The Happy Mondays – The Happiness Machine

People often ask why I named my signature cuisine ‘Surf Spa Food’. Well, years ago I had a vision that what the hungry healthy retreat going public were yearning for was something more robust than the brown rice, lentils and glorified coleslaw dished up at the wellness properties I had worked with.

When I moved to Byron Bay from Melbourne I investigated the merits of raw and living foods, and over the past six years, have weaved these elements into the rich fabric of my signature style – highlighting local produce, lifestyle and environment along the way.

Here’s an excerpt below from my book The Healing Feeling – and an incredible image by Alex Frings of local surfer and filmmaker Johnny Abegg beaming it up in The Happiness Machine.

This image of Johnny resonates with me so strongly this morning. It amplifies my love of surfing and instills a deeper sadness for the loss of a visiting surfer missing at the weekend – probably caught in a treacherous rip at Cozy Corner, a point break beneath the Byron Bay lighthouse.

Surf Spa Food

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea
and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine,
I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast 

Not long after I moved to Byron Bay I stood up on a surfboard for the first time. Cashing in a birthday voucher, I was lucky enough to be guided by former US surfing pro Rusty Miller who gave me my wings. He taught me a kind of surf yoga on the beach – much to the delight of the locals – we danced like birds as he prepared me for my maiden voyage.

Onshore I was encouraged to learn that the action of standing up was not dissimilar to that of Chataranga dandasana, a yoga position that makes up part of the Vinyasa Flow.

Rusty shared some of his water knowledge with me, teaching me board safety, body balance, paddling techniques and restoring some of the ocean confidence I had lost scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef a while back.

Delighted that I am a “goofy foot” – right leg leads, and my right leg is two and a half centimetres shorter from a motor bike accident. After a few attempts of crawling and wiping out I managed to stand shakily for the first time – albeit not for long.

When I finally stood up I hung on for dear life flapping my wings and focusing in the tip of the board as instructed. By the end of that initial lesson, I had clumsily surfed nearly a dozen waves and by the last two, the realisation dawned on me that it wasn’t about controlling the board it was about moving and gliding along with the force of the wave prompting me to relax and let the energy of the wave move through me.

I was hooked.

Surfing is a daily connection that becomes a part of your existence. It provides a deeper respect for the ocean and the Zen-like experience that it delivers when you are tuned into the immediate experience of what you are doing. Not before, not after, the right here and now.

Laser focus, safety and skill combine with the negative ions of the water, the force and energy of the wave – a constant measure of energy, yet this is one we can measure and witness unlike those which are graphed.

Get on board.

Johnny Abegg getting barrelled at home

Image ©Alex Frings

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