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Image 1 for “I told mum I was becoming a surfer, it was worse than joining the Hells Angels.” A catch up with Tasmanian pioneer Mick Lawrence

Surfing began to take off and spots like Park Beach in Tasmania’s south got busy.

Image 2 for “I told mum I was becoming a surfer, it was worse than joining the Hells Angels.” A catch up with Tasmanian pioneer Mick Lawrence

Mick (centre) and his mates, exploring.

Image 3 for “I told mum I was becoming a surfer, it was worse than joining the Hells Angels.” A catch up with Tasmanian pioneer Mick Lawrence

Mick today, now busy helping out the groms and giving it back. Pic: Georgia Burgess for ABC Radio Hobart

“I told mum I was becoming a surfer, it was worse than joining the Hells Angels.” A catch up with Tasmanian pioneer Mick Lawrence

21 January 19


From ABC Hobart: When Mick Lawrence unknowingly became a surfing pioneer in the 1960s, he says it would have been easier to tell his mother he was joining the Hells Angels than buying a board.

"I was always a water child. I always felt different when I was in the water," he said.

Growing up in Hobart, he was a competitive swimmer and in 1963 attended the trials for the Tokyo Olympics and finished an "outstanding" last.

But a year later he saw a touring surfing film that changed his life.

Without hesitation Mr Lawrence ordered his board and in 1967 and 1968 won state championships. He then spent his life exploring surfing spots around some of Tasmania and the world's most remote areas.

Now 72, Mr Lawrence is giving back to the community by working with the latest generation of surfers — grommets — as well as making a film about the importance of friendship.

Becoming a surfer was considered a fairly extreme lifestyle choice in the 1960s.

"We didn't know how to surf, we didn't know where waves came from, we were green," Mr Lawrence said.

"You were taught respect, you went to school, you got a job, you married a woman and you got a mortgage."

But he said the era of the Vietnam War was a turning point. "I was too young to drink beer with my mates but I was old enough to go fight in Vietnam," Mr Lawrence said.

But he found rebelling against the norm and taking on a lifestyle of surfing was much more appealing.

"It gets into your blood and that's it."

Search for a selfish wave

Mr Lawrence and his mates learnt to surf by failure. They drove halfway around the state to find waves, often not understanding the weather.

"The exploration, the search, is an intrinsic part of surfing in Tasmania," he said. "We live on an island surrounded by water, so there's the opportunity for swell anywhere almost anytime."

When the sport gained popularity, things started to change.

A proud legacy

Mr Lawrence and his surfing friends had no mentors and were the first generation of surfers.

"Now, you've got five-year-old kids surfing with their grandparents — it covers three generations," he said. "Back when I told my mum I was becoming a surfer, it was worse than joining the Hells Angels.

"That was society's outlook on surfing because it digressed from the norm."

He said the surfing image had shifted from bums living on beaches to hugely successful global businesses.

"We didn't think about the future of surfing, we were addicted and obsessive.

"I don't think in our wildest dreams that 50 years later it would be as it is now, and that makes me pretty proud. It's a great legacy.

READ THE (GREAT) FULL INTERVIEW, WITH MORE PHOTOS HERE

  - AUTHOUR: GEOGIE BURGESS

  - SOURCE: ABC NEWS HOBART

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