“We've got enough so let's just use what we have, fix it and don't chuck it out. The older things get, the more beautiful they are.” Beth Cook has created a second-hand surfboard paradise. Photo Elize Strydom
It all started because I snapped one of my boards.
I went to Dennis [Anderson from Tradition Surfboards] and he helped me, showed me how to fix it. Afterwards, he told me there was shed for rent just down the road and said, “If I was younger, I’d open up a surf shop there.” Sounded like a good idea to me. And that was that. It was just a short-term plan. I thought I’d get sick of it in three months but it’s been nearly eight years now.
The Water Closet is a collection of everyone's surfboards. People bring their boards in to trade or for me to sell on consignment. But really, it’s the locals and the wider surfing community bringing in their well-loved boards for someone else to try.
I love garage sale-ing, op shopping and collecting so there's a lot of random things. Most of them aren't even for sale so business-wise it's not ideal, ha ha, but the right people find us and that’s what I love the most.
I have a lot of fins — some people say I've got the most fins they've ever seen. I've always loved single fins. They’re so timeless and beautiful to look at and now I’ve ended up having thousands of them. It’s a pretty wild selection.
You know what single fins are to me? Satisfaction without the sugar. That’s exactly what they are.
After hours, Beth takes one of the“menagerie” for a sweet sunset slide at a local break. Photo Elize Strydom
I started studying business at uni when I finished school, but lasted three weeks. I was like, "Hello, I hate business." I'm not very good at planning things – I just really like old stuff – but I thought I’d give it a crack. If people didn't like it that's cool, but everyone loves it and this gave me the confidence to keep going. At the end of the day, we need to stop taking stuff from the earth. We've got enough. Let's just use what we have, fix it and don't chuck it out. The older things get the more beautiful they are.
It’s more than a surf shop. We've had a few sweet fundraisers here with local bands and friends playing. It’s also a space where our community can get together, support good causes and raise awareness for what's happening in the world, a space for forest activists to have their meetings, stuff like that.
People drop in and they say, "Oh I was in Tassie last weekend. This guy in the carpark told me to drop into The Water Closet. So now I'm here.” It’s amazing. I've got a coffee machine too so people hang out on the lounge and tell me stories. We talk about waves and boards and surfing. People meet each other.
From left to right – Cooper 6’11” single fin, Timsay Surfboards 7’0” hull, O’Donnell 8’3” longboard. Photos Elize Strydom
8’3” x 21 3/4" x 2 3/4"
This board is the reason The Water Closet exists. It's ugly, but only because I snapped it. It’s had a hard life. It was shaped in 1998 by Steve O'Donnell in Brookvale, which is where I grew up, so it's gone full circle.
Back in 2014, I had a goal to buy a surfboard, a caravan and a guitar. I found the O’Donnell on Gumtree for $380. I bought it from a Japanese guy who was picking blueberries in Woolgoolga and then I went into a junk shop that afternoon and found this 1976 Ibanez guitar in the corner. The next day I bought a caravan. It was a good week.
It has a really nice shape. It's a rounded pin and I love it as a single fin. I went into Steve O’Donnell’s factory a couple of years ago and told him about it. He actually remembered shaping it.
This board is so special, but it’s retired now — it’s not so fluid or floaty anymore. I've had such good waves on it, back in the day. One time, we surfed Tea Trees until nine one night. The swell jumped from one foot to three. A full moon came up and there was phosphorus all through the water. It was the most magic surf ever.
COOPER SINGLE FIN
6’11” x 19 1/2" x 2 7/8-ish”
This one is in amazing condition for an early ‘70s board. Coopers are pretty iconic in Coffs Harbour and this was shaped by Richie West who came from California. He was such a legend around town, such a nice guy. There’s a funny side story here — in 2015 I went to Bali and got stuck because the volcano erupted. I didn't have a board on me but I went to this cafe on the point at Uluwatu and when I looked up at the roof, there was this beautiful longboard there. The cafe guy said it hadn't been surfed for a long time. All I wanted to do was surf it, so he pulled it down for me. I was paddling out through the cave and it was a little bit big and scary, but I got out the back somehow without losing any skin. I looked down and the writing on the board said, “Coopers, Coffs Harbour, Richie West” and this incredible sense of peace instantly came over me. It was amazing.
Back home, I saw Richie going out for a surf when I was coming in. He didn't know who I was, but I told him the story and said thank you for that amazing surf. You have no idea how much peace it gave me, just seeing your name on that board, because I was pretty scared. He just gave me the biggest grin and it was so special. I'll never forget his smile.
That Richie West board is still in Uluwatu as far as I know, but this one I ended up finding on Gumtree. This guy was selling his whole collection straight out of his garage, a few hours south, so I headed there. I ended up picking up 14 boards, all from different eras and surf history and in different conditions.
The Cooper was by far the pick. It was sitting on a pile and I thought he was gunna sell it to someone else, but he looked over and said, “No, this one's still for sale.” I said, “I’ll take it.”
TIMSAY SURFBOARDS HULL
7’0” x 21 3/4" x 2 3/4"
This board was shaped by my friend Tim [of Timsay Surfboards]. I'm borrowing it while he's in Japan. It's epic. It's fast and it paddles so well. It's a little tricky on steeper takeoffs ha ha, but I like the challenge.
It could be the perfect one-board travel quiver. It's beautiful in its simplicity. I love the outlines and the rails. It's not fancy at all, but it's so fun. I surfed it yesterday and everyone else was struggling, even on bigger boards, but it just gets you in where you need to be. It's super flowy but quite pulled-in in the tail so it can feel a little bit unpredictable but pretty fun and wild. It’s got a 10 inch fin, 13 inches in from the tail.
It's designed to turn and trim from the same spot so it surfs like a long board but it's not a long board. It’s really different from anything I’ve surfed before. I just know that this will be a board that'll be passed around and loved by everyone.
The Water Closet is an underground surf shop that specialises in the not-new. Beth gets ready for another day in paradise. Photo Elize Strydom
The Water Closet is all about the surfboards. Boards of all eras, shapes, lengths, colours and conditions. Beth Cook takes stock. Photo Elize Strydom