A different type of surfing has taken off on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales; one that’s allowing surfers to keep riding waves well into their older years.
The “gut slider” has been a passion project for 74-year-old Nambucca Valley surfboard shaper Keith Robinson as a way to ride waves without having to stand on a board.
“I went back to the roots of surfing, which was a paipo board [from Hawaii],” Mr Robinson said.
“It was a laydown board and I just revamped it to work a whole lot easier.”
The question that started a movement
Mr Robinson started working in the surfboard industry at the age of just 12.
He has drawn on his lifetime of experience to create the gut slider board, which is designed to get the most out of a wave while lying on your belly.
The creation followed a conversation with friend Toni Jovancay who had become wracked with hip pain that forced him to give up his love of jumping to his feet to ride a wave.
The 67-year-old faced the prospect of giving up surfing forever, but said gut sliding gave him another shot.
“As soon as I paddled out in North Valla, I immediately knew this was fantastic,” Mr Jovancay said.
“If I didn’t have other things in life, I’d say it has changed my whole life.”
Mr Jovancay said it took him about two weeks to learn to manoeuvre but finally adjusted to the “different kind of surfing”.
“I am on fire. I am dangerous, I am absolutely out of control,” he said.
The ‘science’ of the gut slider
Mr Robinson said gut sliders are inspired by the way a cuttlefish moves through the water; in rhythm with the ocean.
“You’ve got to understand the elements, the waves, [the] kinetic energy of the ocean … and then you have to understand your equipment,” he said.
The board isn’t the first tweak Mr Robinson has made to a surfboard.
“There is a huge amount of different designs and variety out there,” he said.
“Most shapers are very creative and if they’re a custom-shaper they will look at the individual and see how they surf, where they surf and can make sure they can get the right board under their feet … to get the maximum enjoyment out of surfing.
“That’s what it is all about.”
The board changing lives
Since making the first gut slider for his mate, Mr Robinson has gone on to make them for surfers all over Australia in a similar demographic.
“[They] have all had a knee operation, or a hip operation or have broken an ankle — things like that,” he said.
“I do about two boards a week.
“These gut sliders are probably representing 30-40 per cent of what I do now.”
Surf photographer and gut slider rider Chris Hewgill says it has been a game changer.
“These boards don’t miss waves; they paddle really well,” he said.
Mr Hewgill has taken land-based and water photos of the ocean for the past 40 to 50 years and says the gut sliders have changed lives.
“I’ve seen a guy who hasn’t been able to [stand-up ride] for years,” he said.
“He got on one of these things and was like 15 again.”