Newcastle is a good place to be a Stand Up Paddler.
There are so many places to paddle in the region and furthermore, there has always been a very talented & competitive crew.
There is a great deal of SUP history from Newcastle that sits among the SUP history of the sport on a global stage.
It’s been a long time between drinks for our blog, I was lucky enough to interview Andrew Cassidy & Scott McKercher and after kicking off 2020 with the website going live, I felt the blog needed to also breath again…
So, from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to Margaret River back to my hometown of Newcastle its 2020 and its time to get to meet another Australian SUP pioneer of the sport.
Mr Pete Cox.
1.You have strong relationships with Starboard and Scott McKercher (smik) how closely are these relationships intertwined and how did they come about?
I had suffered a pretty heavy loss when my beautiful balinese wife was tragically killed in a motorbike accident & I had stopped surfing altogether as a result, however as luck would have it, Jake Patterson of Quiksliver/Pipeline Master fame moved to Bali around this time & his kids started at the international school with my daughter. Jake dragged me out of the bad place I was in by suggesting I try to get in the water again by giving a SUP a go to get some paddle fitness back. I have never felt so embarrassed as I did in those first weeks under the helpful guidance of Jake as I mimicked the actions of a teabag going in & out of the water from my attempted standing position, as the SUP Jake had borrowed to me was hand shaped & 26inches wide as were all other surf sups at this point. It was shortly after this that I imported the first Stand Up Paddle Boards into Bali from the Cobra Factory in Thailand via Surftech as we were already distributing the Surftech range of shortboards & longboards throughout Indo. With all the gear & no idea but a super keen grommet like reenergized love for the waves I found myself out there trying to work out how to control a 10'6 x 26" single fin beast of a board with an aluminium shaft & what can be best described as plastic bladed paddle. It was during these sessions that I had the opportunity to meet Scott McKercher after he called me one day from the other side of the Island (Sanur) to say he was wanting to come surf some waves on a few prototype SUPs he had carried down from Starboard & was keen to find a little size as well. I was a little worried as he was testing boards that were Starboard secrets & here I was distributing boards from a rival , but he assured me we were just going surfing & it was all sweet. We had a good session together over the few days & the next week Scott returned after he had been back to the factory in Bangkok to do some tweaks with with Mr Starboard, aka Svein Rasmussen, this would be the start of the greatest change in my life for which I am forever grateful. Scotty McKercher (SMIK) is without doubt the reason that I was able to be so heavily involved in Stand Up Paddle & those early years of radical development & pushing unknown boundaries with my position on the Starboard International Team, that had Scott & myself doing a massive chunk of the R&D as the sport took off. 3 weeks testing, a week back to the factory in Bangkok , 3 weeks testing, a week back to the factory in Bangkok & so the routine was created & continued until I left my home in Bali in 2012. Scott is someone whom I like to call my McGuru with 100% respect intended as the guy is an absolute encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to board design & how that relates to on water performance & through those years of hundreds & hundreds of paddles strokes together we became great mates & still to this day stay in contact with random online chats from various airports as he continues to colour the globe in with his air travels taking SMIK to every part of the globe sharing his knowledge & passion to everyone he can. I am forever in debt to Jake, Svein, Scott & Starboard for the introduction & connection to Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
2. You are all booked and ready for the longboard Sup revolution 10ft Bali weekend, what are you looking forward to the most and can you describe Sanur for a Stand Up Paddler who may not have been there before?
This event is going to be epic, the wave location, the crew that are pulling the strings in Bali for the event to run flawlessly & of course the chance to round up the collection of paddlers from around the globe all with length beneath their feet in what will
be the first of many, many annual events under the banner of the Longboard SUP Revolutions push to have the 10foot plus boards out there being ridden for style & grace instead of wiggling bums & sinking rails. I have always loved the longer SUPs & remember back during testing of the 10'5x30" Drive from Starboard in about 2009/10 saying to Svein that it was a board that simply guaranteed you'd be smiling on every wave as you couldn’t be unhappy just enjoying it, & each time I ride them to this day I still feel the same. The wave that has been nominated for the event is a long wave that keeps feeding back into itself as it winds around the reef before filling out possibly 100mtrs or more from where you took off & if we are fortunate enough to score it 4-6ft it will be perfect for spectators & paddlers alike, a really fun wave. Just to note it is NOT the infamous tube of Sanur reef or the Hyatt so everyone can relax & keep skin on backs ha-ha.
3.Bali was home for many years, can you tell us about some of your highlights and memories from living in Bali?
Yes, Bali was absolutely was my home & place which I called Stand Up Paddle Heaven & also where my beautiful daughter Tarra was born. I moved to Bali in 1997 & returned to Oz in 2012, so it was a place I lived out my 20s & into most of my 30s which is a pretty interesting time of our lives & doing it all in Asia was super cool. Being the first full time SUP surfer in Bali was exciting as much as challenging as there had been no one testing waves & how SUPs would go in those locations & initially on 10 - 11foot single fins the locations needed to be taken slowly , however as the testing took off so did the options with what we were building in the factory getting shorter, then installing thruster & quads meant that we were in a position to prove to prone surfers that we could do exactly what they were doing but on SUPs super tight on the takeoff peaks & getting tubes. This wasn’t accepted by everyone & there was many many times I was told to go back to the shore or otherwise , to which my reply was to sit down next to the smart arses & calmly offer them to swap me a go on their shortboard while they showed me "how easy it was to take off & surf a SUP" as they had just moments beforehand blurted out. Some of the occasions the offer was taken up with a quick return of paddle & SUP minutes later & a laugh between crew saying far out you can have it, thought it would be easier but its fucking hard hey. On other occasions the chest pumping continued as it so often does in the surf until you could only smile back at them as you returned from your 4th wave as old mate was still scratching from his failed attempts to get one on his 5'2" wafer thin prone board that he simply couldn’t get into them on. Without doubt my absolute memorable sessions were Nusa Dua & will always be as that wave is best described as heavy water with just incredible rewards. After dialling the take off spots in over hours & hours of wet season sessions across 3 years Nusa Dua was worth waiting for throughout the dry season busy months when Id hang at Canggu or for more clarity Batu Bolong , Old Mans & the Outside Bombie - "Malings" , but it was when the crowds left & the wet season started that my belly got butterflies as the Tradewinds swung & that meant time for the thickest leashes & good breath control. This was also the catalyst of what became a testing program with Creatures of Leisure which I was also distributing throughout Indo to develop a SUP specific leash as we quickly realised that the heavy duty longboard leashes simply were not designed for the drag of a SUP in solid 10ft plus Nusa Dua or similar. I’m excited to be headed back to Bali as I was recently in Lombok & scored some juice but it’s been a few years since I was on Bali & come March I’m pumped & was chatting with Andrew Cassidy ( Casso) recently about hooking up some day trips whilst we are both there in the lead up to the LSR event so all we need to do is get the swell & the fun shall be enjoyed.
4.I have a few photos of you sup surfing that are imprinted in my brain, Firstly that classic Scotts Head image of you taking off in front of the boil, I’m intrigued by that swell, secondly that classic drawn out rail cutback at the sigma that ran as a starboard advertisement.
Can you run us through the Scotts Head swell and tell us a bit about the sigma as a wave in itself?
Ha-ha yep classic , that Scotts Head session was the first year that they had officially included SUPs in the event & I’d never surfed the place but had heard stories of these incredible long right handers that wound back into the boat ramp if the swell & sand was right. So a look at the charts in the week leading up to it showed serious swell so I decided to head up Friday afternoon to enjoy the weekend. I arrived to see Bam Bam Benny Brown & a youthful Toby Cracknell riding for the red team at that stage get a couple from the corner & thought that'll be perfect for the 10'5 which I had on the roof as well as my trusty 9'1 pro. However as I paddled out from the protected corner of the boat ramp a couple of crackers rolled around from way behind the point & I realised my 9'1 was possibly the better board of choice but it was back on my car so on I went with the long option. Toby & I continued to chase those growing sets around the back toward the boil as the swell kept increasing & as the tide dropped the boil began to bubble more & more which offered a bit better defined take off area because there was a load of backwash & not all of the waves were lining up yet so it was a bit of chasing to be in the right spot when they did arrive, & that particular wave you mention Mickie I was inside Toby as he had I think just missed the first one or may have been paddling out after his last so I was basically obliged to go regardless & well as I paddled in I was a good few metres outside the boil which meant by the time the swell hit , stood up & showed me where we were going the boil was right in front of me & about 8 feet below from where I was in the lip & as you can see in the pic I was never really able to get the rail to hold enough water to drive out of there & it ended in me having to return to the beach to grab my 9'1 as I was now the owner of 2x 5' 1/2' SUPs . Ironically, I haven’t returned to Scotts Head since that epic weekend for fear of only being shown glimpses that would spoil the amazing memories of that first visit.
The Sygna session was put together to get images for exactly that the Starboard upcoming catalogue at the time & we dialled in the day & the time we wanted to shoot to get the colours popping off the old rusty shipwreck but damn the morning we headed up there it was middle of winter & the sand had a layer of frost on it where your feet ache from the cold & there was a bitterly chilly westerly blowing with only about two feet of swell & no time left to postpone til another time so we went ahead to see what we could grab. It had been a surf spot I had enjoyed loads when camping on Stockton beach back when I was younger & always it felt that you were alone on the surface with few others around but that you were always being sized up from below as this area was the proven breeding ground of the great White & Hammerheads, so on that morning we were shooting early & this meant sunrise lighting up the northern side of the wreck but a long shadow was cast on the southern side which also happened to be the rip channel back out to avoid having to endure ice cream headaches , but it was so so sharky, just freaky. We shot there for a few hours until the cold was no longer bearable & this also was the last time I had the joy to surf in the Sygnas shadow as the rusty wreck finally fell victim to the ocean which had pushed her aground in 1974 & what was up until gasping for her final breath above water fell into the waves & disappeared forever.
5.It was cool that you put a few photos of Saucy Jacks up on your Instagram
It was incredible to see how many paddlers were at the event, can you tell us about the story and history of saucy jacks?
The Saucy Jack was an event which grew from the original Harrys Paddle event that I put together with help from friends to raise awareness & funds for a care home for kids & families battling cancer & recovery based in Stockton. The Saucy Jack was a combination of BOP & Flat Water event & the name came from that of a strong little steam punt that was first used to transport goods from shore to shore across Newcastle harbour as well handle all the merchant ships that would work the harbour both in Newcastle & Sydney but she was built in Stockton so had local connections to where I now called home being the beautiful seaside community of Stockton. I managed to liaise with the Port Authority of Australia's busiest coal export harbour & they agreed to stop all shipping movements in & out for a 3hour window to allow the event with 120+- paddlers to take place on Newcastle harbour , the weekend of the event we had little to no waves for the BOP which is absolute opposite to what we wanted & then come race day for the flat water event we had strong winds & a rolling swell breaking inside the harbour which also happened to be where turn two was for the race course. Despite the testing conditions competitors lined up & tackled the course for The Harbour Hustle, which saw Angie Jackson take the title for the ladies & James Casey for the guys. It was a shame not to go around with the Saucy Jack Classic again however I stand strong in my belief that the Australian SUP Scene needs to come together as interested parties for the sport not individual gain in the way the Euro Tour has shown & create a national tour with points being collected for the year from all events to award a National Paddler, male & female, there is so much I could say on this topic but that is for another chat as my beer is getting warm & we still have a few more questions to tackle..
5. 2UP SUP was your old sup school in Newcastle, can you give us an insight to what it’s like to run a SUP school and how it started?
Well my introduction to SUP instruction came whilst I was still living on Bali & my business SUP Bali which allowed Stand Up Travellers from around the world to arrive in Bali , be met by myself & then shown the islands best breaks & surf them on a SUP &/or have their first ever SUP Lesson on the Island of the Gods with SUP Bali. So setting up a SUP school upon my return to Oz was a given as I wanted to share the stoke of the sport & it was still very young in Oz at that time, so 2UP SUP was created & the name came from a photo I captured with my GoPro on my paddle on my last day in Bali where I pulled in to a little tube on the end of Nusa Dua & threw a peace sign out the end toward a dear friend of mine Jonni Morrison as a final salute to our many shared surf sessions & to an acknowledgement it was the start of a new chapter.
2UPSUP shared the SUP stoke to hundreds of people on Newcastle Harbour in the time we were open & with the amazing assistance of Stella Edwards who came on board as an awesome instructor with enthusiasm just bubbly out everywhere we I believe delivered the very essence of SUP which is simple pleasure on the water. The joy of seeing people who in a majority of cases have chosen to try SUP as they are not terribly confident in other sports , stand up & smile from their bellies is the satisfaction that drove me to be an instructor & I recall every lesson the patience Jake Patterson showed me & the incredible changes it made to my life & this kept me motivated every time to offer the same. Undoubtedly my most moving experience was that of taking a 100% blind 14yr old boy paddling 2 days in a row on Newcastle Harbour with his parents anxiously walking the shoreline following us firstly having him tethered to me by a leash to then finally cast the leash free & direct him by voice prompts on the 2nd day & see tears roll down his cheeks as he felt the freedom of doing it on his own away from mum & dad with the motion of the ocean beneath him , that is still something that moves me at the thought.
6. You have seen the sport transition is so many ways and on so many levels in the ways not only as a waterman with equipment evolving but also on a small business to global brand,
Do you feel that the sport has grown on a participation level over the past 10 years?
My belief is the sport is marking time , the growth is not busting down doors as there is the temptation to pursue the elite level however as everybody knows the volume is in the everyday punter , the weekend warrior who stumbles & falls & goofs take offs etc & if we fail to offer enjoyable events & comps to make these punters & weekend warriors interested to attend then the growth is never going to leap forward & this is where looking at Europe & the Euro Tour model for the flat water events the Australian SUP scene could learn a lot to follow & come together as one to deliver something incredible that by default would draw interest & grow the sport from the grass roots level , juniors , males , females , mums & dads , make it what it should be . If you want to look even closer to home look at the surf club & nippers etc it’s a family affair , but they have competitions & it works so if the Australia SUP scene could come up with an Australian SUP Tour including the clubs around the country & the existing events all under a common good for the sport umbrella this in my opinion would be the ultimate outcome for continued growth of this incredible sport. I seriously believe that the surfing side of SUP promotion is won by promoting the Longboard SUP area as it is here that you retain volume of participants opening it up to everyone & as a result numbers grow & stoke is shared & we all know that everyone wants a bit of a good thing .
7. Stand Up Traveller is on a Indo mission in 2020
I know you like to keep things a little under wraps, but can you give us just a little taste of what one stand up traveller may get to encounter on one of your trips?
Stand Up Traveller was a result of returning to Australia but having a great group of friends who I had met during my SUP Bali days from all around the world & who continued to reach out to me & ask where the next SUP adventure was as they had their annual holidays coming up & seeing as I was no longer in Bali they needed to know where I was going & they wanted to join. This meant trips to the Philippines , Tonga , Secrets of Indo & a few other locations . Each year I nominate a few locations & allow chinese whispers to spread the word & with minimum numbers generally 4-6 crew we silently slip off to waves not spoken too loudly & locations that offer incredible experiences with a common comment shared at the end being "that was exactly what i needed". I wish to continue offering an escape that is hand picked from an experience of being there & then having it suit the group that is joining & be sure we all have an amazing time as Stand Up Travellers, with memories that always put a smile on your face as you recall surfing a wave in the middle of the pacific with a pink tutu on after a morning spent swimming with whales , or perhaps riding 200mtr long waves on the back of a typhoon after pulling up in a rented Jeepney, or was it watching men on horseback recreate ancient tribal wars before you head off to hoot your mate into some glassy walls kept clean by the trades?, these are what Stand Up Travellers get to enjoy. After all life is good as a Stand Up Traveller.
8. What other water sports were you into before you found SUP? And what was your first ever sup experience?
I grew up surfing a shortboard at Flatrock/Cowrie Hole in Newcastle & besides being a soccer player in under 5s-under9s & being forced to do orienteering for school sport after being busted smoking joints on the way to school surfing , the beach has been my playground & it has been super good to me for sure.
9. Top 3 favourite waves to Surf on a sup in the World.
Nusa Dua Outside Bombie Canggu Millers Sumba
10. If you had a SUP time machine and only had one return trip in your paddle, which time period in your SUP history would you go?