Nat Young recalls days of worship in the waves

October 2, 2019 BY

Although the sky is sealed with clouds rather than church bells, surfing royalty Nat Young views the ocean as a place of worship.

His latest book Church of the Open Sky is a testament to this belief – a 16-chapter homage to the waves and people who have helped shape his life and career.

The four-time world champion said he had “no intention” of writing another book, having written and published six novels in his lifetime.

And after finishing his autobiography Nat’s Nat and That’s That (1998) – which was compiled using diary notes, his mother’s scrapbooks and memory – he figured he was done. But as his 70th birthday loomed closer, something changed.

“For whatever reason, push came to shove a while ago and it felt timely for me to start writing this book,” he wrote in the book’s preface.

“If I think back on it, the initial impetus was the magic number 69, and coming to terms with the fact that I was about to be 70.”

The first chapter ‘Surfing is not a sport’ sees Young refer to the art form of riding swell as “a drug, a lifestyle, a religion”.

Church of the Open Sky by Nat Young.

It’s these unconventional descriptions that are indicative of the book’s title, which Young believes should be true for any surfer.

The foreword of Church of the Open Sky is by Pulitzer Prize winning author William Finnegan, who claims Young could have been a reporter.

Having had his name printed beneath his weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph for about nine years, Young has become affectionately known for his laid-back and witty writing style.

The book explores the world of surfing, how and why it becomes cult-like for those involved and the big names responsible for its inception, including Miki Dora, George Greenough, Bob McTavish and Vinny Bryan.

Young also speaks for the first time about the “so-called feud” between him and Bernard “Midget” Farrelly.

“I believe there is an obligation to embrace our history, to tell the real story of where we came from and to explain the ways surfing can be appreciated as something wholly apart from a traditional sport,” he said.

“Our heritage is unique and should come across clean and strong, to give an honest impression of what surfing really is.”

Great Ocean Road Books will host Nat Young and Jock Serong at Strapper Surf, Aireys Inlet (83 Great Ocean Road) on October 12 at 7pm.

The pair will discuss Nat’s surfing life, as well as the friends, foes and heroes he’s encountered along the way.

The event is free, however RSVPs are essential via [email protected] (include contact number in body of email) or by phoning the bookshop on 5289 7052. Wine and beer will be available at bar prices.

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