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Think Between the Flags

Think Between the Flags

WARNING – The following contains irony, opinion masquerading as fact and no shortage of sarcasm.

I went for a surf on the weekend with a mate. We have known each other for around forty years but at various times several years have gone by before catching up again. We are both married with kids and obviously share a love of surfing, along with a cold beer or a decent cup of coffee.

He likes his music more metal than me. I have more hair on my head and I am fitter but when the surf is chunky, Blaze [for that is how I shall identify him in this piece just to piss him off] will take off on waves that I will not.

We agree on most things and when we don’t, like the intelligent, mature humans we are, we prosecute our respective cases with logic and passion. And at the end, we either agree to disagree or one of us is forced to reconsider his position and admit he was being a goose. We are also prone to exaggeration and laughing at our own jokes - a lot.

For example one thing we disagreed on during our drive home from the surf was Blaze’s statement that all surf lifesavers aka clubbies were fuckwits. I pointed out to him that this was a sweeping generalisation and obviously untrue. The facts just did not bear such a judgemental statement out.

I told him that it was obvious to anyone with any exposure to the above that only 97% of clubbies are fuckwits.

Now before everyone gets all outraged and right wing traditionalists accuse us of dragging yet another Aussie icon down please allow me to elaborate.

The vast majority of clubbies are knobs.

There, is that clearer for you.  


I know Blaze and I are biased. Any surfers who were around the beach in the 70s and before would be aware that surfers and clubbies did not get along. After all there were two completely different ideologies and approaches to the beach and the ocean. The clubbies represented authority and the beach was there to be regulated, the ocean controlled and tamed. This of course was serious business and white males were just the ones needed for this job and to form clubs with rules and training and competitions.

Us surfers felt, especially in the age of rebellion and change that was the late 60s and into the 70s that there were better things to do in the surf than see how fast you could row or paddle weirdly unsuitable water craft out beyond the breaking waves and back while wearing speedos pulled up your bum crack.

Or running for twenty metres in deep sand to dive and grab a stick.

Or marching up and down the beach wearing weird coloured caps on your head while reverently carrying something that looks like a cross between Indiana Jones’s Ark of the Covenant and a very long extension cord.

We surfers thought we might go out and work with the ocean, mastering the waves by using their energy, travelling to different beaches and oceans and having a good time with nature, basically trying to connect not master.

And we would look supremely cool too with long hair and baggy shorts.

Of course the goal of patrolling the beaches to prevent drowning is all good work but Blaze and I also got to wonder about the weird disconnects in the whole surf lifesaving operation.

Like the clubhouses are almost always on crown land that is fine in itself as it is the logical place for them but do they pay rent?

How come some can run extremely successful entertainment operations in those clubhouses [Kurrawa, Noosa Heads for example] taking advantage of their perfect locations and presumably peppercorn rent?

Where does all that money go?

As you travel around Australia you notice some of these clubhouses are palaces and some are falling down. Do they cross subsidise each other?

If not, why not? Shouldn’t all beaches have the same level of protection?

And the biggest question of them all - why do they always put the flags where the best sandbanks are?

I am not an investigative journalist, but I am sure it is all above board.

And by the way the SLSA loves to talk about its volunteers and good upon them but most times during the year the beaches are actually manned by professional lifeguards.


Blaze related his experiences in high school when all the clubbies at the school were members of a certain surf club. Like many male only organisations back then there was a fearsome culture of drinking and brutal initiation ceremonies.

So many questions.

What is it with weird, dangerous, degrading almost fetishist initiation ceremonies? I have never experienced this shit personally as I have never been a big team sport, club kind of guy, but I mean who thinks up this shit?

Are we saying that in a group of young men we get two or three sitting around talking and one says something like, “ You know what would be good for the new members. What if we locked them in a dark room and forced them to get so drunk that they would all vomit and they would have to walk around and lie in it.”

And then someone else would carefully consider this suggestion and then add, “Fuck yeah, but first lets make them cross dress or eat laxatives or even better let me fart in their faces.”

“Brilliant stuff lads’” adds a third. “But I think I should be able to penetrate at least one of then anally with a golf club or a garden hose.”

And off they go and present their suggestions and everyone else joins in because the above sounds great fun and character building as well as an excellent exercise in team bonding.

Seriously, WTF? This kind of thing is dying out but once was very common in sporting clubs, college dorms etc. Even in a much milder, just embarrassing, no physical harm or lasting psychological damage kind of way just what is the point?


Blaze and I also decided that Winter Olympics are so much better than Summer Olympics. More thrilling, more courage needed and of course far more chance of things going very, perhaps even fatally, wrong. This of course always drastically increases the viewing spectacle.

We did think that Channel 7 were knobs and got it very wrong with the amount of figure skating shown. Like a lot of these things it is very skilful, lots of dedicated practice needed etc. but surely this is not sport. Well at least not sport as 50+ males define it.

Because if it was, than why isn’t roller disco in the Summer Olympics?


At least Curling is fascinating in its sheer surface ridiculousness and I am sure we are just missing something that the practitioners are seeing; something that makes the whole thing clear and worthwhile.

Maybe someone can explain it to Blaze and I and at the same time help us out with the strange appeal of soccer as well.


The World Surf League Founders Cup to be held in May at Kelly’s swish wave pool in the California desert got a thumbs up though. Especially after Blaze promised that it would be his shout after this week’s predicted massive lotto win. The US$10000 VIP pass that gives you one hour in the water as well looks the best option for a lad’s weekend.


 We also worked through our opinions on the movie GET OUT that won the Oscar this year for best original screenplay. Blaze and I thought it deserved it and we were in lock step on the thought that it was perhaps a tad over rated.

We weren’t afraid to use words like blackly funny, suspenseful and thought provoking although I must admit that was mostly me while Blaze looked at me and made “you’re a wanker” hand gestures. Nevertheless the movie is well worth your time.

I was going to toss him out on the side of the highway after that but friendship prevailed after we both agreed that that the lead character’s buddy in the movie was gold and it was good to see Josh from The West Wing in a solid role again.


There was more but mostly it was just two old surfers wingeing about how many people are in the water these days and why are the Maroochydore sandbanks so mediocre [fucked was the real word used] and easily tide affected. Blaze’s comment that it was the work of aliens was taken as the sarcasm it probably was but with Blaze you can never be sure. He knows stuff.

The Surf trip Playlist – well some of it

Circus Jam by Homeless Yellow – Big raves on these lads

Video Killed The Radio Star by Ben Folds – nice cover

Like Soda by Violent Soho

Your Little Hoodrat Friend by The Hold Steady

I don’t Want to Die Anymore by The Smith Street Band

Heaven by The Walkmen

Thanks Smorgasboarder

Thanks Smorgasboarder

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