The life of a surfer on Sydney's Northern Beaches

The life of a surfer on Sydney's Northern Beaches

Growing up as a surfer on the Northern Beaches of Sydney breeds a disparity of contrasts.

Steeped in surfing history, the area has been a hotbed for board design, manufacturing and surfing performance from the 1900’s right up to the present day. The diverse landscape consists of sandstone cliffs towering around white sand beaches and a variety of offshore bombora’s, fickle point breaks and dramatic reef breaks. Situated in Australia’s most populated city, the colourful array of characters frequenting each beach location lead to very unique surfing wonderland- the waves, the history and the people are what make this stretch of coastline one of the most pivotal aquatic environments in the world.

As a child playing around in the shorebreak in the 90s, it was not an uncommon sight to see ex and current World Champion surfers dominating the line-up along with current seasoned professionals. During this time, the local board-riding clubs still had a strong emphasis on progressive surfing, adopting competitive attitudes which garnered a strict order of hierarchy in the line-up. Up until recently, individualism and expression through surfing was frowned upon at the more localised surf spots… the chances of seeing someone riding a board other than a 6’2” white thruster was rare, and seeing someone smile was even rarer! These stern attitudes shaped me into the surfer I am today, a core surfer at heart but dedicated to reviving what I feel has been lost in surfing for so many years: creativity and expression!

As the Baby Boomer generation migrated en-masse to live by the coast in their later years- subsequently the art of surfing has seen a demographic shift. From a majority of core locals ruling every suburban beach to a crew of diverse, career based surfers of mixed nationalities varying in age and economic situation collectively seeking the same joy from the same ocean- which those said locals once dominated for many years prior… fun!

Perhaps the urban environment surrounding our beautiful Sydney beaches creates a more urgent sense to feel connected to nature, or for some, push their performance boundaries after watching online surf clips during their office job lunch breaks! Whatever it is, Sydney surfers are a keen bunch and the buzz of a new swell on the horizon still gets the blood pumping no matter where on the coast you are, whatever board you ride.

Enter Pat Capocci, king of the collaboration. A well respected musician who lights up the hippest of bars, festivals and big stages all around the world- yet loves nothing more than suiting up and hitting the water on his Involvement or Rincon with his buddies. With an affectionate taste for period correct fashion and guitars of 1950s and 1960s, Pat has a knack of combining his love for all things vintage and adapting it to his lifestyle as a barber, surfer and travelling musician. Originally from Newcastle, Pat’s interests garnered him to move to the big smoke down south, and he has never looked back… a fine example of the diverse characters that you come across surfing the urban beaches of Sydney.

Pat and I have formed a unique friendship. Both equally dedicated to our respective careers, we work long hours to compensate for the times we take time away to chase our passion. There is a mutual connection beyond work though, we both feel an incessant need reach back to a bygone era to fetch ideas and inspiration, be it music, cars and related culture… but ultimately surfing is the common denominator that keeps us sane!

Like many, both our families immigrated to Australia in a time of prosperity post world war 2. Being brought up to really appreciate what we have in this lucky country, by no coincidence, has influenced the way live our lives to this day. Fortunate but passionate, surfing is a gift we both feel extremely privileged to take part in… we turn up to a crowded surf spot with a smile on our face and motivated to surf better than we did last session. With a strong understanding of hierarchy, crowd factors and localism possess little influence on where or when we want to surf. Likewise with what board we decide to ride, being passionate and dedicated to our roots, our inspirations are expressed through what we decide to paddle out on- be it a Rincon, Involvement or Noserider. Function before fashion and choosing the right board for the conditions, but we don’t mind a bit of cool, even if we get roped onto the hipster bandwagon, whatever!

Although Pat and I are both living a life that is not exactly the blueprint for the average city surfer, we are having just as much fun as our forefathers in the 1960s…and the backpackers battling in the shore break in front of me as I type this!

Matt Chojnacki


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