So there I was, standing before the fabled Pipeline, watching the pack muscle towards lines of heaving, treacherous walls. The energy, the violence, the legends of our beloved surf culture, the egos and well-deserved machismo that goes along with being a masterful rider of the banzai pipe. Then there are the wannabes and tourists flailing boards from the shoulder, losing it to outside sets, making the scene dangerous for everyone – more dangerous than it need be on a day like this. Suddenly, splitting from the pack, a large tattooed Hawaiian violently confronts an obviously inexperienced punter and sends him paddling back to the channel and in to shore. In an act of defiance the neon-clad victim catches an inside closeout in the rip and gets hammered before limping, bedraggled back to the car park. He doesn’t know it yet but his wallet and phone are no longer on the front seat of his cheap, rented Chevy sedan. To my left I hear hoots coming from Jamie O’Brien’s house as the freshly skull-chopped Tamayo Perry hurtles through a thick, bottomless section. He gets spat out into the channel to yelps of approval from the Rip Curl house on my right, the smell of freshly seared steak wafting over the fence. This truly is surfing at its most raw and powerful.
Your tears blurring the view of the pack at pipe after you’ve been sent in
Then, observing yet another casualty being sent in by the ferocious pack, it hits me. This is what we need back home. Some order in the line-up, some control over the surf-frenzied crowds that descend upon my beloved ManlyBeach. Some muscle-backed gangster attitude to keep the beaches safe and ensure that we get what we locals deserve out in the line-up. Other beaches in Australia have their hardcore local crews, so why can’t we? Granted, Manly does have a scattering of local players but the sheer volume of backpackers and passers-through makes it difficult to differentiate them from us. A surf-gang – yes – we should all belong to one sometime during our dreary existence!
Back home, with the epic Hawaiian adventure fading to memory, I round up my homies to get the party started. First-off, as any surf-gang worth its salt knows, you need a name. The Bra Boys have one and, soon, so too would this infant gang of Manly men. After exploring monikers involving other items of intimate female apparel we decide to try a new tack. The Wolfpak has been taken, the BatManly sounded odd.
Then it hit us. As the new self-appointed keepers of our watery grail, the defenders of Manly’s ocean justice, the hell’s angels of the sea, we, the chosen children of Manly, pronounced ourselves – yes – ‘The ManChildren’!
Equipped with a name we now needed attitude. The local henna tattoo artist was incredibly adept at stencilling the distinctive “MC” initials across our newly gym-induced rippling torsos but the start of winter meant that they remained somewhat inconspicuous beneath our steamers. Never mind, time to get busy. Time to send someone in.
So, there I am, it’s 2 foot and howling onshore. The boys are all over it when suddenly I spot my target. Roughly 18 years of age, paddling like a Nigerian swimmer, blocking up the impact zone – it’s time, I decide, for this kook to dry off. I paddle over and declare calmly but in my deepest voice, “Back to the beach.” She replies in a vaguely Scando accent, “You want to teach me?” Frustration creeping in I announce loudly enough for my fellow gangsters to hear, “In you go, this is our beach!”
Then came the moment I’ve been waiting most of my life for: “Who are you?” she asks, her eyes glazing over, possibly with tears.
“I am a MANCHILD!” I boom, to hoots of approval from the crew.
She continued to bob in the 1 foot shorey but I didn’t let that spoil the moment.To celebrate later that evening, as most gangsters would, we decided to hit up the dancefloor of one of our local clubs, busting some gangster moves. We owned the place. At one point, through the haze, I overheard someone asking if we were “special”. I quickly leaned over and assured her that, “Damn straight we are – we are the bloody ManChildren!”
I could tell you that over the ensuing months we wove our way through a plethora of gaping Manly barrels and gave the place the order it sorely needed. I could tell you that we won the respect of every visitor who dared dip a toe in the cool Pacific, from Shelly Beach to Queenie. I could tell you that backstreet beatings and brotherly love ruled the suburb – but this is the stuff of legend. And if you have your sources, or were there, you’ll know all too well already.
Sadly, a couple of weeks ago our core gangster bros decided that it was time to explore pastures new. Dood El, our key protagonist, followed his dream of becoming a dancer whilst Big C started a rap gang called ‘Niggaz in Love’ – look out for them. As for me, well, I have settled into a quieter life, my gangland days but a memory. The gang may be gone and I may have been tamed by my English sweetheart, but in this crazy changing world it’s nice to know I can always be certain of one thing.
Every time I take that drop and race out onto the face, hearing the thunder as the curtain peels off behind me, I will always be in touch with my inner ManChild.