Photos by Nick Green
This article is featured in Monster Children #63, the Travel Issue. Pick up your copy right here.
Whenever I speak to professional surfer Dion Agius, I’m tempted to mention how I haven’t seen him in Agius. I never do, though, because I’m sure he’s heard that lame joke before–same as he’s heard all the lame jokes about Tasmanians having two heads. That’s right, two of ‘em. Believe it or not, Tasmania was once viewed as Australia’s walleyed, bowlegged, sister-loving cousin, and jokes and tall tales about the island’s inhabitants were rife. But that’s all changed now and Tasmania is a cultural hot-spot and holiday destination, not to mention a popular place to relocate when the rat race gets too much. Are Dion and his fellow native Tasmaniacs happy about it? We called him to discuss this and a bunch of other growing-up-in-Tassie stuff.
Hey! Sorry I’ve been so difficult to get a hold of. I’ve been all over the shop.
You haven’t been difficult at all, dude.
Well, I felt bad, but I’m glad I got a hold of you this morning. I was like, shit, I’ve got to fly to Indo and my phone’s going to be fucked over there.
What are you headed to Indo for?
Going over with a couple of mates to shoot. Everyone’s kind of shooting different stuff, but we’re starting a new Epokhe surf film.
So, a few of the boys will be shooting for that, and then I’m working on a Globe video at the moment. I’m just trying to collect footage for that, pretty much. We’re going over to South Sumatra. And you’ve just got back from the States? Yeah, I was in the States for a few days and I went down to Mexico for three or four days.
Cool. Okay, let’s talk about Tassie.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were born and grew up in Scamander? Yeah, pretty much.
Well Beaumaris is where I grew up, which is the suburb next to Scamander.
Were you born in Scamander?
I was born in Launceston, which is like an hour and a half from Scamander. I went to school in St Helens but lived in Beaumaris. Beaumaris is basically the next little suburb over from Scamander. There’s really no difference between them, they’re both just little beach-side towns. I surf in either Beaumaris or Scamander every day.
The internet’s got it wrong. It says you’re from Scamander, which, by the way, is the name of the Greek river god.
Yeah, and your name is Agius, which is the Greek word for ‘holy’ or ‘person deserving of honour’.
Wow. Never knew that. All I knew was that my first name comes from Dionysus, who is the Greek god of wine and partying.
So, you’re Greek then?
No, no. My Dad’s Italian, Maltese, and Agius is a super-popular Maltese name. I’m pretty sure every second person in Malta has the last name Agius. I meet so many Agius’ and they’re all from Malta.
Have you ever been to Malta?
Nah, never, but I really would like to go check it out.
I’ve been, and it’s really hot; feels desolate. It’s beautiful, amazing history, but so hot.
I also heard it’s full of old people.
Yeah, tons of old people. It feels like the kind of place you either leave as soon as you can, or stay and get old… which is like anywhere, now that I think about it.
I heard all the young people get up and bail. It makes sense.
Is that the same with Tassie? And I don’t mean this in an insulting way, but I know from growing up in a small town, I couldn’t wait to get out. I felt so isolated. Was it like that growing up in Tassie?
For sure. I’ve got a bunch of mates, younger guys that I’ve been hanging with quite a bit now since I’ve moved back, and a lot of them have that same mindset. They’ve finished school, finishing uni or whatever, and they want to bail out. That was definitely the case when I was growing up. As soon as you finished high school, you were trying to bail.
When did you move back?
Two and a half years ago now. I’m living in Scamander, five minutes from where I grew up in Beaumaris. So that might be what you’re seeing online.
The Scamander population is about 500 people or something?
Yeah, 500 people in Scamander. It’s so fucking chill. I mean, we only just got our first café a year ago.
There’s a restaurant, a pub… that’s about it. That’s pretty much all you got. You gotta go to St Helens to do grocery shopping and shit, and that’s about twenty-five-minutes from where I live.
If you go to, say, LA, are you thinking, ‘I can’t wait to get back to Scamander’?
Yeah. It’s the first place I’ve lived where I really, really miss it. When I go away it kind of draws me back. I’ve been lucky because with travelling and surfing, I’ve never really had a place I was super in love with.
I kind of bounced all over, between the Goldy and then Sydney, and then overseas. I lived in LA, lived with Warren [Smith] in New York. Came back to Byron, and then I was going between Tassie and Byron; and now I’m pretty much just Tassie. But nowhere else besides Tassie has really had that siren song wooing me back home. Which was good because I was so happy on the road and travelling, I still travel pretty much ten months a year anyway, so it never upset me being away; and that’s the only bummer about being back in Tassie now—I actually really fucking miss it when I’m away. But, it’s the most perfect little spot to come home to because it’s so chill and when you’re on the road, you’re always dealing with fucking airports and cities and traffic and whatever, depending on where you are. But then you get back [to Tasmania] and it’s complete silence and space, and I surf every day with no one around. The air’s clean, it’s just a really nice place to get that reset, get back to basics and nature and relax, kind of slow down. It resets you for the next time you take off.
What was your first trip out of Tassie?
We used to go for holidays when we were kids, up to Noosa mainly. But then my Dad bought a surf charter boat in Indonesia. This was when I was pretty young, before I even surfed. From a pretty young age I was going to Indo with him on the boat. Awesome. I’d go and do a week or two every few months. My whole childhood was spent going from Tassie to Indo and bodyboarding or hanging out on the boat. But then he sold the boat and we moved up to the Gold Coast when I was fourteen, and that was pretty intense. The first person I got introduced to at school was Paul Fisher, and the teacher was like, ‘you’re going to hang out with this guy—he surfs.’ It just blew my fucking mind. I was fourteen and from Beaumaris, I’d never drank, never kissed a girl, never done anything—barely even knew what anything was—and then first day of school I’m rolling around with Fisher. It was out of control. And the Goldy lifestyle was about as different as you could get from the small Tasmanian town I was from.
So, it was pretty weird. Very steep learning curve.
Can we talk about the recent changes Tasmania has undergone? It’s getting busier…
Yeah, definitely. I mean, every year it seems to be getting busier and busier. My Mum has a gallery in St Helens, which is that little town I was talking about twenty minutes from mine. Every year, it’s just getting busier and she’s like, ‘this year was almost double what the tourism was last year!’ The last four or five years it’s been going crazy, but I guess it started the year they opened the Mona. I think that was 2011. Since then, people’s perception of Tasmania has changed. Before that there was always nature lovers visiting because bushwalking is huge in Tasmania, but since Mona, I think the tourist demographic has changed.
Definitely due to the Mona. I grew up in a pre-Mona world, where if you were from Tasmania, you were looked down on. You were just written off for having ‘two heads’, etcetera. I’ve heard every fucking joke under the sun about being Tasmanian. I remember the Tasmanians have two heads thing from primary school.
Oh, yeah: ‘Where’s your scar from where your other head was removed?’
I’ve had that for the better part of my life, and I’m sure for most Tasmanians it was the same thing. But it was good in a way, because I would just always be like, ‘well, fuck you, hopefully you’ll never come to Tasmania,’ because when people did end up coming and discovering Tasmania for themselves, they were generally blown away. People who were from Tasmania or had been there, they knew about it and it was kind of this little secret gem. But that’s changed now. The jokes have gone away and tourism’s up.
What do people say now when you tell them you’re from Tassie?
The first thing that comes out of their mouth is, ‘I heard Tasmania is amazing; I’ve always wanted to go but I’ve never made it down there’. That’s the standard now. Everyone’s heard it’s amazing, they really want to go but they’ve never been.
So, you’re no happier either way, really? Both responses suck.
I love the area I live in and it hasn’t changed since we were kids growing up there. I mean, housing prices hadn’t budged for twenty years; if anything, they’d gone down, and I think they have for the last five years. In that area, in my area especially, it’s only gone up a little bit. Hobart’s obviously on a pretty crazy boom right now, but all the outskirts and outlying areas are still pretty chill.
With Tasmania developing the way it is, do you think it’ll eventually reach the more remote, ‘untouched’ areas?
I don’t know. To be honest, I love it the way it is and I hope it doesn’t change, but doing interviews about Tasmania is probably not helping.
We can insert some lies about scary animals and stuff like that if you want.
Maybe you could just say that I actually moved to New Zealand?
Yeah, I can do that. I’ll change it to NZ when I type it up. So, what about deforestation in Tassie? What’s going on with that?
Yeah. I have a friend in Hobart who has been covering a lot of the wood chipping that’s been happening in the Tarkine. They’re cutting down trees that are thousands of years old and wood chipping them. They’re basically making cardboard fucking boxes out of them.
Yeah. Pretty gross. Obviously, with Tasmania as well, there’s two sides of it and its always been a pretty huge thing. I mean, growing up my dad and I had friends that were working for Forestry Tasmania… It’s a really tough one, because I know that industries kind of sustain a lot of communities and stuff. Right. I think that they’re just trying to work on ways to make it more sustainable. I don’t feel qualified to comment, really. Hand on Crombie. Hi. Sorry, I’m just on the phone. I’m doing an interview. What would you like? Gate 26? See this sign here, the one that says 24 to 37? Follow that sign. Yeah. Okay. Bye. You’re welcome.
Are you giving directions at the airport?
Sorry, mate. Little old lady, she was lost.
If I had a dollar for every time some fossil interrupted an interview… Anyway, so Tassie’s a really horrible place.
Yeah. Basically, it’s full of inbreeds with two heads, it’s cold as fuck, rainy, miserable.
Surf sucks. I heard it’s flat. No surf anywhere. None of the coasts are open to any swells. You’d have a much better time heading to Antarctica than you would coming to Tassie.
And I also heard that the tap water instantly gives you diarrhoea.
There have been rumours of it being the freshest in the world, but it’s basically a Balinese river.
That’s what I’ve heard. So, don’t come and don’t drink the water. And you’re right below that hole in the ozone layer, too?
Exactly. You’re going to be freezing and getting sunburnt at the same time. And snakes. Snakes are everywhere. I nearly ran over a tiger snake on my motorbike the other day, actually, which was fucking terrifying.
And I almost trod on a, who do you call it? A funnel web? A funnel web spider? Yeah, so there is actually some scary deadly shit for real, that’s not even a joke. They’re everywhere.
Maybe for the mag we shoot you knee-deep in snow, being attacked by snakes.
Yes. That would be perfect.
Hey, is it true your dad made all the tracks to the beach in Tassie?
Yeah! My dad and his buddies were the first surfers in that area. They made all the tracks to the beach there.
Yeah. When my dad was young he was working is South Australia for a company, and they wanted him to become a state manager; and for state manager training, they’d send them to Tassie.
Because they were like, it doesn’t matter if you fuck up in Tassie—it’s fine.
So, they sent them down there to do manager training. He was in his late twenties or something. Anyway, he was already into surfing in South Oz, and he came to Tassie. He didn’t know anyone, but then happened to meet a surfer when he was in Launceston, and he started driving the two hours to the coast…
Yeah. And he met a couple of the older boys down there. There was only a couple of them, but basically most of the spots along the coast didn’t have tracks in to the beach. He’d always tell me stories about how one of their buddies had a big VW and they’d use it to ram tracks through the bush.
Yeah! Because they used to have to park way back and hike through the bush. So, a bunch of them would just get together and push the car through the bush while one of them was driving, trying to make the track. So, yeah, a lot tracks in to the beaches there made by my Dad and his friends.
That’s really cool.
Yeah, so when I grew up it was pretty much my dad, his friends and their kids. We had really good little group of surfers, but when we got older we all moved. So, now there’s this huge generation gap in the water because we all grew up and left.
But your dad and the other original dudes are still there.
Yeah. I mean, there’s a few young guys there now. Nothing compared to when we grew up. When I go to surf, I’m mainly by myself or with my Dad, or the same old boys that were there in the fucking seventies. It’s pretty insane.
And it’s still the same. There’s no one else there. It’s pretty special. It’s a pretty special area for me, and very nostalgic after so many years being back and surfing all these waves where I learnt…
Are you planning on having some kids and getting them in the water too?
Yeah. I mean, that was always kinda my plan. I always knew that one day I’d like to move back to Tassie, and that’s where I would want to raise a family and stuff eventually. Just because growing up for us as kids it was the funnest place ever, you know? We lived on a hundred acres of bush on the beach. We had motorbikes and horses and just ran around in the bush like little hellions. So, that’s how I would want my kids to be raised. But I’m probably going to have to find a girlfriend before I can have kids.
Someone who wants to move to Tassie. Hopefully they’re out there.
At this juncture, we should let the ladies know you’re a Taurus.
I am! It’s actually my birthday today, too.
Happy birthday, dude!
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