Byron Bay: hockeytown

Dolphins surfing below the lighthouse.

Things I learned in the past week:

Inline & sunshine @ Byron.

Lesson 1: Inline skating just does not feel the same as ice. No matter how often I hear that a lot of the moves and skills are transferable, it does not feel the same. I want my slide.

Plus, in my one big fall on Friday, onto a concrete basketball court … it hurt. A lot. Give me hockey armour and ice any time. (The first thing I heard, after splattering? My kid, Mack, saying: “Crap, I wasn’t videoing it.”)

We were in Byron for a week of sunshine and diving and non-Melbourne winter and oh boy, it was good. Will and I, being the dedicated hockey players that we are, took our inlines up and found the perfect practice zone: two basketball courts length to length. We even had Hotcakes Gillespie, the celebrated northern skater and a former inline hockey player, on hand to coach us on how to actually stop on inline skates, given snow ploughs or hockey stops would probably snap your ankles, or send you flying in all the wrong ways. Will, of course, is now stopping like a Boss. Me? See previous paragraph about splattering.

Lesson 2: Grey nurse sharks are very cool, when you’re 16 metres underwater and they emerge out of the watery gloom. And no, they’re not scary at all, mainly because I knew going in that they’re harmless.

This was at Julian Rocks, off Byron, and, post-sharks, sitting on the boat, watching whales breach out to sea, one of the local dive guides told me a funny story. Apparently, a few years ago, an instructor was mid-teaching basic skills in an Open Water Diving course when a smallish Great White shark swam serenely past. The instructor freaked, got between the shark and the students and watched it sail by. When they got out of the water, the students were all, like: “Wow, what about that cool Grey

A grey nurse, as distinct from a great white ...

Nurse that swam by! … Hey, why is the instructor puffing Ventolin and twitching…?”

Lesson 3: If you’re yet to decide which NHL team you should barrack for, could I humbly and helpfully suggest the organisation known as the Detroit Red Wings? Not only do the Wings have the coolest logo in sport, and play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” when victory looms and have a tradition of hurling octopi at the ice for fun and recently drafted The YouTube Kid, Tomas Jurco, as their top draft pick … they also just signed a free agent, Mike Commodore (check the hairstyle and facial hair!), to bolster the team’s defence. Wings fans immediately created an online campaign to assign him the No. 64 jersey, so his back will read “Commodore 64”. It might happen. I love my team.

Lesson 4: Whisky tastes just as good in northern New South Wales as it does in Victoria.

Lesson 5: Hippie drum circles are a lot of fun. Will walked right through the chaos, in his Darren Helm #43 Wings jersey. Unmoved. The hippies let him live.

David Bromley surfboard.

Lesson 6: I am capable of being tempted to pay $7800 for a surfboard that I would never ride … if it has original David Bromley paintings on both sides, under the resin. Wow.

Lesson 7: The run from Byron Bay town to the Lighthouse is longer than I remembered, and uphill a lot of the way.

Lesson 8: My shoulder is still sore and Intermediate Class starts tomorrow week. Uh oh. … Lucky I’m a hockey player or I’d complain.

Lesson 9: Don’t visit the Macadamia Castle unless you’re into mini golf. If you are into mini golf, don’t miss it. Unlimited play included in the entry fee. Hells to the yeah.

Lesson 10: How to make money … the final Harry Potter film comes out tonight at midnight. I’ve put everything I own (not much) on Voldemorte in the showdown. I think he’s got the height and reach advantage.

Will and I rolling at our Byron Bay winter hockey training facility.

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