Living Heavy, Treading Light.
By Mitch Thunder Lees.
The thing about coastal living in a seasonally pulsating region is that you become, for better or worse, a product of your environment.
Well, to be fair that’s the case for just about every social construct for an individual.
Influences flow top-down and for Port Stephens this was no different.
One influence that coursed our veins and bound differing peer pursuits together was that of our community’s collective love for music.
In general, for surfers, bodyboarders and skaters there’s a sense of anti-establishment that comes as a second nature.
It’s something that from my perspective now seems to have been lost in translation.
You just have to look at the number of burgers that pop-up out of no-where on weekends to endanger lives on their chosen surf crafts.
These cookie cut-outs have bought a day ticket and expect a season pass.
In the immortal words of one of our surfing elders, “Stand aside citizen!”
The music that we were immersed in covered many genres, but the underlying theme was always the same.
A push for social equality and equity with a driving message for some sort of change, be it personally or collectively.
Social commentary on life as an adolescent, on rising above, on shifting prejudices, and bringing down concrete set ideologues in institutions.
It would be music that would ultimately lead to the bridging of the gaps between the boogs and our stand-up brothers and sisters.
I should to make it clear though, there was never really any beef between bodyboarders and the stand-up crews of Box Beach and the wider Tomaree Peninsula.
They were our comrades in the war of attrition that was the ever-evolving movement of blow-ins to our shores.
When the kooks from across the bridges rolled into our town we were all in this together.
But of course, there’s always going to be some push and pull in a tightly knit community.
Tempers flared from time to time but for the majority of it bread was broken and only beer was spilled.
More often than not we all stood shoulder to shoulder and some of my greatest friendships were forged from this.
Now, when you get this mix of a truly testing wave like Boxy and the social and political environment of the early 2000s some heavy shit starts happening on the shores.
It’s like the ramifications of the wider world come knocking and one minute you’re footloose and fancy free at your local watering hole and the next you’re hanging out of the side of a speeding vehicle launching wheelie bins at letter boxes and parked cars.
Your own mortality takes a back seat as that “fuck you all” attitude takes hold.
Reward outweighs any possible risks and more often than not they were masked by the booze anyway.
The majority of times you come out emotionally and physically unscathed.
But, for some of our nearest and dearest those risks would ultimately see them leave us far too early.
Hindsight is indeed a bastard of a thing.
Conversations that should have taken place in the hopes of differing outcomes.
The indestructible confidence of youth is a powerful thing that echoes long after it’s lost.
Those heavy waves of Boxy helped to overcome our demons and consoled us in grief as we completely immersed ourselves in the ocean.
All that mattered to us was that singular moment on that stretch of sand as the music reverberated in our subconscious.