The blurb on the back of Tim Baker’s Surfari reads ‘On The Road meets Endless Summer’, however those classics by Kerouac and Brown certainly never undertook packing up a young family to travel around Australia in search of waves.
Celebrated surf journalist and author Tim Baker’s foray into family travel serves as part travel guide to Australia’s vast coastline and part study in family dynamics, all rolled up into one enjoyable surf road trip yarn.
Tim’s easy-to-read style ensures this book appeals to a wide range of readers, but it’s of particular interest to surfers, parents who like to bond through travel, or those nomadic souls drawn to exploring this wide brown land. If you’re a surfing parent who’d like to do a hot lap of Oz with your family, then you’re the human trifecta (basically if you don’t own this book already, get thee to Amazon pronto).
Published at the end of 2011, Tim’s family have since returned home to the Gold Coast and have had time to digest and reflect on the experience. We caught up with Tim to chat all things Surfari and find out how he and his family have fared with settling back into regular life.
I call it my perfect crime, an elaborate ruse to get my family and I around the country. It attempts to be an honest, unvarnished account of the joys and challenges of the great Australian surfing road trip.
Where’s home right now: Currumbin
Kids ages: 14 and 10
Q: How do you describe Surfari to those yet to read it?
A: I call it my perfect crime, an elaborate ruse to get my family and I around the country. It attempts to be an honest, unvarnished account of the joys and challenges of the great Australian surfing road trip.
Q: What was the goal behind putting a book like Surfari together?
See above! I considered it a pre-emptive strike on my mid-life crisis, a desperate bid to rekindle a distant teenage dream to surf my way around the country.
Q: How did you you juggle the whole work productivity/parent thing while on the road?
With great difficulty. I hadn’t really thought through how I would work on the road, living in a caravan with a family of four, without an office to retreat to. Usually I worked at night while the family slept. Sometimes I’d take myself off to a cafe or the local library in little country towns. The big breakthrough came when my wife Kirsten took on a fair chunk of the driving and I would write in the passenger seat. That made it doable.
Q: Best thing about doing the ‘big lap’ with kids in tow
A: Seeing their responses to great natural wonders like walking through the Bungle Bungles, or Weano Gorge in Karijini National Park, or snorkelling Ningaloo Reef, or visiting Arnhem Land. I think its helped make them quite social, open-minded, resilient kids.
Q: Based on your travels, if international friends with kids were to planning to visit Australia where’s the first place (or places) you’d recommend they visit?
A: That is a tough one. If the goal is to surf then the desert camp grounds of Cactus and Gnaraloo were awesome because the surf is right there on your doorstep without having to get in the car and go searching. And there’s something beguiling about that intersection of desert and ocean. The Kimberley is stunning, as is Kakadu, if you just want spectacular landscapes and a sense of how ancient this land is.
Q: Most family-friendly surfing locations you encountered on your trip?
A: See above. Also the beachside campgrounds of northern NSW – Byron, Broken Head, Yamba, are great for warm water, sand bottom points, beautiful settings and most mod cons close by if you need them. But there’s also nothing like a remote National Park bush campground, like Ben Boyd in southern NSW, for a bit of family bonding.
Q: Tell us a bit about how adjusting back to regular life went after your trip – and what parts of the trip do the kids still talk about?
A: Initially I think we were all quite excited about being home, how big and palatial even our modest home felt after the confines of a caravan, seeing friends and getting back into our home routine, with more autonomy and personal space. But after a month I think we all started missing it and I know I really struggled to get back into a regular work groove after the boundless freedom of the road. Trying to maintain that sense of freedom and adventure in every day life still stands as a significant challenge.
Q: And finally, best piece of advice on travelling with kids you’ve ever been given
A: Professor Andy Short is an expert on Australian beaches, who’s driven thousands of kilometres visiting most of them, often with his family. He told me to eat while you are on the road so that when you stop driving you can get out and exercise, rather than just stopping to eat and then getting back in the car. Getting the kids to run around and burn off energy in between long stints in the car was critical. Also, pack health snacks. If the only things to eat in the car are carrot and celery sticks the kids will eat that.
About Tim Baker
Tim Baker is the best-selling author of: ‘Bustin’ Down The Door,’ (Harper Collins, 1996), ‘High Surf’ (Harper Collins, 2007), ‘Occy’ (Random House, 2008) and ‘Surf For Your Life,’ (Random House, 2009). He is a former editor of Tracks and Surfing Life magazines. He has twice won the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame Culture Award and been nominated for the CUB Australian Sports Writing Awards. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Financial Review, the Bulletin, Inside Sport, Playboy, GQ, the Surfers Journal, Qantas – the Australian Way, as well as surfing mags around the world. He is a senior contributor to Surfing World, Surfer’s Path (UK), the Surfers Journal and US Surfing and Surfer magazines. He has appeared at the Sydney and Byron Bay Writers Festivals, and has conducted writing workshops at the Hunter, Sydney and the Northern Rivers Writers Centre. He has worked in the media and surfing magazines for over three decades and has surfed and traveled throughout Australia, Indonesia, Hawaii, Central and South America, North America, Europe, South Africa, Fiji, Tahiti, and Sri Lanka. He lives in Currumbin, Queensland, with his wife and two children.