Buy a Hoodie, Fund a Frontier Existence
Leisures: threads from the fringe.
The day before Stab High kicked off I was smoking a joint in the garage of one of Australia’s best bodyboarders (completely unfounded statement). The roller door was closed—despite midday sun—as the early spring wind was causing a chill, and my companion Ryan Sewell and I were watching a YouTube video of the last time the Beatles ever played together. The year was 1969 and the fab four had been in hiding, releasing concept albums and not touring for three years after they tired of schoolgirls screaming over their music. It’s peak Beatles cool, with each member well along the path to self-discovery. McCartney in his three-piece suit, loafers, unkempt hair and beard; Lennon playing a white Epiphone Casino in all black, with the iconic specs perched on his nose; George with a wild mop, mo and oversized fur coat combo; and Ringo, well, who cares about Ringo. Ryan Sewell, aka Blazy Susan/Chop Sewelly/Sewelly, is strumming along, his fender turned low so as not to interrupt the conversation, and we're discussing whether you could hit the Waco wedge lying on your guts. “For sure man,” he says. “If you’re a good bodyboarder then you can generate speed on a boog just as well as you can standing up.”
“Fish," he said, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”
I’d been led here by three things. First, I’d seen a video of Ryan, head to toe in rubber, reeling in the biggest groper I’ve ever seen—“you could see that thing from space”. Then, I followed the Insta trail and worked out that this feat occurred on a trip to the southernmost reaches of the country, shooting for Leisures, a brand that until that point I’d never heard of. A quick lap around their site and I’d found the "Australian Plants Society" hoodie, perhaps the most appealing black hood I’ve seen since it became acceptable for grown white men to wear them again. Finally, a little more stalking revealed that Ryan actually owned Leisures, and that was enough for me to hop in the car and drive the hour or so south to find out what this cryptic trail meant, if anything. Fortunately, it led me to a perfectly rolled joint of finest south coast bush herb.
Sewelly: on the fringe/in the shadows.
In the corner of the garage is a stack of bodyboards, topped by what is unmistakably one of Craig Anderson’s stand-ups. We’re talking about bodyboarding and I’m asking lots of questions as I find the—even fringier than conventional surfing—pursuit fascinating. We get onto boards, and Ryan walks over to the corner and picks up the one on top, his signature model, the "Lazy Susan". “I’ve got the evolution of the bodyboard for you right here,” he says, handing me the sleek craft which has a huge crease in the middle. It’s tiny, and the mind boggles at the waves that’ve been ridden on this particular craft. He then hands me a vintage Mike Stewart Morey—“have a look at this thing”—it’s about twice the size and feels clunky. “You wonder how those dudes were hitting big closeouts and Off the Wall and shit back in the day,” he says. “It’s like landing on a big spongey mattress!”
The subtlest product placements meets the kinkiest wall.
Leisures has been Ryan's creative outlet for a few years, but he says that he’s just started to put more time into his side hustle. The most recent effort was the trip south to camp out on an uninhabited island—accessible by amphibious vehicle—and shoot some lifestyle, the stills of which you see here. The Leisures range is sporadic and random, but authentic, as it represents the sprawling taste and curiosity of its founder. Some weeks later I'm perspiring and bothered, power walking through the bush—craft and supplies weighing heavily underarm—trying to keep up with Sewelly, who's sprinting in pursuit of a remote slab that he suspects might be on. On arrival it's not quite how he'd hoped, but he heads out anyway on Craig's hand me down—he's been "teaching" himself how to surf—and proceeds to sneak out of a couple of tubes, before coming in and switching codes. It looks lurching and dry, so I'm content to sit on the rocks and take in what has to be one of the most beautiful surfing locations I've experienced. It strikes me that if surfing for most is a momentary escape, one that generally takes place in densely-populated suburban beaches, then this is absolute freedom.
"I’ve come to understand that there’s good waves for boogin and good waves for surfing..."
Walking back through the forest at a more leisurely pace, Ryan points out a fern that was thought to only exist in far north Queensland, before it was discovered here. Moving on, he gives me a detailed account of the rock formations that make the waves in these parts so unique. It strikes me what in-depth knowledge of the environment those who dedicate their lives to riding remote slabs have, and what an underrated asset that is. It's reflected in Leisures too, with plants and fossils tastefully featuring throughout the range. People like Ryan are shunned by society: relegated to the fringe and labeled good for nothing. But I’m not so sure. With a government that’s increasingly pushing get rich quick schemes like the Carmichael coalmine and drilling the bight—regardless of the casualties—as exemplary, living on the south coast exploring the innermost properties of mutant waves might just be the best way imaginable to countdown the apocalypse. Especially if you've got a hip little range that bubbles away and provides the necessities. If buying a hoodie can help man continue exploring the edges of his own existence, then that's a cause that I'm willing to support. Besides, when your nervous system has experienced the things that Ryan Sewell's has, you can't exactly don a cheap suit and go work for the council.