"By The Sea" with Linley Hurrell
Vicco’s Surf Coast is heckas in summer. A hotbed of activity. Peak levels of blow-ins compete with locals for waves that are only a shadow of their former winter glory. Car parks overflow. Surf outlets overflow. Kooks abound, slorping every icecream and Aireys Lighthouse scone they can. Pubs overflow. You either love it or hate it, like the way you probably either love or hate shopping centres. Nightmarkets, backyard parties, sleeping on the beach. It’s a vibe for sure. And we needed to relight our summer Surf Coast energy pronto. We hooked up with five locals living the Torquay/Juc dream and doing righteous things with their time all whilst being blessed with a generous amount of Gage Road tins to celebrate the day and learn more about these five magnificent humans.
As you already guessed this is the beginning of a five-part series and first up we couldn’t think of anyone better to introduce you to than Linley Hurrell, Patagonia staff member, surfer, and environmental crusader. We chat about her love of the natural environment, surfing, a heavy life-changing accident, and how she’s now taking on a global oil giant.
SV: What was it like growing up on the 90 Mile Beach and what can surfers expect if they wish to do a trip there?
Quiet! I spent a lot of my childhood at Woodside Beach, which has a population of maybe 30 or 40 permanent residents, so it'd be super rare to see someone that wasn't either my brother or my dad surfing. I certainly didn't appreciate how quiet it was until I moved to the Surf Coast. If you were traveling there, expect to have a bank to yourself and it to feel a little sharky - you'll be looking for someone to surf with. But it's open to two different swell directions so usually plenty of waves, and if the sand is right you can have Martha's (Martha Lavinia, King Island) style waves with no one else around, also great fishing!
SV: How did you find the competitive scene growing up and is that something you're still interested in?
I actually never competed in surfing growing up, growing up on the 90 Mile there were no local comps, I'd have to travel to Phillip Island or Torquay to compete, which unfortunately wasn't an option for me. I grew up in competitive surf lifesaving though, but I certainly surfed more than I ever trained for surf lifesaving, I was much more drawn to the freedom of expression and creativity that comes with surfing so I followed that. As for competition now; I don't like feeling pressured to have to surf my best in a 20 minute time frame, I feel like I do my best surfing on my own terms, but I do compete against the guys in the Jan Juc Boardriders events and the occasional invitational but that's about the extent of my competitiveness.
SV: How has the surf industry affected your life and what are you proud about being involved in a company like Patagonia?
It's affected my entire life! I've worked in a surf shop since I was 15, so I've seen the industry change a lot over the last decade or so. Since I was about 13 I've wanted to be involved in surfing in someway, but growing up in Gippsland I was forever told that surfing wasn't a great career choice. But Patagonia is by far my favourite company I've worked for; I'll be forever grateful to them for the opportunities they've given to me since I started with them in 2017. My values and Patagonia's values aligned nicely, so I'm super proud of the work we do as a company and in setting a standard for the surf industry (and entire fashion industry) in terms of environmentalism and making our products as sustainable and long lasting as possible.
SV: Where did your love for the environment come from?
It stems from the way I grew up. I grew up so connected to the ocean and the bush, I was taught by my dad that 'we can only take from the earth what we can give back', and that's something that's always stuck with me. I was never great at school but Geography and Environmental Science classes were just something I naturally understood and were to some extent quiet gifted at (I'm actually like the biggest nerd ever), so I figured that was my way of 'giving back' to the earth would be through me becoming a high school teacher and teaching students to love and care for the environment in the same way I do.
SV: You had a serious accident a few years ago, what happened and how did that alter your life direction and purpose?
Yeah crazy story, but in the shortest version of events here it goes: In October 2016, I was in my first year of teaching, teaching at the nicest little school out in South Western Victoria, Camperdown College and on the final weekend of the September/October School holidays I was struck across the head with almost 25kg of wood and steel at an accident at the house I was moving into. I basically went from happy and healthy 25-year old to critically injured and incredibly ill in the space of a few days. I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury with Severe Post-Concussion Syndrome, the blunt force trauma of the injury left me with severe bruising to both sides of my brain (where I was struck and where my brain ricocheted off my skull on the other side) and my brain swelled to the capacity of my skull. So I basically then went into more or less a waking coma state where I literally laid in a dark quiet room and waited for my brain to heal. My brain shut down the rest of my body as a defence mechanism to make sure all my energy was going into healing my brain. It was a super dark period in my life. My life and everything that I knew was taken away from me. I had to completely start my life over again from scratch, learn to walk, talk etc etc. But it completely altered my entire life, in fact my life wouldn't ever be the same again. At about the 6-month mark in my recovery, my physiotherapist decided that surfing would be one of the best things I could do. It would help address the balance and proprioception issues I was having, re-build my fitness and be incredibly beneficial for my mental health, and that was kind of my light bulb moment so to speak. I've literally surfed every opportunity I've had since been given that advice, and it has been my saving grace in all of this, if I hadn't been told that, I wouldn't be here to do this interview now - it's heavy but it's true. When I was well enough to return to surfing I also had to think about returning to work. I had to return to something that would be as low stress and easy for me to handle with my injury, so it was decided that returning to working in a surf shop would be the best option, and living in Torquay, I was in the right place to do that. So I took my resume around to all the surf shops in town and Patagonia called me back the next day, and I've been there ever since. Surfing and Patagonia are the reasons I got out of bed everyday post injury, it's crazy how life works, but for everything I've lost as a result of my injury, I've also gained some truly amazing opportunities too. Every time I thought about giving up or quitting my partner, Hutch, would always try and shift my perception by telling me to 'think of this as the best thing to ever happen to you' and hey looking at it now, he could be right.
SV: As a surfer, snowboarder, and traveller, how do you see your responsibility and connection to the environment and what steps do you personally take towards looking after the planet?
Great question. I think being so involved with the outdoors, you gain a much greater appreciation for looking after it, because it becomes your second home. For me personally, I try to live as simply as possible, I've never been one to need the latest and greatest, so all my possessions are either something I've had forever, bought second hand or I've bought with the idea that it should last forever, so that in itself makes my environmental footprint really small because I'm not using heaps of resources every time I buy something, use it once and throw it away to only buy something new again. I also try and travel contentiously as well, I try not to do short trips that require heaps of flights, I try and go for a long period of time and use public transport or live in a certain place and live as simply as possible while I'm there. Again, stemming from my upbringing, I went on a lot of trips where we only had what we could carry in, so I'm used to living without too much luxury. But we all have a responsibility and it can be as simple as not flying three times a year or not buying into the latest fashion trends, or buying locally so that the gear you do buy doesn't have to travel half a world away to get to you.
SV: Tell us about Patagonia's Worn Wear program and your involvement in making that happen in Australia?
So Worn Wear is our repairs program, where if you buy any Patagonia gear, we'll repair it for free, for as long as you have that gear, with the idea, that for example you have a jacket that you've busted the zipper on, we'll just attach a new zipper for you rather than you going out and buying an entirely new jacket that you don't necessarily need. It's also where we endeavour to keep all our old gear (that has reached the point that it can't possibly be repaired) out of land fill, so we'll find ways to recycle that old gear, whether we can upcycle it into something new entirely, use it for repairing other gear, or it can be sent to textile recyclers that will break down the fabric and re-spin it into a new usable textile for new items of clothing. Same with wetsuits too. So Worn Wear was my first environmental campaign I was involved in behind the scenes for Patagonia and I helped expand the repair program through all our Australia retail stores as well as find end of life solutions for our garment. It's a work in progress but it's getting there!
SV: Love the 'Big Oil Don't Surf' spray job on your twinny. Tell us about what you've been doing there and what the current issues are that the campaign is still tackling.
So this was my second environmental campaign with Patagonia. 'Big Oil Don't Surf' is our fight against Norwegian oil company, Equinor, which plans to drill in the pristine Great Australian Bight. I was brought in because I have a skill in which I can educate, explain and make it relevant to the people of Australia on just how a potential oil blow out in the Bight will impact our beautiful Southern coastline. For me personally it's actually like teaching a Year 11 Geography class, but instead of teaching teenagers, I taught the Australian public, through teaching people like Sean Dougherty and Damian Cole and through working in the Torquay store, teaching those guys as we would often get asked by customers about it.
It's been super surreal for me to see just how big of an issue it's become in Australia, I mean we started with a handful of people in a meeting one afternoon, with the idea of getting our local Surf Coast Shire to formally oppose the drilling, then growing into having thousands of Australians showing opposition by paddling out against it.
Currently, Equinor have just had their Environmental plan approved by NOPSEMA (the Australian regulatory body for all new gas and oil projects), which has been super disheartening, but they also have to jump through a few more hoops yet before they get the tick of approval, so it's not over yet, we'll re-group and work closely with groups like the Wilderness Society and the Great Australian Bight Alliance to work out where to go from here now that the new year has kicked off.
SV: There's an Aboriginal flag on the other board you took out today. Is there a message behind it for you?
That's just paying homage to my upbringing again. No message, just pride :)
SV: Thanks for your time Linley!
No worries. Thanks guys.