Australian surfing’s original Country Soul archetype went out the way he would have wanted
There is a surfing poster in the Angourie corner store signed by David “Baddy” Treloar, with the simple inscription: “single fins, no legropes, swordfish diet.”
Like an incomplete haiku, in those few words, Baddy summed up the original, Country Soul surfing life that he discovered when he migrated from Manly Beach in Sydney to Angourie, on the NSW North Coast in the early ‘70s.
It was a lifestyle he fell in love with and embodied so deeply that he never left.
As the rest of the surfing world moved on – to professionalism, careers, the boom of the surf brands, corporatisation – Baddy simply stayed put.
Today, at the age of 68, Baddy suffered a fatal heart attack on the beach at Angourie after surfing the Point.
I can’t claim to have known Baddy well, but I can recall every one of my interactions with him because they always yielded something worthwhile, some insight into the weather, surf, or fishing conditions, an obscure slice of surfing history or his own homespun views of the world.
Albe Falzon, whose movie Morning of the Earth immortalised Baddy as the original country soul archetype, always paid tribute to him for recognising what really mattered early on and remaining true to it. It was as if the vision and soundtrack of Treloar’s Angourie section in MOTE melded so perfectly that he had come to personify the simple, nature-based world John J. Francis sang about in Simple Ben – valuing the riches of his environment over the glittering trinkets of materialism.
The first time I surfed Angourie, Baddy just about ran over my foot, as I scratched over the shoulder of a solid set and he seemed to delight in carving a hefty top turn as close to me as possible. He could definitely play the intimidating local but he had a natural gravitas in the line-up without doing or saying a thing. On land, he could be gentle, funny, entirely without pretence, and endlessly encouraging of the local grommets.
My favourite memory of Baddy was from a family holiday when our kids were little and I was playing with them on the beach at Spookies. Baddy pulled into the corner of the cove in his little tinny when the sun was not far above the horizon and I gave him a hand pulling it up on to his trailer. He had an esky full of mackerel and I asked him if he could spare any. Baddy explained that he had to service a couple of restaurants in town as well as drop one in to the local doctor, as his own form of health insurance. He had a barter deal to keep the doc supplied with fresh fish in exchange for any medical services he might require. But he reckoned he could spare one and thought $20 was a fair price. I trotted up to our rented holiday flat with a fish I could barely fit in the fridge that fed our entire family for days.
It seemed to me one of the most magical and beautiful aspects of Australian surfing that you could rock up to Angourie and see Baddy running around the Point as if it was still the Morning of the Earth. The fact that we can no longer do that makes it a sad day for all of us.