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The Hands of Little Avalon

by Colin Bernasconi November 13, 2013

I first started surfing Little Avalon around the same time I hit high school. The year was 1984. I was a vaguely talented short-board surfing pubic-hair-free 12-year-old dealing with the brave new world as best he could. School was one thing – with it rouge senior surfers bumping us blonde headed newbies in the stone laden hall ways with random shoulder charges – but only a couple of tennis court lengths away from Barrenjoey High lay a watery wonderland my mental moon was destined to orbit with unwavering commitment forever more.

Avalon Beach was then, and still is, the place almost all my dreams are set. A beautiful beach bookended by two monolithic headlands. The ‘North’ resembles an Indian totem Pole, while the ‘South,’ a more traditional non-discript elongated strut of sedimentary rock. While the northern end offered some of the best big wave surfing the Northern Beaches had to offer with its north swell loving G-Land like sand bank – the south end had something even more rare and unique – a cunjevoi padded rock slab right hand barrel that broke consistently and rarely closed out. 

Surfing off the ledge with surfers named Marsupial, Boydey, Northy, Finny and kneelo-Roger was a trip. Older experienced surfers are scary enough to deal with on land, dealing with them and their colourful and powerful personalities in a burping and spitting  ocean is another dimension all together.

One of the oddest characters regularly surfing out there was bodysurfer we called ‘hands’. We called him that because he had a huge perspex handplanes strapped to each hand. He was the Edward Scissor Hands of the surfing world. “Hands’ would happily bob around in the line-up with his legs dangling over the the deep drop off. Although we too sat in that very spot, being on a board offered a little bit of mental comfort from what perhaps swam beneath.

LA is a fairly easy wave to get barreled on and ‘Hands’ certainly showed me that as far as high performance bodysurfing breaks go this must be right up there. It’s slow breaking perfect little pits would house ‘Hands’ like a warm glove.

As a writer for Tracks magazine as an adult over the last eight years I’ve focused a lot on world title winners and and ASP event dramas, rarely touching touching on the true roots of my addiction to surfing. Learning to surf LA and get in tune with the boys out there will always be the surfing chapter in my life I’m happy to talk about. Not just because of the mindless barrels, but also the characters. None less than the lone body surfer that used to frequent the line up in those early 80s. Sure I could talk story about anyone of the the bobbing heads in this golden era - but old mate, with his self made perspex dinner plate sized custom handplanes, definitely rates highly. We’ve since dug up photos from the sixties that feature the earliest LA bodysurfers. What a magic era that must have been for those who loved to surf on the body. Longboard wouldn’t have been much chop to ride out there – with the tight take off point and shallow pit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same boys in the photo went on to become the same wrinkly old bodysurfers who have kept a morning ritual surf throughout the decades...

Please help us name them all (and ‘Hands’) in the comments if you can?





Colin Bernasconi
Colin Bernasconi

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