Home' Aurora : Aurora May 2012 Contents 16
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
SEASONS OF GRACE
By HELENE O'NEILL
LAST MARCH, MEREWETHER Beach
hosted the 27th Surfest event. The
drawcard for most of the world ranked
surfers to compete in Newcastle was being
in the presence of four times world surfing
champion Mark Richards. Even if the beach
isn't your preferred destination, or surfing
isn't your bag, if you live in the Hunter and
even beyond you will know the name Mark
Richards -- nature's gentleman.
When we caught up at Merewether Beach
there were some nice right-handers
coming through but Mark had already been
out that morning and his board shaping
Apart from his ability to surf, what qualities
make Mark a special person?
He talks frankly about sportspeople being
role models and expresses his belief that
those who research extraordinary medical
cures or who deal with world tragedies
are the real heroes. Mark believes that
because sportspeople can run fast, jump
higher or tame massive waves, they are
merely following their passion. They are
not role models. He does not treat his
celebrity status as a commodity to be
displayed, but as a resource to benefit
Mark adds to the conversation by stating
that it is parents who set the rules,
standards and direction for their children,
not the sportsperson. He promulgates a
lifestyle of peace, love and goodwill.
It is with genuine excitement that Mark
proclaims his love for the city of Newcastle.
Whilst he is a huge supporter of major
events coming to Newcastle, he proudly
boasts that Surfest is the only annual
international event in the city. An event
where the world's best surfers "tear the
waves to pieces" has to be great for
Australia in general, he adds.
He acknowledges the genius and hard work
of contest organiser Warren Smith who
"runs Surfest better than any other event in
the world". High praise indeed from a man
who has competed internationally at most
breaks. Mark adds that the surfers love
coming to town as the Hunter community
makes them feel so welcome and shows
them a good time.
Mark does question the fact that many
surfers fail to elicit happiness from the
surfing experience. He adds that so many
surfers wear an angry face and don't
appear to get any fun out of the experience.
Indeed he sometimes views surfing as a
microcosm of society, with some surfers
thinking they are entitled to every wave that
comes through. He is adamant that just
as people wait in a queue to buy a movie
ticket or enter a stadium, so too should
surfers wait their turn to take a wave.
That's why he enjoys surfing with his mate
Charles Petersen in ordinary waves that
His faith in young people is heightened
by the overseas students who study
at Newcastle University. He loves their
appreciation for this city and the fact that
whether students come from Germany or
Asia they embrace all the Hunter has to
offer, be it the town beaches, the wineries
or Blackbutt; "It's all paradise."
Mark doesn't recommend that kids follow
the example he set while a student at
Sacred Heart Primary and later Marist
Brothers Hamilton. Surfing was not a
school sport back then so he would sneak
out of school with mate Peter McCabe (also
a well known Newcastle surfer and board
maker). But they paid the penalty and were
'detained' after school.
He has passed on his love of surfing to his
sons Kyle and Nathan while daughter Grace
prefers to dance. Mark extols the virtues
of surfing as an activity you can enjoy until
"you end up in the grave". It's the changing
conditions of the ocean that provide
the challenge, and the thrill of catching
waves hasn't evaporated after fifty years
Having recently closed Richards Surf Shop,
which has been an institution in Hunter
Street, what's in store for Mark? He lives
day to day and has no long term plans.
He is currently busying himself shaping
boards but does miss the connection to
people that retail offered. He is grateful
however for a little more free time to go
snowboarding where he can ride the chair
with others, enjoy the cold weather and ski
down a mountain; to him, it's akin to riding
a huge wave.
Mark is philosophical about life and doesn't
worry about what others think. He treats
people the way he likes to be treated,
reiterating that in the scheme of life,
possessing a sporting skill doesn't make
you a better person.
The lyrics of the song "Ocean" pumped out
by his favourite band Pearl Jam could well
be his catch cry for life.
You don t have to stray
The oceans away
Waves roll in my thoughts
Hold tight the ring
The sea will rise
Please stand by the shore
I will be
I will be
There once more.
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