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, because 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 more experienced surfers. So, I dealt with the feeling of rejection and decided to go back to riding a coolite. I had been riding 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.
Going back to my coolite was a step backwards in cool-ness. But, it also meant being totally free to surf the entire north end of the beach right up to centre. It was winter and there was a righthand rip sandbank just on the edge of the no-fibreglass zone. So, I went home to get my coolite, which I then felt guilty for having rejected. But, we soon became reacquainted, as I removed the flexy white plastic fin and replaced it with a larger timber fin recessed into the foam and secured firmly in place with Araldite.
The next day, when John and Mont continued bravely to deal with the agro 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, as I rode scores of bowling waves by myself, doing turns and slight slides with no one to hassle me, but also nobody to share it with. I missed that bit, but I valued the freedom so much more, which is sort of odd for a 12 year old, where the need to be alongside your peers usually determines what you do. 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, I was having a different kind of fun that was as much to do with rejecting the south end, as it was enjoying the quality of the waves and the absence of people.