Meet the Australian Army’s Best Surfer

The past few years have been a roller coaster for the man they call Garry Ablett, Garret Parkes.

After exiting his teens as one of Australia’s top talents, he was dropped by major sponsor, Quiksilver, during their bankruptcy debacle, before signing up with the Australian military, getting a part-time gig as a lifeguard in Byron, and, somehow, in amongst all that, putting out this genuine stoinker of a section for Kaius Potter and Afends’ fully worthy mini-feature, Broadcasting Good Times.

When the chips were down his old mates from the Shire (who run Afends) stuck by him and he’s repaid them with interest here. We phoned the little madman to find out where he learned to “pit-and-flip” on a bodyboard and how he talked himself into taking off on some of the heaviest death slabs we’ve seen paddled this year.

What’s crackin’ Tablet*?

Not much mate. Just up in Byron, cruising, riding out this southerly buster.

You psychin’ on that clip or what?

Pretty stoked. It came out pretty well, a bit of surfing, skating. The lifestyle portrays what Afends the brand is all about.

Am I tripping or did I see you get barrelled on a boog straight into an ARS (Air Roll Spin)?

Nah, you weren’t tripping. I was with a few of the boogers down south and we’d been surfing all day and were pretty surfed out; none of the boys wanted to surf. Me and little Chunny (Shaun Manners) went for a boog, it was pretty much the perfect little boog wave, and I somehow managed to do a little pit to flip (laughter).

Where did you pick up those skills?

I dunno, just kinda being a grommy bodybashing. I think everyone has spent a little bit of time on the boog at some stage. I haven’t booged that much but after seeing enough booging I kinda get what the go is. So yeah, just hucked it (laughter).

The highlight of the film, in my opinion, is the swing you take at some heavy, heavy Aussie slabs…

Yeah, I spent a bit of time down there end of 2016 with my mate Kane. I was just cruising with him and doing trips. He took me to a pretty heavy wave, a long way from anywhere, it was the first time I surfed it. Paddling it—I was riding a 5’6—was pretty daunting. But sometimes when you drive all the way out there, you just gotta swing and go I guess. It was a few months after I stopped doing the tour. I cracked the shits at Manly after I lost (in the Australian Open) and pretty much called it quits and wanted to go surfing.

Usually I hate seeing Australian secret spots in a surf film but you guys did it right in this one…

Yeah, I sat on that footage for over a year. There were a few big trips that went down over there. A bit of footage came out of it and we kinda just wanted to wait for it all to blow over before I released it. You try not to name spots and put headlands or anything in it. So hopefully I didn’t tread on too many toes. But yeah, it’s a great part of the world, but it’s defintiely gnarly and it’s always gonna keep the average surfers away, even just how sketchy it is getting off the rocks.

Having spent a heap of time with the boogs down there, do you have a new respect for them?

Yeah, the boogs charge those waves as hard as anyone. They’ve been surfing it for years and they kept it a secret forever pretty much. They’ve got it dialled. Those waves are better for boogs. Seeing what some of the lids down there take off on… are you kidding me? They sit in a bit closer than the surfers and just swing and scoop into waves that you wouldn’t even look at. They’re just shocky-jockey’ing ‘em and getting spat out. It makes you nearly wanna ride a boog to be honest.

You jag a properly psycho bomb in the film. Were you shitting it?

Yeah, I was absolutely shitting myself. It was just me, my mate Kane on the rocks filming, and one of my other mates Churchy surfing. So it was just me and Churchy who paddled out and it was ten foot, a bit overcast. It was a pretty big channel to get out to the slab, the rock off was pretty gnarly, neither of us had surfed it before. I was actually so scared, hey. You get a couple and you get a couple of beat downs, and yeah, it was definitely—once you got in on the rocks after the surf it was pretty rewarding. The adrenaline was definitely pumping.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride—getting dropped by Quik, off the surfing payroll, joining the Armed Forces—but you still managed to put this clip together. How have you handled the peaks and troughs?

After Quikky happened, even though that was years ago now, it bothered me for a little bit, but it’s all good. Afends jumped on board, gave me a hookup, the lads were really supportive with what I did. I’m happy with what I’m doing, life-guarding and stuff. So yeah, just doing things to keep my mind occupied and keep myself challenged.

What about your experience of the military?

Yeah, basic training was pretty interesting. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I got through it though. It’s something I always wanted to do so I’m enjoying it.

Another of the highlights of the film was the psychedelic-infused, totally on-point, stream-of-consciousness rant from local Byron shaper, groover and original hippie-punk fusion, Ed Sinnot. Tell us about this mad genius.

Yeah, Ed’s been around for years shaping boards. I see him in the surf, I see him around town, he’s definitely a character. He’s got a way with words and he’s got a way of putting things in perspective—he’s definitely onto a few things as well. He’s a good bloke. A bit mad, but that’s all part of Byron.

And what’s next for Gaz?

Just working, doing a bit sanding and shaping with my old man in the bay, livin’ really.

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