me He learned to surf in California, and continued to evolve after moving to Hawaii. By the time I left, back in Sydney during Covid, I could still make a gentle wave, even as the big boys were skiing. At least on a good day. Surfing makes me feel strong, connected and happy.
Starting life again in Australia – a place so familiar yet so exotic – was really hard. I found myself a friend who gave me a beautiful longboard for my birthday, but then we broke up. I was a mess: lonely, lost, exhausted and sad. I tried to score friends surfing the internet to go out with me, but everyone was too busy with their hard lives for kids and work. I tried to make friends on the beach, but surprisingly the surfers are majestic. I tried to go on my own and found it very intimidating.
So one night she posted an ad on Gumtree: “Wanted: A friend surfs patient from Maroubra to Bombo and is fun and cute.” This announcement will become my welcome simplicity, the best way to get in and out of the lockdown.
I got some responses – all the guys and they beat me mostly. Then there was Rodney Rice, who didn’t have a photo, eager to surf but no experience. The note was gentle, non-threatening and did not carry the words “hot” (sic).
I checked Rodney on Facebook: He seemed like a nice guy, and he was kind of like a sea otter, so I reached out. Rodney had a busy schedule as one of the main caregivers for his elderly father in the West, and his aunt in Coogee. It turns out that he was also a huge fan of Gumtree. It’s where he got an old slate a few months ago, but until my ad, he’d never used it.
Rodney suggested we score a grommet for the gang, to help us navigate our bad surfer dreams. Gromit is a young surfer; And those who are about to graduate to the official role of ordinary “surfers” are the splendid point of skill and enthusiasm. Enter Sam, 21. He’s from Bondi and has been surfing since he was six. It kind of looks like a shark.
Grommet turned out to be an important component. When it comes to water, we Australians need a fearless person to take us places we probably shouldn’t be.
The first time we met was in my favorite place – south of Marubra. North Marubra has its own gang, and the eastern beaches are crowded.
I like them immediately. They are two of the most positive, open and friendly players I have ever met. I was thrilled to do this, and there was such an air of fun between us.
The waves were big that day, and Sam led the attack. Rodney struggled, but kept his smile and pushed himself well beyond the beginner’s level. Sam had the skills, without any air of arrogance, and gave us great advice.
Rodney said he responded to the ad because he had always wanted to surf. Then Sam joined because Rodney said he met a chick on Gumtri who wanted to start a surf gang. Sam was like, “Sweet!”
My motivation to surf with strangers from the internet was confirmed by the camaraderie we began to form. As the restrictions began to tighten, the Gumtree Surf Gang became the savior of a stressful time, and a social experiment went very right. Every time we choose Sydney Beach, after surfing we would go for coffee and talk about life, acting, death, adventures in the water and Rodney’s new discoveries Gumtri.
I’ve never browsed Bronte. And when we did, it was just as intense as I imagined. That moment when you know you’re on the wrong side of that massive wave that’s breaking, and that sends you into a swoop? Where do you know what’s coming – next, next? All you have to do is not panic, hold your breath, and slowly repeat what you are doing towards the safe shore. Sam is 20 years younger than Rodney and I, and this really helps spur our physique to act like we’re the same age. Perhaps that is why after my Bronte was cleared, we went to Tamarama to feel again, in massive swells for a day. I said I’ll meet you there. I just need to vomit a little, I didn’t say.
Surfing makes me feel amazing. When you catch a wave and soar over those beautiful aqua waters, and sail 16 feet above land, I’d say it’s the best bang for your buck you can get. When I leave the ocean after a few good waves with my gang I feel exhilarated and liberated.
Before our 10-kilometer Covid restrictions were split into five and our group exercise was deemed illegal, our sessions were the best part of my week. It was one of the things I’ve been missing the most during these recent tough times. My mental health definitely suffered.
But now, we’re back at it again.
The formation of Gumtree Surf Gang has inspired me to be the change I want to see in Sydney. There’s this thing in the surf sometimes – when it’s mostly men and they’re all really good, sometimes some kids and some women – where we’re supposed to do something fun, but actually it seems like everyone is about to do heart surgery.
So when I’m there, I make eye contact and short talk. I smile to everyone. I say hello. I shout and yell, and applaud the beginners who catch a good wave. And now I do the same on the street. eye contact. how’s it going.
As long as your relaxed face is the smile, membership in our gang is open. We don’t even ask for a tattoo (although you can get one if you wish). The only opposites are their elimination and the ability to laugh at them.