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tabourie and the quiet surfer

Dummies, placid and warm today.

There was just this one other fellow out there, making the two of us today.

He was a quiet man with his long hair tied back and he was wearing a stained and ragged wetsuit, his board didn’t look much better; yellowed with age and bandaged up along the rails with ding-tape. Only the wax was new. I’d watched him walk up the beach from the Meroo end through the rain. No homes or roads down there, just a couple of walking tracks through the bush and a cleared spot for a tent at the southern end

A grunt as he paddled past, not unfriendly, just reserved. He sat so far inside of me I thought he was looking for a left off to the other side, something I’d missed. The reef itself though was not overly big, just slick and black and breaking fast on almost bare rock.

The previous year I found a fisherman’s fresh water tap down there in a small cave just off the beach. Someone had jammed a good length of rope under a permanent drip and fed it into a large plastic container, it held about ten litres and was full at the time. Probably put together by the same bloke who was growing a fine strain of bushy about one hundred yards south and further into the scrub. Whoever it was had strung up some long pieces of guttering in the casuarina branches to catch the rain and then led them into a couple of 44 gallon drums – they were full too.

Epic days those were at Tabourie.

We sat out there for a few hours, me picking up the the occasional wide one and mystery man taking the deepest, the worst, the positively unmakeable with only inches of water over the reef.

When he took off he would curl up under the lip like a possum under an eave and later, at the end of the wave – way into the little cove – he eased out with the spit around his shoulders. Then he would uncoil himself and let loose a fluid roundhouse cutback and in the doing heave away a massive slice of wave-top.

Don’t they look good from behind.

Earlier that week I’d surfed a spot down by Depot Beach and during a lull I asked him what they called that fabulous little right that’s hidden away down there, just off a rocky island. Not that I’d give anything away, besides, this was written in 1979. They probably have a Woolworths across the road now.

He didn’t answer right away, just sort of squinted away at Crampton Island and after a while he replied, ‘ well, that would depend who you are asking.’

I’m reminded of him these crowded days up here in the Northern Rivers, the quiet man at Dummies, the man who appeared like a ghost and when the ghost was done, disappeared.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. luckyal #

    reserved and curled up under the lip like a possum sounds like an old guy i know. actually quite a few old guys i know. but this mystery man couldn’t possibly have come from bulli originally could he, pete?

    June 14, 2011
  2. Younger than me by 10yrs -and he had the forested look of a south coastman – and he knew all the rocks and reefs from tabourie to durras – and he waved at me when he went in that day – from the beach, now there’s a sign.

    June 14, 2011
  3. Davo's Liver #

    ‘ Well, that would depend who you are asking.’


    You don’t disappoint Mr. Bowes.

    June 15, 2011
  4. mike #

    Every day surfing is the best read, nice type PB

    June 15, 2011

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