How the fuck did that happen so quickly? Days meld into weeks into years this side of 40.

Surf-lit: “If you count the one drunken, fifteen-minute paddle he had after the beachside family BBQ in February, this will be the third time he has surfed this year. Just that brief tryst was enough to leave him feeling spent”

Only a surfer knows the feeling.

Bob smiles as he pulls his old Rusty shooter from the back of his work truck. The RP custom, shaped during a time of better intentions, is browned.

Waterlogged. The deck sunken. But it still feels magic in his hands.

The yellow pin-line spray. The hypercolour Billabong sticker, placed below the iconic R in a moment of Occ-induced adolescent lust, now emblazoned in semi-eternity.

Even after all these years, the sight of the board in the cold dawn light gets him giddy. Like seeing an old flame.

If you count the one drunken, fifteen-minute paddle he had after the beachside family BBQ in February, this will be the third time he has surfed this year. Just that brief tryst was enough to leave him feeling spent. But after a heavy winter of work he’s expecting his surf fitness to be completely decayed. Fossilised, desiccated, decomposed.

Still, it will be good to get wet.

He shivers as the early morning sou’wester cuts down from the hills and into the empty car park. Fuck me, he thinks, isn’t it meant to be summer almost? His ancient Billabong springsuit will be doing all it can just to hold him together.

It’ll probably storm tonight.

Of course, if he’s really counting, he’d pushed young Kaden into a couple last summer as well, hopeful that his own youthful love of surfing would rub off on his eldest born. Picture a perfect sunny day, knee high foamies pushing across a soft sand bank, Kaden decked out in his new Quiksilver wetsuit, mum filming the whole thing from the beach.

But the kid’s interest had lasted about as long as the first and last nose dive on his 7S fish, which in the ultimate GenZ judgement he had later deemed not worthy of a Tik Tok. (The only thing he’d say to the old man on the drive home after was: “that was NOT fabulous”.)

Bob thinks of his son, his son’s entire generation, chained to their screens like doped up lab rats while the world passes them by, and what part he’s played in allowing that to happen. Then he thinks about his daughter he barely speaks to. His wife he hasn’t been close to in years.

A deep pain like he didn’t know was possible shoots up from the base of his spine and into his shoulders, neck, head.

He sighs as he slides on his Hurley rash vest and Billabong wetsuit.

At least the board still feels right. Comfortable under his arm. Yielding to his touch.

The surf goes as expected. Long bouts of frustration punctuated by moments of bliss.

But hey, only a surfer knows the feeling, as it says across the logo on the small of his back.

And anyway, it’s still good to get wet.


Bob gets home in time to cook the family breakfast. Bacon and eggs every Saturday morning. A rare treat now he’s on that cholesterol diet.

Then it’s yard work: trees to trim, a fence to build, holes to dig. Daughter’s soccer practise comes next, dropping Kaden at the trampoline park on the way. Then grocery shopping with the wife. A quick visit to the in-laws. Pick up the kids on the way home. Get dinner on the BBQ before the sun goes down.

There was something else, too… something he had to do. What was it?

Ah, shit.

Put the Christmas lights up.

How the fuck did that happen so quickly? Days meld into weeks into years this side of 40.

Bob gets the lights up. Sees dinner is cleared. Wife will put away the dishes. The kids can be left to their own devices.

Finally, as the sun sets, he slumps into his favourite chair, switching on some Foxtel to numb out the day. There’s a re-run of the WSL ‘CT summer slam at Cabarita. Callinan v O’Leary. He watches on as the two powerful goofy footers deconstruct the shifty beach break peaks. They’re loose, limbre. Virile. Could’ve been him, with the right training.

“Kaden,” he yells over his shoulder, “come and watch some good surfing. Come and watch what your dad used to be.”

No response.

Bob goes to the fridge, cracks a beer instead. Then melts back into his chair.


Bob wanders outside into the heavy evening air, third beer in hand. Or was it his fourth? What’s it matter anyway?

A sudden eruption of light in his peripheral vision. Even over the neighbours’ second-story antennas he can see the storm approaching. Deep, dark clouds rolling in over the pancaked landscape of his sub-sub division.

Lightning flashes but it’s so far away he can’t yet hear the thunder. He imagines all that fantastic power being muted by the simple tyranny of time and distance. Screaming in silence.

He knows the feeling.

Bob drains another beer as he stands on the back patio. His eyes wander from the storm to the kitchen window.

He sees his wife, finishing up the last of the dishes. For a second they lock eyes, and he senses a distance between them that even he didn’t think possible. But like lightning, it’s gone as quickly as he could register it. So quick he wonders if it even happened.

The Christmas lights flicker on.


Bob finds himself in the garage. His one refuge. His safe space.

He pulls the Rusty shooter out from his truck and places it on the workbench.

The thing sure did bring him some joy back in the day. Three trips to Indo. That one crazy session at Little Groyne in ‘94.

He surveys its sleek, classy lines. The hard rails, the tapered rocker. Hiding a gentle yet pronounced nose lift. There’s still a beautiful board there, underneath the years of abuse. If only it could get out.

He looks around the garage. Beside his dusty old dumbbells and ratty pair of runners is his workout box. It’s covered in all of the iconic logos from the ‘90s, RC, Quik, Billabong, Volcom, Gotcha etc. For some reason he’s drawn to it. A Pavlovian response to those brands that were so formative in his youth.

Bob opens the box. Next to a pair of gym socks and an old bottle of Brut he finds a small black package, about the size of a tissue box. He peers down close to read it.

Hurley After Workout Wipes.

The wife must have snuck them in without him noticing. A secret gift. Her one attempt at affection. At least she tries.

He slides apart the seal, unsure of what will come out. A small white tissue pokes through the opening.

It smells of mango, and vanilla. Feminine.

He takes the moist tissue and runs it down the rail of his board. The alcohol in it clears the decade’s worth of grime from the board’s surface with ease. He pulls out more of the soft white wipes, and sets to his newfound task with vigour.

He dreams of deep caverns and backdoor pits as he wipes the board clean.

It doesn’t take him long to finish the job. He then quickly, feverishly, strips back the wax, exposing the white deck hidden underneath. Like a tan line, he thinks. Like his wife’s tan lines. He remembers when they were younger, how she would give herself to him every night.

But now…

The board glistens seductively under the soft garage light. The symmetrical curves. The pronounced hip. The polished, recessed plugs.

He cracks another beer. Drains it too. Rain starts to fall on the garage’s tin roof.

I’ve treated this thing like shit, thinks Bob. Let life get between us. But here it is, as faithful and ready as the day I first picked it up from the shop.

He holds the board under his arm, squeezes it tight. It might be the beers talking but he swears he feels it vibrate back in response. Signifying its pleasure.

Wild thoughts run through his mind. He presses the shooter’s hard body against his.

He could rip a hole in it, he thinks. Curl up inside it and live there forever.

My one true love. My universal constant.

Is it really so weird to want a board like this? Could it be forgiven if he… if they…?

Outside the rain begins to pour, reverberating so loudly on the roof that it’s all he can hear. And the board is all that he can see.

Bob lies down with it next to him, his eyes level with the Billabong logo. He slides the box of Hurley wipes down between his legs, positioning it between himself and the board.

Well, he says as the rain and thunder continue to pound. Only a surfer knows the feeling.

Bob whispers this to the board over, and over.

And for those few moments, brief yet timeless, Bob, entwined with his board and wipes, experiences a sensation few will ever share.

That few ever could share.

Only a surfer knows the feeling.

A shock of thunder wakes Bob from his sleep.

“You know Ronnie, call me crazy, but I reckon the goofy footers are at a distinct advantage on the backhand out here today.”

“And I reckon you’d be right, Deadly.”

He looks around the room. He’s still in his chair. The Caba comp plays on the TV, Blakey brothers on the call. A warm, half drunken beer is nestled in his band.

His wife sits on the lounge next to him, reading a book.

“You must have been having a good dream,” she says. “Writhing around like a teenager.”

Bob blinks once, twice to make sure he’s actually awake. He can still taste mango in his mouth.

“Must have,’ he says.

Bob turns to face his wife.

“Say, honey. I’ve had a think about a couple of things I might like for Christmas.”

Blessed: Once-poor Thai fisherman stumbles across world’s largest blob of whale vomit on beach; experts claim value over $3 million dollars!

Smells like success.

Oh to be young and Thai, there eating some of the world’s best cuisine, getting some of the world’s best massages, gazing up at some of the world’s best Buddhist temples, speaking names with some of the world’s most syllables. Life presenting each day as a wonderful gift and even for the very poor fisherpeople.

And let us learn of Naris Suwannasang, a very poor fisherperson himself, who was there basking in perfection, walking along the beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat one fine morning when he stumbled upon several strange, pale rocks. He examined them for a moment then called his cousin to help carry the strange loads to his house. After poking and prodding then lighting on fire, the two realized they had discovered a treasure trove of ambergris, or sperm whale vomit, and whoa!

Ambergris, or sperm whale vomit, is also called “ocean gold” as it in an important ingredient in perfume, giving off a pleasing musty smell. It is also very rare.

Suwannasang became very excited, called a sperm whale vomit dealer and was immediately made an offer of over $3 million, as it was the largest blob of sperm whale vomit ever discovered.

The rich get richer, as they say.

Suwannasang made himself a delicious bowl of panang curry, beef, with a side of sticky rice to celebrate his fortunate turn but then became scared that someone would steal his sperm whale vomit so registered it with the local police.

I might have been more worried about the local police, but I am not Thai.

In any case, we surfers spend much of our lives in the ocean though I have never heard one of our kind finding any sperm whale vomit.

Cursed, I suppose.

Off with the ring.
Off with the ring.

Breaking: Former Honolulu police chief cops 7 year prison sentence, prosecutor wife 13 years, in “worst corruption scandal in Hawaii’s history!”

Perverted justice.

I first remember hearing of Louis Kealoha and his wife Katherine Kealoha when chatting with the effervescent Eddie Rothman one bright and shiny North Shore morning some eight years ago (buy here). He was speaking of the general corruption in Honolulu and how the whole business was rotten to the core.

I believed him, of course, as you would have, but also a little skeptical.

Like, all the way to the core?

Well, I shouldn’t have been as yesterday Honolulu’s former police chief Louis and his wife, a former deputy prosecutor with the city, were sentenced to long stretches in prison for their roles in what is being called “the worst corruption scandal in Hawaii’s history.

Mister got seven years.

Missus, who he repeatedly kicked under the bus, a whopping thirteen.

She was charged with trying to frame her uncle for stealing her mailbox in 2013, ripping off her uncle, grandmother and own children to fund a lavish lifestyle that included “trips to Disneyland, Elton John concert tickets and Maserati car payments” and other things.

He was mostly charged with helping.

She blamed painkillers.

He blamed her.

The judge didn’t care and walloped them hard because she had “perverted justice over and over and over again.”

“You framed your uncle for a crime that he didn’t commit,” he said. “Let me say that again. You framed your uncle for a crime he never committed. And given that your husband was the chief of police, the task wasn’t difficult. That’s the shock of all this.”

Mister divorced missus last year, mid-trail, when it was revealed she was having a tawdry affair.

Many questions, but one is paramount, or at least for me.

What sort of person buys a Maserati?

Like, you can buy a Porsche for the same price.

Very confused.

First of its kind study reveals surfers six times more likely to develop skin cancer than general public, shocking scientists though not surfers: “No duh, mate.”

Oi, oi, oi.

It is apparently worse than scientists could have ever imagined. Way worse. The very first study on surfers (ocean swimmers and SUPpers too) and occurrences of skin cancer within our ranks (ocean swimmer and SUPper ranks too) has just wrapped on Australia’s Gold Coast and determined that we are six times more likely to develop skin cancer than the general public.

Six times.

Six times.

Scientists were shocked.

Adjunct Associate Professor Michael Stapelberg, involved in the study, said that although the participants were obviously in a high-risk group, the results were alarming.

“Previous studies have shown they have an increased risk because of their level of ultra-violet radiation exposure. However, no study has actually quantified the exact risk and the exact difference between these select groups compared to other Australians. So that was very alarming and definitely raised alarm bells for me. What was actually very interesting about that was that these weren’t just superficial, very thin melanomas. Some of them were actually invasive.”

The study lead, Dr. Mike Climstein, added, “These phase-one results are quite startling.”

Surfers, on the other hand, were neither shocked nor startled, asking the obvious question, “But have you seen Longtom?”

Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

Anti-depressive news for everyone outside of those two wonderful countries.

Writer Sean Doherty, with Marty Tullemans, at the launch of his biography of Michael Peterson, cover shot by Marty. | Photo: @surfingaus

Legendary surf photographer, self-described “poet, warrior”, dies suddenly of kidney failure

Like his old friend Michael Peterson, Marty Tullemans is "perched above us in the after-life transit lounge."

The sands of time stop for no man.

And Marty Tullemans, a photographer who was as much a part of surf history as the iconic photographs he took but who suffered from bi-polar disorder and, later, dementia, has died of kidney failure.

Marty’s classic shot of Pete Townend at Kirra from 1972.


Michael Peterson, 1977.

Marty was man of indeterminate age whose flamboyant behaviour, driven by his mental illness, helped created a sort of cosmic legend.

Minutes after I’d sold a painstakingly restored vintage station wagon to him, I looked out the window of my office to see the forty-year-old Valiant mowing through the company’s flower beds, the compact Dutchman’s grinning face only just visible above the oversized steering wheel.

For the past year Marty had been living at the Blue Care Aged Care Facility in Kirra where he was treated with dialysis for kidneys ruined by years of medication used to treat his bi-polar disorder.

Stories about Marty have flowed.

From Nick Carroll,

“I’ll never forget Marty Tullemans rolling up to our family front door in Nullaburra Rd Newport back in 1976. Tom and I were innocent grommets and the Cosmic Pygmy was one of our early encounters with the sort of incredible humans who dwelled in the realm we were doomed to inhabit for the rest of our lives. We went out front to greet him, and Tullemans bowed, then began a kind of ritualistic movement, a dance if you will, swinging his hips around like an Indian Yogi. “Do this!” he urged us. “You’ll open up the chakras!” The smell of patchouli arose and wafted across the lawn. Our 80 year old grandmother, who’d lived through two world wars and a Depression and was now engaged in raising three grandkids on a foreign shore, was entranced by Marty. “What an interesting person!” she said to me later. She was totally right. Vale, you wacky witty lens person you.”

From Tim Baker,

“Vale the one and only Marty Tullemans who died peacefully this morning. He was such a unique character who documented Oz surfing through the 70s 80s and 90s like few others. He took the two best surf shots I ever had of myself, knowing full well no one was going to pay anything for shots of an intermediate level surf mag editor, got prints made and gave them to me out of pure kindness. Every interaction with Marty was memorable for his colourful cosmic raves but there was always some profound truth underpinning them. It can’t have been easy being Marty with his wild swings and surreal world view. You’ll be missed Marty and made surfing more colourful and stoked out a ton of surfers.”

Fittingly, for he was a man of the celestial and more than a little extra-terrestrial, Marty died during last night’s penumbral lunar eclipse.

At a wake for his old friend Michael Peterson in 2012, Marty said,

“I will firstly share with you a short story on the directness of Michael Peterson. We were playing chess at his shaping factory in 1975 (where he rented me a room for black and white photography work.) Anyway MP is just about to call me checkmate and just before he does he comes out with this classic ‘China plate;… just like surfing big Kirra Point barrels in life: keep your balls fair and square to the wall head down arse up aiming for da hole’. Michael just wants you all to know that just like a surfer sitting in the line up; waiting for the next ticket to ride, he is currently perched above us in the after-life transit lounge. This time MICHAEL assures me he is going to do the journey a lot smarter and not harder. He is going to be a lot more picky on the vessel or body he resumes the journey with. Safe travels Mick and stay on the search for the real deal in life.”

Safe travels, ol pal.