Tim Baker is Australia’s favourite surfing writer, a former editor of Tracks and Surfing Life magazine, who has written a string of best-selling surfing biographies and collected surf stories. He has twice received the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame Culture Award and been shortlisted for the CUB Australian Sports Writing Awards.
I worked as a gardener straight out of high school, while I studied Journalism at RMIT, before starting a cadetship at The Sun (now The Herald Sun), where I was a budding football writer. I left to take up the Associate Editor’s position at Tracks magazine, moved on to editor, then was head hunted to work for the oppositon. I was editor at Surfing Life for four years, before becoming editorial director of the their stable of eight youth/action sports magazines. I eventually ran away to surf more and write books.
I am interested in surfing as therapy, the amazing feelings of wellbeing it generates, how it is being used to help kids with autism, at risk teenagers, the disabled, how cancer patients claim it is healing them, how its principles of risk-taking are informing business training. There is more going on out in the waves than most people realise.
Taking on the editorship of Surfing Life was a huge challenge. It was moving from bi-monthly to monthly publication, pitted against some firmly established opposition. We went monthly while increasing circulation and ad revenue per issue, regularly selling over ninety per cent of our print run, a significant accomplishment in magazines and almost unheard of today. The Hall of Fame culture awards are nice recognition from surfing’s elders. To have a national bestseller with Occy, also chosen as one of ‘50 books you can’t put down’, by the Australia Council, was also a pleasing accolade.
I feel incredibly blessed to make a living writing about surfing, combining two of my great loves into an unlikely vocation. I love the idea of passing on an appreciation of reading, writing and the power of story, because they have been such beneficial elements of my life. I believe the ocean is ‘life made visible’, a medium in which the universal nature of wave energy is observable and interactive, where the principles of harnessing wave energy to propel you through life can be learnt and tested. How do you become a surfing writing? I can honestly say a surf story changed my life. I wrote a general essay in my Year 12 English final exam on ‘early morning experiences’, and wrote spontaneously and from the gut about the magic of checking the pre-dawn surf and paddling out into the day’s first waves. I thought I had blown it, because it was a bit of a stream of consciousness rant, so I was shocked when I received 100% for HSC English. I’d been on a Maths/Science track through high school, but that mark changed everything. I changed my university preferences from Foresty to Journalism, a sliding doors moment which I have never regretted.