I'd never dreamed I would qualify for the World Tour. I'd never actually had a dream that it could happen to me. See, I was born in Lismore, which if you don't know, is a rural town in NSW mostly famous for having a lamp parade down the main street once a year and for flooding any time it rains. That's not to say it doesn't have its charms, it's a cool town and I do love lamps, but it's about as close to the surf as Penrith out in the Blue Mountains behind Sydney… Hang on. Isn't there a famous surfer that comes from Penrith, again? What's his name? Remind me later.
Anyway, shortly after I was born Mum and Dad moved us to what's known as The Morning of the Earth region of the New South Wales North Coast. By age three Dad was already pushing me into waves. I was totally hooked and if Dad ever went surfing without me (usually only when it was too big)
I would absolutely lose my banana, kick my tricycle over, spit out all my veggies, fall straight to the ground and head butt the dirt until he got back.
Even then I knew that all I wanted to do was surf.
As the years went by I slowly began to navigate my way along the well-worn path that so many surfers from my little town had walked before me. I'm not gonna name any spots here, but my mates and I enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in terms of the quality and variety of waves we could surf on any given day. We had points, slabs, wedges, beachies, bombies, breakwalls and if you really wanted to let it all hang out, there was even a nude beach. More than that though, we had a town full of legends, corelords, alternatives, and burnouts like no other. Some had been there since the earliest days of Albe Falzon, Nat Young, and Baddy Treloar, others had moved to the area seeking a country soul way of life away from the cities, but many, particularly from my era at least, had been born and bred on the reefs and shifting sands of the region. The lineage of amazing style and limitless bravado in the big stuff was matched only by the unique characters of the surfers themselves who populated every shop, every trade, every trawler, and every seat at the pub just about every arvo. Might seem a bit old fashioned but I absolutely loved growing up in a fair-dinkum true-to-life surf town.
That was until year 7 when I walked in the front door from school one day to be told by Mum that we were moving to Newcastle. Deadset, I was so devastated I went to my room and cried. I said to Mum "Fuck, this is going to be the shittest thing ever." to which Mum replied, "Swear jar Morgan!" So on top of having to move, I also had to fork $2 out of my pocket money for the swear jar as well. Talk about the worst day ever.
I wasn't an extremely shy kid, but I wasn't the coolest kid in school either. I'd settled into high school ok, and now I had to do it all again. Thankfully, within six months of moving to Newcastle, my mind had been changed completely.
I discovered that the people were just as welcoming and down-to-Earth as they had been up the coast and the waves and the level of surfing going down in the Steel City were absolutely world-class. I instantly fell in love with the energy of the place. The crew had your back, they looked out for one another, and having a sense of community was something the entire city appeared to be super proud of. I didn't want to be there for the first six months but by the end of the year, I didn't want to go home.
The other thing that made it unreal was going surfing with Dad. Every day we'd go searching for waves up and down the coast no matter what. Then one day he took me to Merewether Boardriders. "You should sign up! First comp is free. You don't have to pay for entry. Just put your wetty on and have a go." As it turned out my heat was already paddling out but I ran into the dunnies, got changed, quickly paddled out, and won the heat. Just like that, I'd entered a whole new family that would have a huge impact on the person and the surfer I've become to today.
At Boardriders I surfed in two divisions, my own and the division above mine, for no other reason than I wanted to be out in the water and pushing my surfing every chance I got. As I got older I moved into the Opens but the standard was pretty intense. Every heat was like QS and you'd have to go as hard as you could just to get noticed. All of that competitive energy was fueling a desire in me to do well in the junior Series and maybe have a crack at the Qualifying Series one day, but the World Tour wasn't even on my radar yet. It seemed like another universe with aliens surfing on it. You'd watch comps and see Mick and Owen and the surfing they were doing and it didn't even appear to be real. But while I couldn't imagine surfing against those guys in heats, surfing alongside them was something I dreamed about all the time.
Ever since I was a little kid the idea of going on surf trips and being in surf movies seemed like the ultimate way to live. I'd watched every Search clip ever made and frothed out so heavily on the idea of sharing waves with my heroes. Traveling to nowhere to surf the unridden. Are you kidding me?! Fuck yeah that was the dream alright. How to make that a reality though seemed even more unlikely than qualifying. Still, at least I was thinking about it.