Gratitude Hour

Words by: Miles Proust
Art by: Zico Mitchell

When Scott Morrison announced the COVID-19 lockdown response in late March, my housemates and I were faced with the grim prospect of a Melbourne winter without the pub.

Left without jobs, nor a lease (due to our cash-only dodgy landlord), I decided to move back to my hometown of Coffs Harbour in northern NSW.

After living in Melbourne’s bustling city for more than five years, it took some time to readjust to my old town, but I was quick to realise what I had been missing most. Surfing.

Blessed with a small population, dozens of beaches and a warm climate, Coffs is the perfect place to go for a paddle. With COVID-19 restrictions encouraging the public to stay at home, surfing as exercise provided the perfect excuse for me to get out of the house.

Despite growing up in Coffs, I had only ever been an occasional surfer, skateboarding had always been my thing instead. But with the world gripped in a global pandemic, I decided now was the perfect time to give it a shot.

Zipped up in my dad’s oversized wetsuit and armed with a $70 duct-taped surfboard, I was ready to hit the waves.

The first thing you realise about surfing is how fit you have to be. Compared to skateboarding where nearly every session involves beers and ciggies, surfing feels like a whole other universe. Getting past the breakers requires upper-body strength and solid lung capacity, catching waves requires coordination and balance, and learning not to drop in on others requires spatial awareness.

Since moving home, I’ve found myself living like a character from a Tim Winton novel — Friday nights in Fitzroy replaced by sunrise surfs. I’ve begun to enjoy surfing more and more as my skills have progressed, coming to the realisation that moving back to Melbourne may be harder than I anticipated.

With jobseeker payments effectively doubled (thanks ScoMo), and fewer expenses living at home, I’m in a better financial position than pre-pandemic. On top of that, I certainly don’t miss waking up at 4am for work.

Thanks to isolation, I’ve also found myself cooking healthier meals, working out more and drinking less alcohol. My sleep schedule has drastically improved and I actually have time to focus on myself.

The downside to all of this of course are the occasional bouts of boredom. I’ve noticed that when I don’t make an effort to be productive with my day — whether that be by surfing, studying or cooking, I become restless and unhappy. However, considering I still have the privilege of a roof over my head, a stable income and a good relationship with my family, boredom is the last thing I should be concerned about.

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