Local Hero: Shane Chalker.
Firstly, Introduce yourself, who are you and where are you from?
I’m Shane Chalker, 46 and live in Tuncurry on the mid north coast of NSW. I grew up as the son of a lighthouse keeper hence my love for the ocean and the activities that come with it. I moved from Seal Rocks lighthouse in 1988 where I had spent the last 7 years to Tuncurry after a tragic accident that had my dad fall from a cliff and loose his life. I’m currently happily married to my wife Rhonda and have 2 kids Millie and Curtis.
How did you first fall in love with bodyboarding?
I remember having a pink flexy board called a Suntalon I think, this got me into the surf and started me riding waves.
Buying my first proper board a mach 7-7 in 1987 this is when my love of bodyboarding begun. Moving to Tuncurry and having other surfers around had my keenness for the sponge grow into an obsession. Before I knew it, I was up surfing before school, after school and all weekend.
You’ve been nominated as a “Local Legend”, can you give an outline of your personal history with your local area?
I was one of only a small group of body boarders in my area in the early days, surfing amongst a core group of surfers had me often paddling to separate peaks, I think I was on a mission to show that bodyboarding was a functional way of riding a wave.
Local surfers in the mid-nineties had a bit of hatred towards bodyboarders and I consider earning the respect of some of these locals as one of my biggest achievements in the sport. As time went on more bodyboards were entering the line-up, established local riders Troy DeCoque, Ben Davies, Chris Baggs were just a few, they mainly surfed 1 mile beach and I was spending most of my time at Tuncurry. Troy especially was ripping and soon became a rider I admired, a mentor of sorts that I would look up to for many years. Michael Capilli was also a local rider who loved surfing bigger waves.
I became great mates with fellow body boarder Dave Johnstone and surfer Jamie Hill, we would share the same interest for surfing and pushed each other each time we entered the water for many years, often paddling across the channel of Wallis Lake on a daily basis often in the dark both early morning and late afternoon to surf our beloved Peak Bank at Tuncurry.
We then had another mate on the scene Brett Kneebone who was a little older than us who loved a left hander and had a driver’s license taking us to new breaks and places we couldn’t have accessed because they were too far to ride to on our bikes. “Toebots” took us to an uncountable number of incredible surfs in our early years.
Come the mid to late 90’s there was a huge number of bodyboarders in the area, The Capilli brothers, Burgess beach crew like Dan Arena, Dirk Anderson, Mitchell Barry just to name a few.
What makes your local area so special to you?
We have a great stretch of coast that on any given day you can find a wave in, many headlands make for protected corners meaning waves in NE winds through to the SE, large and small swells. Although we do have a huge lack of reef breaks in our area. And when the swell is small the fishing is great so its happy days.
Without naming specific locations, can you describe your most memorable session or wave in your home zone?
There’s a beach to the South of Forster which has given me 3 of the most memorable experiences of my surfing life. Its where I have had to deal with the biggest wave I have ever seen break from in the water, The most perfect waves I have ever seen break and the longest barrels I have ever ridden. It’s a beach that I have only spent a small percentage of my surfing time at yet has delivered me these moments that I will never forget.
Who are the other riders in your area who deserve a little recognition and why?
Historically our area has produced some great bodyboarders including Troy DeCoque who as previously mentioned was someone I looked up to and who also, in my opinion was one of the most underrated power dropknee riders that ever has been. Troy “Kneevsy” Kneeves was also an accomplished competitive bodyboarder from this area. Josh Kirkman has recently returned to his home grounds of Forster after waving the flag for Australia on the world tour in the last couple of years.
Roan Whiteman, Tom Ditchfield, Adam Cheers and Mitch Baker are a few local riders that are consistently ripping when the swell gets up around here. We also have a group of young girls getting into the sport which is great to see, led by my daughter Millie Chalker and with up and coming riders Gemma McEnally and Tahlia Gogerly.
Can you tell us an urban myth from your area which routinely gets retold, either surf or non-surf related?
It has been talked about for years about sharks being in the channel or the river mouth of Wallis lake. Especially in the earlier days, it was believed that sharks would follow the trawlers inn and we would always paddle across the channel from Forster to Tuncurry because the bike ride would take much longer, and we wanted to make the most of our surfing time. Trawlers worked funny hours and they would enter Wallis lake harbour at any random time usually accompanied by a massive flock of seagulls which would be feasting on the bi catch that would be shovelled over the side of the boat.
We would see them coming and try and time our paddle back across the channel in front of these trawlers to avoid the apparent mass of sharks that would be following them often just reaching the other side as the boat would pass, I never did see any sharks back in these days, but they were always on our minds.
On one particular paddle across a mate of mine was fishing in his boat in the middle of the channel for jewfish and he called me over to see his catch, I climbed up the side of the boat to see he had just caught a large bronze whaler, I was only halfway through my solo paddle across, I nearly ran on water for the second half of that paddle.
Any other comments or shout outs you’d like to include feel free here.
My wife Rhonda and I along with Adam Cheers run the local bodyboarding club these days and have recently had good number of members especially in the younger divisions, its great to see a new group of boogers coming through in the local area after a few years with limited new riders. Watching my kids and the younger generation catch waves is probably the most rewarding thing for me these days when I go surfing.