nat young – my part in his downfall
Everybody had a story about Nat .. and there was never a lot of pleasure in the re-telling of them, unless of course you managed to score a win. This wasn’t easy, almost impossible as his great talent led him to places where the rabble could only watch. That was us, we were the rabble.
Though we scored a rare win once – in about 1964.
First though, and for those who don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the man, we can remember one night at Moby Dicks at Whale Beach. This was when poker machines had handles and paid out wins in 20c pieces. When Martin Potter wore the robes of sanctity and Tom Carroll was just a nuisance at the pool table. Not good on the felt was TC, and Mansted was worse.
They were all there this night, all seated in the restaurant when management started screening an old surf movie on the wall. Such things kept noisy young men quiet in their seats during dinner last century, and this was the case until Mr. N. Young appeared on the screen powering all over Sunset Beach or Honolua Bay. Possibly both.
Howls of derision, catcalls of contempt, unabbreviated blasphemies – all from fellows who couldn’t match his record in the water and always treated him respectfully face to face. Their noise became so vociferous someone turned the movie off.
That was how we all loved Nat.
He had a funny way of introducing himself to you when he dropped in – sometimes he would slice around into a full-blooded cutback and say hullo to your head with his elbow.
This was how Nat loved us back.
He came to Byron not long after Bruce Brown took Phil Edwards back to California. They left a board up at Mrs. Browns, some multi-stringered beast made by Hobie Alter. Heavy. Thick. We used to stand around it and kick it like you do a car tyre at a lot. Nobody took it out. Judged hopeless. Hohnesee was the lad then.
Algy Reid and I rented Mrs. Brown’s ground floor – 45 seconds to the Pass – and when this fellow knocked on the door I opened it.
Such a lovely smile he gave me, this bloke about our age – surfer, and down behind him on the road his car. Idling there. Stack of boards on the roof, heads in all the windows. Bleached heads. Sydney heads.
Nat in the front passenger side. Not quite looking up at us. Shit eh?
The smiler asked if we had enough room to put them all up for a day or two, him and his mates – plus Nat who in two years would win the World Championship in San Diego. After all, we let J.Witzig sleep on the floor a month previous.
I waited for Nat to look at me, this took a little while, and then I said no.
Shut the door.
Laughed for a month. Smiling now.
header pic by john witzig – nat on the rail at honolua 1967