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Tim Baker revolutionised surf mags with his satirical work on ASL and Tracks in the 80s and 90s and was no stranger to controversy: an opinionated deadline-eating monster fuelled by locally-brewed beer, flying head-butts, and vox duties for Captain Keg & The Frothies.
Baker eventually hit the eject button on the editor's chair, became a fulltime writer, embraced yoga, and acquired (though not overnight) a more thoughtful existence inspired by family and purer surfing lines. Still passionate, he thankfully never lost the intensity and humour of his earlier articles.
And so, on flicking through Tim's new book High Surf, a quote from Midget Farrelly leapt out: "One day everyone will surf." An important starting point because right now, everyone does surf, and it's scaring the hell out of all of us.
A culture loved to death by all sorts of newcomers; the perpetually ejaculating surf boom, the resultant sea-change and property boom that followed, surfing becoming a vogue version of golf in gated communities, dreadlocked backpackers calling local legends kooks, and the disastrous crowds that double every year.
To be blunt, surfers have run in two directions from the egg that hatched in front of us all in the last two decades; (a) To the hills, back in time, nostalgia, anywhere but bloody now; and (b) kids running the other direction into a wave-porn future with no idea of the past.
More than ever, perhaps surfing needed Tim's 90s ratbag soul to shake things up and rip up every weed in the paddock even if a few trees went with it.
Thankfully, he had other ideas and the result is High Surf, a new surfing manifesto, a guide book for the modern surfer. There'll be times at first where it seems a fraction New Age, yet as each profile subject's story sparks under the magnifying glass, something catches fire.
Through 30 inspirational characters, a blaze of lessons creep up without clichŽ or agenda; Nat Young and his "windows of opportunity", Bob McTavish & "the common good", Robbie Page's "relax mantra", Tim Winton and "connectedness ... And they're about dealing with crowds, different backgrounds and personal journeys, and realising just how fortunate we are to ride waves.
Between profiles, Tim offers short vignettes on his own experiences as a surfer. From personal battles and lessons learnt (one of which involves Johnny Boy Gomes' forearm, a rusty screwdriver, and the writer's jugular vein) to simple tips on going with the moment.
In the end, it comes pretty near to a cross section of what surfing is right now, with ideas on just how good it can be in the future.
High Surf is the most important book written about surfing in recent years.
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