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the last day, jack ‘ bluey ‘ mayes

One afternoon in 1997 a little blonde haired fellow came up quietly to me as I stood in the North Avalon carpark feeling the easterly freshen up a hot day. Sometimes you welcome an onshore with its purer origins, that wastrel wind. The beachcomber.

‘ If you want to see Jack you had better make it soon. ‘ he said.

I looked at Mick and read about the old boy’s shut down in his eyes. They had been friends for over 40 years. Good and bad.

‘ I’ve just come from the hospital, ‘ he went on, ‘ he hasn’t much time left.’

Room 912A. One window facing the southwest, the room unlit, the television flickering soundlessly. Nobody watching over him. The room cold like a crypt. Already.

All ready?

And Jack in bed wheezing; wheezing in and wheezing out, labouring for breath, his forehead hot and damp, his gaping mouth mute at last and disfigured by his blackened teeth. His long white stringy hair wet with panic, one old hand curled up under his chin and tight with trauma, and every now and then Jack Mayes let out a soft whimper as his last caller roamed in closer. He was done, Jack, he was waiting.

Somebody had tacked up a picture of Brock Little dropping into a Waimea monster above his bed, and they had scrawled a message on it.

‘ See you out there old son. ‘

Thirty of us showed up to his funeral at Bondi Junction, the arterial blood of old Bondi together again. A thin stream even then. Farrelly in a centre pew. Never a foreigner. Pews of old fighters, old surfers. We all knew The Lords Prayer, though not too loudly.

Fifteen or so years ago now – life is a fleetfooted race of time is it not.

Jack Mayes was one of the earliest Australian board riders who took to the shorter balsa boards – He was also considered the best (toothpick) boardrider in Australia from the 40’s to the 50’s. He travelled widely along the NSW and Qld coast and left heartbreak and ruin for the length of the Pacific Highway.  In his later years he soapboxed his opinions broadly and loudly on the Bondi beachfront and was generally understood to be a little hard to handle. He is rarely remembered now.

 – and all that may be so – he was a friend of mine. We travelled the early roads.

magoo said bluey was the guy that sat out the back and waited for the big wednesday wave …. 25 Jan 2012 / Facebook / Debbie McGuigan

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. lovely piece of writing Pete – a mug lair by all accounts

    July 21, 2011
    • mug lair indeed – I watched him walk into a pub in coolangatta one night, wearing a bloody ‘ mohair ‘ jumper – he bought himself a beer, walked past us (we’d only been travelling together for a month) and sat himself down at a table with three girls he hadn’t met –

      July 22, 2011
  2. Oh wow – tearing up. But I think I would have loved Jack to sit down at my table. 🙂

    July 23, 2011
  3. Bob Green #

    Hello Pete,

    A while back I contacted you about surfoplanes. In my travels I saw somewhere that you knew Kevin Brennan. I wanted to send you a photo of Kevin with a balsa bellyboard. I gather Kevin rode this board (which belonged to Gary Johnson) prone & standing up.



    July 23, 2011
    • Bob Green .. not Mick Trenerry’s mate by chance? – and who could forget Gary Bloody Johnson, the bloke who first called ‘ hey joe ‘ – the Bondi catchcall

      tell me it isn’t so


      July 23, 2011
  4. R.I.P Jack. That mohair jumper sure suggests an attitude!

    July 28, 2011
    • jack invented attitude, then he spent his entire life improving the concept .. ..

      July 28, 2011
  5. Scott Dillon says.
    Bluey Mayes was a great guy,a magnificient surfer,particullarly on a Toothpick.BUT,He had an attatatude.He thought every wave was there just for him.We had many heated exchanges,BUT,Taking this all into account,He was a great guy,A good friend,however in small doses.Bondi Point was our favorite spot on a big day,riding the toothpicks..I remember on one special day,we were out at Bondi Point..It was huge..I had several verbal exchanges with Bluey,as to whoes wave it was,SO,I paddled around to the Big Boggiehole and picked an unusual big,big,wave.As I approached the take off spot at the point Bluey dropped in,in front of me,never seeing me coming..I took him out,as his board went up on the rocks.Obviously I can’t repeat his remarks,as I paddled back out..This was just Jack..I will be up there with him soon,as I am now 84.
    Scott Dillon

    July 30, 2011
    • geez, whoever thought you’d show up here mate – you made a couple of boards for me when you and ward were up at wellington street – before that behind the garage on the beach – when we were kids we’d watch you surfing the biggest days off the pool – you were one cheeky bastard scott – but not as good looking as bluey – or wheels, or magoo, or cochran, or ross – tell you what, I’ll stick up a post with your ugly mug in it and we’ll collect your stiff all in the one spot – so hangonabit will ya –

      July 30, 2011
    • Here’s a recollection of Bluey Mayes by Red Ted:

      October 7, 2011
  6. Red Ted #

    Jack’s ashes are ensconced in the ciff face behind the first ramp at South Bondi, the site of the “polio pit” , the former South Bondi Boardriders lock up. A memorial plaque of the best naval bronze is dynabolted in place and true to style it was “donated” by the foreign order branch of Garden Island Dockyard. Sometimes even flowers mysteriously appear below the plaque.

    January 16, 2012
  7. Mitch #

    That was a beautiful piece of writing. Not many may remember Jack “Bluey” Mayes, but after stumbling across the story of this mans life within the last 30mins, I know I never will.
    Thanks Bluey, I miss Aussies like him, how will we get along when their all gone?

    December 21, 2018
  8. Mitch #

    If I may make an important point in that one of the very few pioneering Aussie blokes who got surfing going here, right here in Sydney, I’ve been looking into these guys and after just reading and feeling privileged to have done so the comment on your piece on Bluey here by Mr Scott Dillon, I discover that it was 10 days ago on Tuesday 11.12.2018 that we lost this icon of a man at 90 yrs of age. A true legend, and by all accounts a great bloke too, rare as hens teeth, I only wish I had the chance to shake his hand. RIP ✊🏻✊🏻✊🏻

    December 21, 2018
  9. Thanks for the kind words, Mitch, we did things the other way around in the early days of balsa boards and admired the older men out surfing with us … for better or for worse … didn’t matter how awkward they looked on a wave. That’s because when it was BIG they went out and we didn’t. We sat and watched.

    December 21, 2018
  10. Mitch #

    Hey Pete

    It’s a pleasure mate, you blokes were there, even to watch those guys, at such a unique time, for people like me an enviable time, when there would have been a positive buzz in the air of a different kind, and an anticipation of good things ahead, I admire you all.
    Have a great Christmas and a happy 2019 mate to you and all those important to you, all the best.

    December 22, 2018
  11. sjh #

    A nice thinking piece of writing

    May 19, 2020

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