The bronze life saver

Behind Britannic Mansions, there was a large shed, which Diana Webber turned into a bronze foundry with New York sculptor, John Gardner. She had studied Art at East Sydney Tech before meeting John Webber. But, her artistic aspirations were stifled when they started having children. While her brothers, Dick and Greg Weight, revelled in the Yellow House experience, Diana was too busy raising children to take “art for art’s sake” seriously. But, when the opportunity finally presented itself, quarter of a century later, she went back to the Tech, intent as ever to be creative. That’s where she met John Gardner, who was teaching bronze foundry at the time. One of her earliest commissions was a rugby league trophy for the Dally M Award. She made surfing trophies for pro contests and her exhibitions were well received within the Sydney art community. Then, she was asked to make a life size bronze statue to commemorate the Surf Lifesaving movement in Australia, a magnificent sculpture that stands beside Bondi Pavilion.

Diana Webber's sculpture of a lifesaver

Bronze lifesaver by Diana Webber

External links:

Back to coolites

When I was 12 and a half, I went for a surf at South Bondi. I was riding a fibreglass board for the third or fourth time after two years on a styrofoam coolite. I must have got in the way of an older, better surfer, because he told me to “fuck off you trog”. I knew I wasn’t a trog, in that I was just learning. So, I was more pissed off than shattered, even though in hindsight I came to learn that learners are effectively trogs to any local. So, I dealt with the feeling and made a snap decision that came from not wanting to surf in any area where that was the way it was, which was to go back to my coolite.

Riding a coolite

Riding a coolite.

Going back to my coolite was a step backwards in cool-ness. But, it also meant being totally free to surf all of the north end right up to centre. It was winter and there was a righthand rip sandbank just at the southern limit of the “no fibreglass zone”. It was a bank unlike any I was to see since. I went home early and found my last coolite I had been riding and replaced the flexy white plastic fin with a bigger timber fin using araldite.  I hadn’t ridden it for weeks. So, it was kind of nice to pick it up again. I felt that it had felt rejected, in that until today I had done exactly that.

It was one of those orange coolites with a deck concave, and a round nose and square tail. They snapped more easily than the firestone originals, but not as easily as a Kentucky Fried. So, the next day, when John and Mont continued bravely to deal with the aggro of the south end, I just paddled across the imaginary line that marked the edge of the no fibreglass zone, into a level of peace and freedom, which was to more than offset the performance back step I had just taken. There wasn’t even a swimmer on the bank and I rode scores of bowling waves to myself doing turns and slight slides with no one to hassle me, but also nobody to share it with. I missed that bit, but experienced something very unusual for a 12 year old, where ego and the need to be alongside your peers was sacrificed for the purity of peace.

To this day, that day rates as one of the top few experiences of my life. I even laughed a bit to myself thinking that I was even more of a kook than ever (riding a coolite in the flags) but having a different kind of fun that was just as much to do with my decision to do it, as the perfection of the waves and the absence of people.

– Greg Webber