top of his lungs he was screaming, "What are you going to write about? Huh? Yourself!" He was humiliating one minute, warm the next, but always passionate. You have to respect a man with an opinion. He might just be the last of that generation.
If you could take a surf trip anywhere in the world with whoever you want, where would you go and who would you bring?
I once tried to put together a bodysurfing trip with Barack Obama and Kelly Slater. That’s the one I’d want to go on. I wouldn’t care where but maybe that (censored) right in the Caribbean that breaks right on the sand that Ben Bourgeois always gets on. Maybe when Obama is done being president we can bring that one to life.
This article was originally published on Indoek as part of the Surf Shacks series, featuring the homes of creative surfers from coast to coast and overseas. See the full interview and photo gallery here.
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