Grey nomads enjoy the surf no matter the conditions (1970) | RetroFocus

Bare poles shiver in the gale that’s
blown the surf champions from Bells Beach. But it takes more than a gale to
drive old Pa Bendall indoors. Of course Pa isn’t out there to win
anything. He just wants to prove you are never too old for anything. And while the
competitors sit and wait for the sea to send them waves worthy of champions,
Pa battles through the choppy soup to prove his point. It’s a rough wave but he catches it even
if the ride finishes up a short one. I am 65 but I’m not a pensioner. I don’t think I am.
You’ve been travelling around doing this for a long time, or?
No, I started at the age of 54 and then by virtue of the fact it’s an
individual sport, I enjoy it. And then my wife, she got a bit suspicious I might
drift out to sea so she decided to do it two years later. What happened to your eye?
My eye – I had that at sunset in 1964 that’s in Hawaii. I caught a big wave but
I didn’t know how to handle it and I hit the reef. Smashed my nose, broke two ribs and about three months later the eye got double vision.
And now I see everything in the world that is double with the exception of one thing.
What’s that? Money. (Laughs) There has to be a catch. Listen tell me what about your eye though and your
double vision regarding your balance for your surfing, does this worry you at all?
Oh no I put this on so I can keep my eye open.
Before I put it on I lost all my teeth because I fell on the board, see? I went to step forward and hang five and I went down and smashed my teeth.
How long do you think you’ll be able to keep this up for? I don’t know you’ll have to ask that guy up there!
Alright, what about Ma, where’s she? Can we have a word with her? Oh Ma! Come on Ma!
Here she is, the old one. How old is Ma? Oh Ma’s over 60.
Can we ask this of a lady? Oh yes! How old? Oh, I was 60 in February. Do you worry about him at all, getting out there with all those waves? He’s old enough to look after himself. What about you, do you go out yourself? Oh, of course. Now, you’re down here at the particular moment for competitions. Are you entering or just spectating?
Oh well, we’ve come down to see the world titles and getting in a ride now and
again when we can. What do you think about the kids today, the surfers?
I think they’re mighty most of them. Oh yes they are. It’s a fabulous sport. It’s an
individual sport and now it’s getting to be a social sport more than it was
before. It was too professional but now the kids take it and as long as they
don’t continue through life, you know professionally, go to school and get
educated and get a trade or a profession and then surf. They’re accomplished.
How do you maintain yourselves financially with this, just travelling around like this? Well, we have a business up in Caloundra, a flat business. We manage it somehow. I don’t know how. I suppose we better let you, what? Get into your van which is
pretty well set up to take you anywhere and get yourself warm. Oh yes but we’re
with it you know! All the time. Jog in the morning. We do all kinds of activities. Oh yes now we’re
we’re anticipating going snow skiing you can see our dogs have all got
equipment with their fur coats on. To go snow skiing. As far as Pa and Ma Bendall are
concerned, they don’t surf who sit and watch. While the surf’s up they’ll be
there hanging five across the generation gap. Even if it’s only the practice waves
at Lorne.

Antonio Breitenberg

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