The passing of a pocket rocket

Shmoo in full flight. Photo courtesy Tom Servais.

By Phil Jarratt

Tragic news from Sydney on Monday as the light went out for turbo-charged pocket rocket John Shimooka, the Hawaiian former world pro tour surfer known universally as “Shmoo”.

Shmoo, 51, who had battled depression for many years, lost his wife Lisa in tragic circumstances last year, then almost lost tour buddy and former world champion Sunny Garcia in a depression-induced incident. Many people in the surfing world, myself included, knew of Shmoo’s demons, but there was shock in those circles this week because he was such an exuberant and seemingly resilient little bugger.

Kelly Slater, who got to share a few waves with his old mate in Sydney earlier this year, summed it up, posting: “My heart’s ripped out. I’m sorry, Shmoo. I thought we had this.”

Shmoo, by his own admission, was a party animal first and a professional athlete second when he burst onto the scene in the late 1980s. Inevitably he dropped off tour and was self-medicating in a seedy Orange County beach flat when Sunny Garcia dragged his butt back to Hawaii and got him fit and touring again. One of Shmoo’s finest moments as a pro was when Sunny and he finished one and two at Bells in 1995.

When he retired from the tour, Shmoo and Lisa moved to Sydney, setting up home in Cronulla while he worked for Quiksilver International. In those years I worked with Shmoo at Quiksilver events around the globe and came to know him pretty well. We shared some fun waves in Hossegor, Makaha, Fiji and even at South Avalon, opposite the Quiksilver HQ, and although he sometimes had a reputation as a wave hog, all I remember is Shmoo calling an older and lesser surfer into set waves with a big smile on his face.

To say he was an exuberant little fellow is an understatement, but there was often something just below the surface. The Jiu Jitsu black belt was good at his job, a hard worker and a dedicated dad to son Brandon. Above all, he was a fine surfer who put his own stamp on every wave he rode.

For two years up to his death he had been general manager at Surfing NSW. He is survived by Brandon, and will be missed by all who knew him and were touched by his spirit.

Windansea take Sunny Cup in nailbiter

The surf might have been a bit how’s your father, but enthusiasm ran high last Sunday at Dog Poo Alley at Sunshine Beach as 160 surfers from seven Sunshine Coast clubs battled it out for the Sunny Coast Cup.

Defending champs Noosa Boardriders hosted the mixed tag team event in front of a big, rowdy crowd, and were looking good to take the cup home again until the dying stages of the 70-minute final, when the wind dropped off a little, the bank started to grind out some longer lefts, and Windansea’s Cam McDougall pulled into a howler and outran the lip all the way to the beach to take the glory from the home side who finished second.

In a day of stellar performances in difficult conditions, Noosa 2 team rider Aaron Kelly scored the highest single wave score.

Straight to the pool room

As tickets for the Noosa World Surfing Reserve’s Surfers’ Christmas Ball continue to sell like hot cakes, long-time NWSR supporter Paul Winter has donated a superb replica “speed pin” surfboard from his Fuyu label for the lead item in the charity auction to be held on the night.

The stunning orange and green 8 ft 2 pintail is a replica of an old Shane board that Paul found at Crescent Head, but more broadly it is representative of the pre-Tracker period of the shortboard revolution of the late 1960s. During this brief “transition” era of 1968-69, surfers and shapers were rejecting the first somewhat clunky shorter boards pioneered in Australia by Bob McTavish and marketed as Plastic Machines and moving more towards Hawaiian Dick Brewer’s mini gun concept, in which the contours of the sleek big wave pintails were adapted to shorter boards.

By ’69, the favoured shape would be the squaretail Tracker, and from there we’d move on to even shorter boards, but there is no doubt that in 1968 the speed pin had its shining moment. And according to Noosa surfboard historian Darryl Homan, the Fuyu speed pin is “an absolutely beautiful an authentic replica, superbly crafted”.

Whew! So much history in one board, and one lucky collector is going to take it straight to the pool room on December 12.

The Surfers’ Christmas Ball, a fundraiser for the World Surfing Reserve’s stewardship program for 2021, will feature guest speaker Gary “Kong” Elkerton, the loveable larrikin of Australian surfing, surf toons from the evergreen SandFlys (and maybe a very special guest) and a three-course feast. It’s going to be the party of the year at Sunshine Beach Surf Club’s impressive upstairs function space. Don’t miss out.

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