Stories of the coast……
JUST FOLLOW the road out of town and take the turnoff, she said. Okay, we’ll do that I say, knowing how easily we could get lost following her vague directions.
No need for worry. We found her place, no false turns, no ending up on some rural dead end. There it was. It’s one of those houses with the hand-made look of an unpretentious rural home… low-key, lived in, comfortable. Nothing shabby. It blends into the landscape of trees and open paddocks and into the fruit trees and vegetable garden that encroaches it. Life as rural idyll, probably.
We stay only one night. We’re on our way along NSW’s Far South Coast, heading into East Gippsland then down to the big city where we will board the vehicle ferry that will take us across the strait. Our friend has been living here for years now. She publishes a magazine and her office, probably what was the first house to be built on her couple hectares, is our accommodation.
“My partner’s a surfer and it’s because of him that I’ve started surfing too. The local beach has a good break”, she tells us. “I bought a board from the local surf shop where they are made. It’s in town”.
Next day we take a look at the town. It’s not a big town, Pambula. There’s The Top Pub and the bottom pub and in between are the types of shops that supply everyday needs. The town has not been taken over by tourism to become a caricature of its former self as have others along the coast, yet there are signs of change that reflect the needs and wants of the people who have moved here over recent decades. There’s the wholefood store with its bulk containers of grain, flour and other foods. A shop that sells what are probably called ‘sustainable’ fashions. Wild Rye’s organic bakery and cafe which makes tasty wood-fired breads and pastries. It’s a place where people sit and meet over coffee and food and mull over the week’s heppenings. It’s comfortable and not noisy like big city cafes with their hissing coffee machine and the banging and clanking from the kitchen.
There’s also Jed Done. He set up business in a small shop next to Wild Rye’s. Jed’s a shaper. He made our friend’s surfboard. Many of his boards find use at Pambula’s surf break out on the edge of town.
Walk in, look through the window in the back wall and you might see Jed in his workshop, dressed in his overalls and dust filter, shaping a board for someone.
“I should tidy it up”, he says, nodding towards his workshop. I think it looks fine and tell him so, commenting on the range of Patagonia clothing on his racks. “Yeah. I stock a bit of Patagonia”, he says.
Jed comes across as one of those people happy to stop what he’s doing and talk. I guess there’s no hurry to get things done here. Pambula doesn’t seem to be such a busy place. He’s happy for me to take photos in his workshop.
Switchfoot boardstore is the only surf shop in town. Sure, it is modest compared to the big surf shop in Milton, the town further back along the coast. It’s different, too, to the corporate surf shops, the Mambo, Billabong and Rip Curl stores you find in the bigger centres, the surfing world’s corporates whose main product line is the clothing styles you see anywhere on the coast. Switchfoot’s difference comes through through it being a place that makes boards rather than just selling them.
This is how it was once. Shapers making boards in their workshops. They were the days of what the manager of Heritage Surf in Manly, at the southern end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, described to me as ‘authentic 1970s surfshops’. Sadly, Heritage is no more. Gone, like most of the small surf shops of that pre-corporate era when surfing had a rough edge and breaks weren’t crowded.
Well, Jed Done’s still here. As I walk out the store I look back and there he is, mask over face, crafting the core of another board on which someone will find happiness in sliding down moving walls of water.
I wondered if Jed’s business survived the lockdowns of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic or whether like other small businesses it crashed on the rocks of closure. As the country dragged itself out of the lockdown doldrums I hesitatingly put finger to keyboard and made a search.
Well, Switchfoot is still there. And for that Pambula is all the better.
24 Quondola Street,
Pambula, NSW, 2549,
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