Digital Writers' Festival: 13 — 24 February, 2014

It’s funny telling people what I do.

by Jake Dean


It’s funny telling people what I do. Not the writing part – that that much makes sense. But when I tell them I write about bodyboarding I often get a strange look followed by a subconscious up-and-down glance at my (rake thin) arms. “Bodybuilding?” They’ll say with arched eyebrows.

The bodyboard was born in 1971 when a Californian surfer named Tom Morey, using a hot iron and an electric knife, fashioned a slab of foam into a board you could lie down on in the surf. Regarding his excitable first test run Tom said, “I could actually feel the wave through the board. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. On a surfboard you’re not feeling every nuance of the wave; you’re feeling how this piece of fiberglass is chattering against it. But with my creation I could feel everything.”

Tom perfectly summed up why I do it. The thrill of being so low on the face of a wave you’re virtually hugging the pulsing energy of the ocean is deeply addictive. Some of the waves have travelled, as lines of swell, thousands of kilometres across the globe and were created by storms of biblical proportions over deep and terrifying ocean. I’m yet to find a surf scribe able to accurately channel the sensation so I’ll spare you my efforts! But I will say there’s something truly spiritual about travelling inside a barreling wave.

Gargantuan white skyscrapers dotted with tiny black windows leer over the Gold Coast on some stretches. It’s drastically different from my hometown in flat suburban Adelaide. Most days here you’ll find 10 times as many people in the water than you would back home, which can make things tense. But it only takes a twilight post-work session, with a light northerly messing the waves up just enough to scare the crowds away, to provide true solace. If ever I have a problem that needs solving or if I simply have a bad day those evening sessions when it’s just me, the electric pink sky and the sun shrinking behind the buildings are all I need to make feel whole again. I head in to work the next day with a spring in my step and the words spilling on to my keyboard.

Looking out across a beach after a powerful tropical cyclone has sent swell grinding into every nook along the coast is truly a feast for the eyeballs. Colgate-blue water, perfectly groomed and funneling along shallow sand banks… the city turns into an oceanic skate-park with boundless possibilities for fun. And that’s what life is really about isn’t it? Having fun? I live for those days. The ecstasy they provide is what fuels and peppers my stories. If I can inspire and rouse my readers to jump off the couch, grab their boards and head out to share in that stoke then I’ve done my job. And when I’m done bashing on the keys I’ll be straight out into the water with them.