Wayne Lynch burst onto the Australian surfing scene in the 1960s and rode a wave like no-one else.
He opened up fresh possibilities with a radical new vertical style.
He was a champion, a draft dodger, a hippy, an outsider, a revolutionary, a messiah, an environmentalist, a victim, a wild man, a pauper and an enigma.
He tested himself against the big waves and produced something beautiful and exhilarating and elegant in the process. Author Tim Winton, himself a passionate defender and chronicler of Australia’s ocean and coastal environment, said of Lynch, ‘He is a real hero to me’.
If you’ve ever surfed, or if you appreciate the sheer grace of a board rider racing down the face of a big wave, Uncharted Waters, a feature-length doco about legendary Australian surfer Wayne Lynch, will have you longing for the freedom, beauty and simplicity of a wave and a board.
Born into a fishing family, Lynch grew up in and around the ocean and was seen as a surfing prodigy as a teenager – considered by many to be the most progressive surfer in the world at the age of 16.
Lynch was at the vanguard of the change in surfing which was something akin to Dylan going electric – the so-called shortboard revolution. While the Californians were still cruising on their malibus, Wayne Lynch was getting more and more radical – the irony being that the Californians thought themselves at the centre of surfing culture, while Lynch was doing his thing in an isolated outpost on the edge of the Southern Ocean.
His somewhat idyllic life was about to change however, when at age 19 he was required to register for national service and a possible stint fighting in the Vietnam War. Uncomfortable with enforced participation in the military and in particular a war he absolutely did not believe in, Lynch was a conscientious objector and thus began a three-year period ‘on the run’ as he was pursued by the government and the police, with the possibility of jail time a constant threat.
Lynch seemed also prey to bad luck at critical moments. On a visit to Bali in 1974, he was badly injured in a terrible motorbike accident, and fell into malaria during his recovery. And on his much-anticipated meeting with Pipeline in 1976, a wipe-out resulted in facial injuries. Yet – perhaps because they could sense his deep commitment to the art of surfing, as well as the sport – he remained a favourite of many grassroots surfers worldwide, a popularity sealed by the late 70s Jack McCoy documentary A Day In The Life Of Wayne Lynch.
One famous scene of the documentary shows Wayne and Nat Young leaping from a cliff to tackle heavy rights alone in coldest Victoria, an act at dramatic odds with the urban showmanship of the early professional days.
Uncharted Waters includes interviews with many luminaries of the surfing world including Byron resident Rusty Miller, Nat Young and Rabbit Bartholomew, and the soundtrack includes tracks from Aussie musos including Richard Clapton and Paul Kelly.
Ultimately, Uncharted Waters is not a ‘surf’ film as such – rather a comprehensive look at the story of a highly gifted individual and his place in a changing subculture and the broader Australian culture.
The film screens at Palace Byron Bay Cinema at 6.30pm on Sunday January 5, 12 and 19.