From the Blog

Bits and pieces from all over

I note that it has been 8 days since my last update, shocking, really, but I DO have a really good excuse. My wife has been diagnosed with a recurrence of Graves Disease, an overactive thyroid gland and it has been a pretty tying time. She had the illness many years ago and medication and good care dealt with it but now it has flared up again in an even more aggressive mode than it was last time. The same medication has been prescribed again but it is taking a while for it to fight the symptoms back down to a tolerable level and, in the mean time, life is just marking time.

In other matters it is sad to report the death of legendary film-maker, Bruce Brown (pictured above). Brown financed and filmed the surfing epic “Endless Summer” and, in one fell swoop, popularised what had been, up until then, a niche pastime about which most people knew nothing. Oddly enough, for pasty-compexioned youth as I was back then, I knew a LOT about surfing, though not from a practical point of view. I spent the first 4 years of my high school on Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle, and surfing was a very important part of the steel city’s culture. There were two main youth cultures in Newcastle at the time; one was the surfing group and the other was the hotted-up car group (known as “cogs” by the surfing fraternity).

My brother and I were part of the second group, mostly because we had been car racing fanatics for quite a few years and also because it was more accessible. Around our area there were literally dozens of young blokes with hotted-up cars. FJ Holdens, a VW Beetle with a Porsche Careera engine, an Austin Healey Sprite with a Holden “6” under the bonnet and so on. This fascination was also strongly fuelled by a huge collection of Hot Rod and other car culture magazines that were given to us by a relative who knew someone who owned a newsagency. This collection would be regularly “topped up” with the addition of unsold magazines from the shop (before hard-nosed distributors demanded that unsold magazines be returned to them)

We knew all about Bonneville, Mickey Thompson, Don Garlits, Jack Chrisman, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth  and the plethora of wonderful characters that made up the hot rodding scene. As well we followed circuit racing, Formula One and the local car scene, so we were REAL cogs.

However, living on the lake and being so close to the ocean meant that the surf scene was always there, even though we weren’t active participants. We DID, however, become part of the scene almost by accident. My uncle, from Wollongong, enrolled in Newcastle University to study for a degree in Science majoring in Research Petrology (whatever that meant). He lived in digs right on Mereweather Beach and shared a run-down old house with other impecunious Uni students including a young bloke called Sam Egan. Now Sammy WAS a surfer, a real, fair dinkum one. So much involved was he that he started making surf boards for himself in a rented factory unit close by. So successful did he become that he dropped out of Uni and put his whole effort into making boards which went on to become very famous. As young teenage boys this whole scene was fascinating to us and we spent a lot of time at the factory watching the work going on. To this day the smell of fibreglass still takes me back to Sam’s Surfboards and to Murphy, the factory German Shepherd dog who had to be regularly clipped as his fur became more and more matted with fibreglass bondo!

In their spare time the boys would go out around town late at night slapping posters on telegraph poles advertising the screening of the latest surfing movies. I well remember accompanying them on these clandestine raids on the quiet and unwitting inner suburbs of Newcastle. It’s probably the closest I have ever come in my life to some sort of rebellion and we thought it a great thing to be doing something that was only really “sort of” illegal!

And so it was that the name of Bruce Brown became etched in my memory and, when his epic surfing movie was first released in 1966, it came as no surprise to us.

Fast forward a few years and Brown released his other magnum opus, the motorcycling epic, “On Any Sunday” I didn’t start riding till 1974 and the film was already well known by then but I remember seeing it for the first time not long after I started riding. To me it was a revelation and it has remained my all-time favourite movie ever since (along with “The Princess Bride” for entirely different reasons).

Bruce was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association’s Hall of Fame some years back and his legacy will live on forever as generations after generations see OAS and come to love it as us “originals” did. The beauty of the movie is that it is truly timeless because, even though it is about motorcycles, whose fads and fashions constantly change, it really is about PEOPLE and that fascination is the same for every generation. Incidentally, if you’d like to read my film review of the movie you can do so here.

“On Any Sunday”

On to other matters. At the recent World Championship Awards ceremony, Ralphie Hudson was recognised as a World Champion for his speed record in Bolivia in July. And here is the certificate to prove it.

Yes, that’s 457 km/h, awesome, eh? So looking forward to seeing him at PI in January. He’s bringing his XR69 replica but it will be being ridden by someone else. Ralph will just concentrate on his Yamaha TD2 “smoker” on which he performed so well in 2017.

This Sunday is going to be a huge day. Since I last wrote, John Grace, one of the owners of the Grey Gum International Cafe, has been diagnosed with an aggressive and terminal brain tumour. He has been operated on and most of the tumour has been removed, but the prognosis is poor with the doctors giving him, at most, 12 months to live. So a group of motorcyclists from Sydney have organised a ride to the GGC on Sunday as a show of support for John and Kim and a means of us saying thank you for all that they do for us. Record crowds will be in attendance as nearly 1000 people have so far indicted their interest in joining the ride and being part of the event. Like I have said before so many times, there is no group anywhere that can equal motorcyclists for giving a helping hand.

Well, that’s it for today, I will try to update more frequently.