Surf Ache

Surf Ache

How do you choose between the things you love?

Ella's world is turned upside down when her family moves interstate, leaving behind her best friend, boyfriend and dance school. While her sister Creaky adapts to their new life in the surfing-obsessed city, ballet dancer Ella is miserable. But Ella soon discovers that she has a natural talent for surfing and the city's obsession proves contagious.

SURF ACHE: a state of being where all one can thinkof is getting back onto the waves . . .

Gerry Bobsien lives in Newcastle, Australia with her husband and two daughters in a house full of art and animals. She is an artist, blacksmith and curator and is currently the Director of the Lock-Up Cultural Centre which she is working on two major art projects.

She surfs most mornings at Bar Reef in Newcastle riding a 63" swallow tail and recently suffered a fin chop worthy of seven stitches - a scar which greatly impresses her children.

Check out the SURF ACHE website:
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Author: Gerry Bobsien
AGES: 12-15 years Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 9781921150920
RRP $16.95

Interview with the author

This is a story about a family who embark on a seachange moving from Melbourne to the coastal city of Newcastle. It's about the crazy impact this move has on the kids in the family, Ella and Creaky, and the resilience of young people to handle change. Ella is fifteen and finds herself in a new town having to start all over again leaving behind a full and happy life complete with best friend and boyfriend. In Newcastle, Ella doesn't know who to be or what to do but she slowly starts to make new friends. A dancer for most of her young life, Ella is thrown into a new world where surfing is the city's obsession and she takes it on with all the joy of a new challenge. Through Ella's newfound love of the sea, we learn a few secrets about her mum's controversial past as a gun surfer. Above all, this is a story about family and love and the secrets we keep. It's a book about girls doing things. Through Ella, we are infected with a passion for dance and surfing. This complete immersion in doing something you love is an important part of this book. It is an antidote to celebrity. The characters in this book are incredibly active in their own lives. They are not passively consuming the lives of others. They are too busy enjoying their own.

How did you come up with the idea of Surf Ache?

Surf Ache was written partly because I love surfing and wanted to share some of the joy and terror and challenge of the whole mad thing, and partly because I was interested in how young people cope with the big changes that life throws in the way. I used to have a surf blog and this led me to a surf-writing workshop with Tim Baker. We talked a lot about the growing number of girls surfing and I knew this would be a great platform for a book that embraced the love of surfing and the challenge of learning new skills. I also wanted to write about the surf-mad city I live in and love. Newcastle is such an interesting place full of characters and great stories. I was compelled to write something with a strong sense of place and Surf Ache is unselfconsciously Novocastrian. Although it is placed firmly in Newcastle it could be any coastal city anywhere and I made sure I infused the book with the sounds and smells and lifestyle so many of us share.

Are the characters based on anyone you know?

Ella and Creaky are basically an amalgam of my kids and a few of the characters that inspired me as a young girl. As a mother it's hard not to absorb those around you and reflect it in writing. My daughter is a dancer at the local ballet academy and at the Hunter School of Performing Arts. So yes, I am a ballet mother of sorts and I wanted to reflect the determination and discipline and love of movement that these girls have. It is also no different to the love of surfing and the discipline involved in this growing sport. I originally based Ella's mum on the great Australian surfer Pam Burridge who worked harder than most to carve out a place in the world of professional surfing.

How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?

All of it. Two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the artist Ben Quilty who I judged an art prize with and subsequently invited to speak to some students I was working with. He delivered a hugely inspirational talk about painting and creating with what you know. This honest and generous account of his art practice made so much sense to me. The motivation and process he took in his painting was aligned to how I wanted to write. His lecture about painting was the best writing workshop I'd ever been to. Writing what you know reveals so much about a bigger world and bigger ideas.

There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?

In the process of writing this book, I had a meeting with Peter Bishop, Varuna Writers Center who infected me with a sense of responsibility about what I was writing. The ultimate motivation was to write an antidote to celebrity delivered without sermon. It shows what girls can be capable of when they turn their attention away from the lives of others elsewhere doing little, to their own potential.

Surf Ache is undoubtedly about gender but with its own language. It has left the beach of Puberty Blues long behind. Girls are already a major force in the line-up in most breaks around the coast. When once it was an oddity to be a girl in the waves, now we are a common feature of any line-up. It also speaks about a time a generation ago when things were very different for women embarking on a sport and a culture dominated by men. This was a time when Pam Burridge had to get sponsorship from local car-yards rather than the massive multi-national corporation. This was not a book written about the need for identity for girls in the waves, it was a book about the celebration of challenge.

What is the best thing about creating a character like Ella?

Writing a character like Ella gave me the opportunity to create a girl as an aspirational but real version of some of the amazing young people I know. As a young reader, I was always drawn to these larger than life girls who could do so much when they set their mind to it. It felt natural for me to write about someone who was very normal when placed in her own situation but quite extraordinary in every other way. She is so loving and graceful and full of the everyday that it is hard not to love her.

Which of the children in the book do you like the most? Which one is most like you?

That it is a really hard question. That whole family is so full of character. I really wanted to show a family that is full of love with all their idiosyncrasies and quirks and genuine affection. Having said that, I love Creaky. She is eccentric and vibrant and downright funny. Ella is far too graceful to be like me. Creaky has all the hallmarks of a little 12 year old Gerry.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Sometimes writing about what you know can hijack all sorts of other ideas. I never let an idea get away. I let them brew in various notepads and sketchbooks and across the table at friends. Get a crew of really great mates around you interested in ideas and make some stuff. Conversation is the best thing for a creative life. It is infectious and productive and generous. It's hard to work alone.

The best thing about books is . . .

The quietitude. You can experience the world in all its big and small glory all on your own. It's a quiet, individual and joyous experience.


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