'Outdated Children': A Review
| Sean Doherty
Mick Waters likes to walk around in a vintage South Sydney Rabbitohs football jumper. The old Cardinal and Myrtle. He even wore it to the Manly premiere of his new movie, which I thought was a pretty bold move. Manly and Souths are old rivals. A long time ago Mick used to be a footy player in Western Sydney, but figured getting hammered by big Tongan blokes wasn’t actually much fun so he moved up the coast and started making surf films instead. It was a good move. He’s been doing it for decades.
Glen Casey in an Otway green cathedral. All photos: Mick Waters.
Mick’s new movie is titled after the Doctor Seuss quote: “Adults are just outdated children”. A Wayne Lynch voiceover opens the film, while Mick’s three kids surf in a Tasmanian shorebreak. The secret to getting older, says Wayne, who cops to being very old these days, is keeping that childlike appreciation of the world around you without becoming childish in the way you do it.
Skye and Ruby Waters with an orphaned wallaby, “Bullet”.
Three years ago Mick packed his young family up into a caravan and drove around the southern coasts of Australia. The movie, in essence, is a string of short vignettes about the menagerie of characters he met along the way. When you drive along the bottom of the Australian coast you’re going to meet some interesting cats. Not all of them will want to speak to you however, because that’s why they live along the bottom of Australia – to escape people from over east with surfboards and cameras – but Mick Waters is not without his charms. People trust him. Maybe it’s the footy jumper.
Mick’s biggest coup was filming a sequence with “Camel” Goulden. Now, filming Camel is like filming Bigfoot, and I don’t want to think about how many months Mick needed to hang in South Oz to shoot the Camel sequences, but they’re a rare insight into one of Australian surfing’s most mythical characters. Camel lives in one of the sharkiest corners of South Oz for a reason. He likes it there because the sharks keep people away. “Surfing with other people? F**k that.” That would have made quite a good working title for the whole film in fact. There are some beautiful waves of Camel surfing alone at home, but Mick has also managed to track down some classic archival footage of Camel from his G-Land jungle years.
Geoff 'Camel' Goulden free and solo in the Southern Ocean.
The comic lead of Outdated Children belongs to Addy Jones. The Byron surfer disappeared south many years ago and set up on Flinders Island in Bass Strait, where he’s worked the land, surfed his own pointbreak, become a world authority on compost and raised wombats. Resourceful, Addy’s also built surfboards from stuff he’s rescued from the tip – bamboo blinds, cork flooring, the insulation from a fridge as the blank – and made a perfectly surfable board from them.
Addy Jones and his 100% upcycled board.
From Flinders, Mick then disappears into Tassie’s Southwest Wilderness, down the south of the Otways, and down the West Coast of South Australia. There is a lot of south and west in this film and a lot of empty coast. The film is a soothing reminder that it’s still out there.
There’s also a lot of introspection going on, but that’s the nature of those coastlines. There’s a lot of space and a lot of weather and a lot of thinking time down there, and Mick’s left plenty of that thinking time in the edit. For the most part, a surfing life along these southern-facing coasts is hard and sparse and the movie is a study on making a one down there.
A crash course in caravan axles.
That’s what Mick himself did. While on the road he stumbled on a piece of land in Tasmania’s deep south, and with the help of mates built a little family cabin, a fitting endnote to this humble frontier surf film.
Empty corners are a little easier to find in the deep south.
Banner image – Paul Joske and son, Heath building boards and back sheds down in the Bight.