I’ll never forget the first words to come out of my mother’s mouth, when she heard I was heading to Bali for my first ever surf trip many moons ago. “Don’t you dare get a tattoo”. Naturally, on the second night I wrote myself off, and decided it was a great idea to shout my close mate, and some random Indo guy tattoos. Yes, across our bums in fact. A trifecta consisting of four block letters. HUEY. I recall that theme song from the Hangover movie ‘one night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster’, swirling around in my head all night, not to mention potentially toxic levels of the local vodka Arak. Best night of my life aside, who is this mysterious Huey guy, and why would a surf-obsessed young lass and her drunken mates commit to a lifelong stamp across their left buttocks?
One of the most amusing parts of that night was having the Indo guy swing around to see the damage of fresh ink on his bum, only to ask ‘Who’s Huey?’ I thought he may have asked that little number prior to being inked up, but perhaps the Arak had also temporarily hijacked his brain.
As for my close mate, the first thing his newly acquired girlfriend asked, upon his return to Australia (perhaps in an awkward de-robing moment?) was “Who the f#@* is Huey?!”
So you might say it’s the question that’s on everyone’s lips. Who the hell is Huey?
You’re not going to meet him down the street any time soon
Actually, that’s a lie. There’s plenty of Huey’s out there. Like when I learnt my friend’s step-father is a Huey, and he became suddenly eager to get a selfie with my butt in the foreground. Not awkward at all. Never fear, it was a non-event.
Anyway, unless you have any interest in surfing history, his name will likely never pass your lips. Or your bum for that matter. You’ll occasionally hear his name in a surf report, or on the commentary of a large WCT event, “C’mon Huey we’re running out of time, how ‘bout you start delivering the goods?”
Hands down, the most entertaining part for me, is every time I slip into a bikini and all sorts of mystery is aroused about this Huey guy. As I pass a stranger on the way out for a surf, “Who’s Huey?” they ask with a half amused, half puzzled look on their face. “Oh just an ex-boyfriend”.
You see, people get tattoos of their lovers on their gangly limbs all the time. Then they break up and end up hating each other. But I figured I’m never going to break up with Huey.
Maybe it’s different because I’m a chick. He’s my lifetime lover, who’s always going to be there for me. But I must say I love that silence that’s left with that passing stranger, where they feel pity for me for having a permanent reminder of my ex-boyfriend.
OK, enough with the stories, really who is he?
Fine! He’s the fictional God of Surfing.
When a guy actually gets it as I paddle past him, my day is well and truly made. Picture a perfect lineup where the waves are rolling in on a dime, he spots the ink on my bum and starts laughing and spontaneously yahooing “Haha yessss Huey’s a legend, he’s doing a pretty fine job today!!”
These moments just make me smile so much, I think because that guy understands my commitment in a male dominated sport so much, and is totally amused that a crazy chick would get a permanent reminder of Huey’s presence in her life.
The importance of conversing with Huey
So now that the God of Surfing has been revealed, how is it relevant to your surfing experience? Well, I say it’s every bit relevant, as he brought you that last barrel and that beautiful, long green wall you can’t stop salivating over.
Don’t you ever wonder the forces behind that, other than all the elements like the swell and the wind? Isn’t it so much more fun to hold a fictional character responsible?
Just know that every time you step out into his waters on a freezing cold winter morning, or that grovel where you struggle to even stand up on a wave, he’s watching all your efforts.
You could picture this as a deposit into your wave currency account, that you can spend at a later date. Trust me, your investment will pay off. The next time you find yourself graced by 6ft of top to bottom perfection, you’ll have Huey to thank.
But you ‘gotta spend the time to get to know him. Seriously, I talk to him all the time out there. Sometimes even out loud when no one else is around. If you’re going to be mad enough to talk to yourself, at least make the madness heard by Huey.
By recognizing this rather elusive, humorous and faith-inducing relationship, you’re able to somehow start seeing past the frustration of those flat spells, onshore winds and stormy conditions.
I love when I’m land locked, thinking about how it must be for those that never get to experience what we do as surfers. When I gaze out to sea, I love the feeling that the ocean can deliver a huge swell any day, or maybe even that 100-year-old storm. And it’s that challenge of actually stepping out there, and being face to face with that sheer power. That’s the mystery and Huey is so much behind all of that.
In a way it’s a little like a religion, because prayers can and will be answered out in the ocean. I find you always tune that little bit more into your surfing, when Huey’s a part of the picture. Besides you likely spend most Sundays out in the surf anyway, that’s how faithful you are!
So what does the history say?
According to the famous Australian Tracks Surfing Magazine borne out of the 70’s, Huey was first mentioned way back in the 1800’s, as a bit of a family legend in Australia. He was referred to as the God of the Rains, who would be called upon in times of drought.
It appears that over the decades, a break in drought caused by Huey, has now evolved to a break in a drought of waves. Throughout the forums of seabreeze.com there is a casual dialogue extracted once again from Tracks Magazine:
“I asked for the swell to hit today, mate, not tomorrow. And I want it to be six foot and no less.” Huey was quick to respond and sure enough by the arvo, the six-footers were pumping through’ (Tracks, August 1995). Or, more domestically: ‘Most surfers entertain the concept of having a special relationship with Huey’s missus, Ma Nature’ (Tracks, February 1994).
Published in a book The Encyclopedia of Surfing by Matt Warshaw, the author also makes mention to the Rain God, and that with the introduction of surfing to Australia (in 1914), old surfboards were sometimes burned as a sacrifice to Huey!
I also stumbled upon a ‘Mountain Man’, who I must say is slightly more elusive than Huey, who reflected upon his relationship with the God of Surfing rather poetically:
“Tonight, the third surfer lives and is awake.
He is conscious of the energy moving across the waters.
He is smiling and yet does he fear,
For he is filled with the vast powers that move about him
And he and Huey are one.
And his spirit flies before the wind.
He paddles outward and outward
With the breezes caressing his face and hair.
But has he waited too long inside?”
With Australia playing such a dominant role in surf history, it appears the word of Huey has, over the years, reached surfing communities around the world. It’s not uncommon to hear about him amongst the best breaks on the planet. But whatever you do, don’t be confused with ‘Da Hui’, one of the most feared surf gangs to come out of Hawaii. If you happen to be cussing Huey for being an arsehole while surfing anywhere on their islands within an earshot of the ring leaders, then you better take the next plane outta’ there. Knuckle sandwiches aside, don’t you think it’s time you started conversing with Huey?
SHANNON DAVIDSON is a passionate surfer from Byron Bay, Australia with an obsession of all things beach life. Inspired by the perfection and mystery contained within the ocean, Shannon loves to share with the world, through her writing, all that she finds along the way. Follow her adventures on surfchickareta.com.