Cheyne Horan Surf School

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It all started when I was about six-years-old when I saw an 8mm film of my Nan's holidays at Avoca Beach on the NSW Central Coast.

There were these cool guys surfing on longboards, turning and stepping up the nose.

That was my first introduction to a sport, though I would never be involved in as I was living in Petersham in Sydney's inner-west and we were a long way from the beach.

 My parents were going through some tough times and they thought it was best for me to go to boarding school. This is were I got my independence and knowledge of how to work as a team.

 We would run the whole school with very little help from outside.

I was relegated to the kitchen where I would put more than 100 plates through a dishwasher every day. But there were benefits.

I could always score a few extra sandwiches and could get the oil off the top of the peanut butter to be used to speed up our toy cars which were weighed down with lead for better traction in the regular races we held.

As a football we were virtually unbeatable mostly because we were together 24 / 7. We were a team both on and off the footy field and being part of this partnership was one of the most important lessons of my life.

When I played my first game of football I was petrified when the opposition ran at me and I would step out of the way.

 But the coach at school was great and would take me to big games and point out what each players' roles were and most of all how to tackle from all angles. The bigger they were the more I stuck it to them.

I eventually became a swimming pool fiend, which is where I would spend most of my time after school and every day during the holidays, and at one stage I could stay under the water for a considerable amount of time.

This again was a valuable lesson for later in life when I surfed big waves and had to stay under the water for a long time after if I came unstuck.

My older brother Stephen had a wooden skateboard, painted silver with roller skate wheels. I would use it all the time riding along on my knees to and from everywhere. This is where my skating started

Dad was the fastest ice skater in Sydney when I was about six and I learned a lot of my balancing techniques from him. Ice skating, skateboarding, football and surfing was what I did week in and week out and I got really fit without knowing it.

We moved to Bronte in 1970 when I was 10. What a paradise it was then.

 I got into surfing through a kid I met at the beach named Mick Dundas. He had a rubber float and I learned to surf  it standing up before my mum bought me a Coolite which was soft and safe.

To get some extra money I would work at the beach with Eastern Suburbs rugby league legend Dave Brown, who was the man hiring out surfoplanes and surfboards at Bronte.

When the time would come for a board to come in he would tell me to swim out and ask if they wanted stay longer and pay extra or give me the board which I would surf in. I also had a paper run five days a week where I would make about $5-$8 a week.

I guess it was then the Surfing Bug bit hard and my next step was to get a board of my own, but I would be struggling. I told guys I would pay for one even though I never could and one guy embarrassed me so much when he came around to my house and took a board back that mum never even knew I had. I was devastated.

Finally a cheap board came along and even at $15 it was a big ask. I never wanted to ask mum for anything cause I new she struggled to pay the rent. It took me a month of selling papers to save another $10 for a wetsuit vest. The other kids were in Long Johns and full-length vests on the new boards their parents bought them. My vest was second-hand and I had to make it last two seasons.

When my mum bought me a new Woodstock surfboard I was over the moon and surfed my brains out. I would be in the water for up to eight hours every day of summer.

 I was 12 now and had my first real girlfriend. Pam O’Brien were the same age and we  used to kiss for hours in cave in the corner of Bronte Beach. Then I went on holiday and a mate of mine grass cut me. It was OK then because I was so young and surfing was more important to me than girls.

The following year I heard of  the Sydney Schoolboys contest at Maroubra. I was just into high school so I thought I’ll have a go even though I knew none of the rules and hadn't even seen a suring contest before.

I got a ride to Maroubra with Kevin Martin, a wrestler friend of the family and one of my brothers good mates, Time just seemed to fly next thing I found myself in the final with the best kids from Bondi and Maroubra.

We surfed off in the final of the Under 14s which was won by Barry Dixon. Dominic Wybrow was second and I finished 3rd. Both Dixon and Wybrow were disqualified for being to old and I suddenly found myself in the State Titles.

On the night before the contest I couldn’t sleep - I was so nervous. I had to be at Bondi at 6am to meet a guy called Ollie. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. I was up and gone at 4am walking the streets with my board under my arm and hiding from the headlights of every car that came along.

After waiting on the hill at Bondi till  6am, along came Ollie and I was stoked I was on my way.

 I didn’t think I had a chance. I had nothing to lose and I was checking to see where I was at compared to everyone else. Wow what a blowout the guys were ripping so I jumped in the water and warmed up.

I had the Woodstock and everyone else were on McCoys. I didn’t know anyone and everyone was raving about Dappa’s brother Kenny who ripped in beautiful style. We got on unreal. We played pool up at the shop and then came down and surfed the final together he finished 4th and I finished 3rd.

 I was youngest in the contest and super stoked.  The older guys were also stoked and they congratulated me. And I thought they didn't even know who I was because I was a grommet.

My mates thought I was a bit of a braggard, but I soon fell back to Earth and was humbled. The same guys told me I couldn't hang with them any more mainly because I didn’t want to do drugs with them. They were a little bit older anyway so I split and hung by myself.

They did the same to Ekkles, who, as a kid, was the goofiest looking guy you’d ever seen. He was 15 and I was 13 and we were the nerds. We hung together at my place and surfed together all the time and the other guys dropped off coming to the beach and a lot got into heroin and others started apprenticeships .

I moved to Bondi as I had more friends from school living there and my mum could see the heroin problem affecting  lot of the kids.

Bondi had its heroin element but it was mainly in the much older guys. The younger guys were really cool and I hung at the third ramp with Robin and Tim Hiscoe who were the leaders.

We surfed and had so much fun together and Andy would always bring up something strange and inventive to talk about and made us all aware of a lot of the dangers in front of us.

Once we all jigged school and took off the last six weeks before the Christmas holidays. Three weeks into it we were hanging at Robin's and had just all had a surf.  I was last out when I was walking back I saw our school teacher walk into Robin's house.

 I sat in between a couple of cars and waited for him to go.When I got in there the boys were devastated. "What a bummer we all have to be at school tomorrow,” Robin said “Mate you didn’t tell on me did ya?” I said praying my mum wouldn’t find out.

 "Nah you can come back if you want to - he said your name and asked if we’d seen ya. We all said no.''

I spent the next three weeks surfing alone waiting for everyone after school.

It was one of my best summers -12 weeks off!

I went to my Nans for four weeks and got great waves on the Central Coast. The locals there took me under there wing and showed me my first secret spot.

 I took Pat McGlinn there one day and it was perfect 3ft. But he wouldn’t surf it because there was no-one out. So out I went with no such thing as a leg rope then and surfed a great left hander on my own, despite my fear of sharks.