Surfing is just as important as other sports in continuing Aboriginal culture, says an Indigenous pipe master.
By
NITV

6 Oct 2015 - 1:14 PM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2015 - 3:32 PM

Surfing is just as important as football and boxing for fostering cultural connections for Indigenous Australians, surfer and saltwater man Robbie Page told NITV. 

Page said that Indigenous Australians looked for new ways to practice traditional ceremony post European settlement.

"When they put all the fences down and the country was cut up and you couldn’t do initiations any more, well men’s business got lost," he said.

"Where it was alive was on the football field and in the boxing, and unfortunately in jails – but the real progressive light space was on the football field and boxing. 

"[People] didn’t realise that men's business was alive in saltwater business. That's where the surfing was, it was mixed in with so much culture."

Page was recently part of the 2015 Australian Indigenous Surfing Titles, held at Bells Beach on Wadawurrung country (Victoria’s surf coast) in May. NITV went down and filmed a documentary about the community of Indigenous surfers in I live, I breathe, I surf.

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"The brothers from all the different [first] nations are very honored to come together and be with each other," he said.

Page, who was born in 1967, grew up between Wollongong and Sydney before his career in surfing began carving out when he won the junior division in the NSW state surfing titles at 17.

He has toured the world for many years since with a career highlight taking out the 1988 Pipeline Masters.

The twists and turns of international surfing adventures

Page has had his fair share of success, but he has also encountered of the odd challenges too, including nearly 70 days locked up in a prison in Japan.

After arriving in Tokyo from Spain where he had been during a pro-tour through Europe, he was pulled aside by customs officials where he was caught with acid in his wallet that he forgot was in there.

"Myself and a couple of guys bought a couple of trips off this Spanish guy, had a big night, got wasted, charged on," he told the Encyclopaedia of Surfing. "And I had a couple of them left in a bit of paper, which I'd lost in my wallet with a lot of receipts.

"Then I went through Japan six or seven weeks later and, Merry Christmas, someone found it for me. Thanks, you know."

Surfing over lifetimes

Page said that his surfing talents had come from his mother, who is Aboriginal, but the complexities of being of mixed descent meant people often attributed his skills to his father.

"I've won a lot of events and as I’m a fair skinned guy, a lot of my rewards go towards my Irish and Scottish dad…[yet] my dad can't swim."

"I go there to let them know, 'hey, you guys might be ripping at 20 and 30, but you guys can [do this] for another 10, 20, 30 years'"

Page said he advocated surfing for its ability to empower. "If [people are] surfing or singing their hearts are healing. We take people to the surf because it massages them and heals their emotional pain."

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He said he wanted to send a message to the younger surfers of encouragement as one of the oldest on the professional circuit.

"I try to represent a bit of longevity in surfing for the young fellows," Page said, adding that he admired Kelly Slater's effort to do the same thing.

"I go there to let them know, 'hey, you guys might be ripping at 20 and 30, but you guys can [do this] for another 10, 20, 30 years'."

Immerse in our I live, I breathe, I surf online documentary exclusive.