14 June 2010

Stoked on Gingernut Snaps

Between the ages of three and eight my family lived in Mona Vale and my fondest memories are of spending the day at the beach body surfing, riding my Zippy board, and, in those pre-legrope days, waiting for a surfboard to bounce in on the whitewater so I could grab it and  ride a couple of little waves before the owner could swim in and collect it.  Sometimes the owner would thank me when I gave it to him, other times I would cop a mouthful of abuse for touching it.  It tells a lot about a person's character the way they treat kids, or anyone else for that matter.  These were the first five years of the 60's when the board's were about 10' long and kids towed them to the beach on trailers behind their bicycles.  In Stoked, the legendary Bob McTavish tells a series of wonderful stories beginning way before my recollections.  He also spent a lot of time around Sydney's northern beaches and, from my perspective, it was great to read about what was happening while I was growing up in the neighborhood.  All I remember is the beach, the house, walking to school, playing u/7 soccer and fearfully having to race in the North Narabeen ocean baths with a huge jelly fish.

Now the oldfartsurfers love a gingernut snap biscuit with their coffee in the Old Farts Surf Cafe' after a morning surf.  Gingernuts are great for dunking because they are hard and don't drop off in your coffee when soggy.  In fact they are so hard you pretty well have to dunk them to make them edible.  Now this is where there is a great connection between Bob and the oldfartsurfers.  One of Bob's earlier stories is of surfing with Ma and Pa Bendall on the sunshine coast and eating gingernut snaps on the rocks afterwards.  You might think it is a pretty loose connection, however, when you consider Bob's pretty much an oldfartsurfer himself, we'll claim it.

Whilst the book is introduced by award winning author, Tim Winton (of Breath fame), the book pretty much seems to be written by the man himself.  Bob tells a series of amazing stories with a lot of warmth and humour.  He must have an incredible memory as they cover his life from childhood hitching to the sunshine coast, sleeping on the beach, through his famous stowaway trip to Hawaii and the development of the short board.   If half these stories are true he has hand an amazing and envious life.  This is a real nostalgia trip and gives insight to some of the memories of your surfing life that you only read about in newspapers and magazines. 

An interesting aspect of Stoked is Bob's development as a surfboard designer.  His ideas and how he came about them are of real interest to anyone remotely interested in board design and surf history.  His collaboration with George Greenough and some of the greats at the time of the shortboard revolution gives a wonderful insight into what was happening at the time I was buying my first surfboards.  In fact the oldfartsurfer Mexican was so impressed he has decided he is going to order himself a McTavish to see what all the fuss is about.  More about that later.

Rating 5/5 for surf stoke.


Anonymous said...

Great review. I'm off to get it. The only surfer autobiog I've read is Bustin Down The Door (Rabbit) which I highly recommend. Re the ginger nut - very dubious connection...what will you come up with next!
cheers R

Oldfartsurfer said...

Hey R, I have photographic evidence of you enjoying a gingernut snap biscuit with the oldfartsurfers on your last olfasrtsurfsafari. Its your connection to the oldfartsurfing cultural history -eating the biscuit is a rite of passage. At them moment before you do anything in Australia you have to do a heritage assessment, cultural landscape assessment, aboriginal heritage assessment and sea level rise vulnerabiity assessments. The OFSC is lobying the various state legislatures for Oldfartsurfing cultural heritage assessments of all coastal developments. In fact we are taking up a partitian and looking for NSW leader of the movement.

Anonymous said...

Ahh makes sense now. Ever since that day I've had a strange feeling of clarity and sense of purpose. I assumed it was the weather, waves and company. But perhaps there was something in the biscuit! I am also well positioned to comment on heritage and culture - being an immigrant like yourself, and having grown up in Tasmania, I have a unique outlook on the Australian landscape. Put me down as candidate for NSW chapter...I start informally lobbying as we 'speak'...