I grew up in an idyllic suburban community on the west end of the San Fernando Valley that I despised. There were many modes of escape, but my favorite was “Australia Night.” My friends, older brother, and I were big lovers of Australian surf culture. We’d gather in a small room with a stack of Aussie surf mags (Tracks, Surfing World, Line-Up), a few of our latest Aussie music finds (Jimmy and the Boys, Radio Birdman, the Sunnyboys), and a half dozen or so of those oil can-sized Foster’s Lagers. We’d drink, we’d listen, and we’d pore over—or more like dive into—the pictures in the magazines. You could call it a grass-is-greener thing, but in fact the grass was greener. Burleigh Heads was a better wave that our local Malibu Third Point. Duranbah was peakier and hollower than Zuma.
That world we entered on those Aussie nights, it was introduced to us through the surf films of Jack McCoy. The first one we saw was Stormriders, which featured Mark “MR” Richards in silver and red full-suit slashing across the industrial green walls of Merewether, and Rabbit “Bugs” Bartholomew pulling in deep at Kirra. Then came A Day in the Life of Wayne Lynch, which presented the archetype of the lone wolf, the surfer-harmonizing-with-sea-away-from-hurried-masses ethos. Then Kong’s Island, which showed us slab waves before they were called slab waves.
A few years later I met McCoy in the Margaret River car park in Western Australia. He was a big personality, his laugh was louder than the six-foot waves that cracked on the reef, he drove a badass jeep/truck. That night I saw him at a local health food restaurant. In line for the salad bar a woman stepped on his foot.
“Sorry,” she said, and looked down. “You’ve got big feet.”
“Well, you know what they say about big feet,” said Jack.
He laughed, the woman laughed, I laughed. That’s always stayed with me, that levity and charm, the way life is a lot more fruitful with that openhearted playful spirit.
About a decade ago I traveled to Hawaii to write a profile of Jack for The Surfer’s Journal. By this time we’d become good friends. Writing the piece gave me a window into his trajectory and values, it helped me to understand him better. “Surfing has been my life and my life’s work,” he told me over dinner one evening. “Everything changed the day I rode that first wave. It’s been blue skies and green lights ever since.”
The piece is available here: https://www.surfersjournal.com/product/rushes-viewing-lifes-dailies-with-jack-mccoy/