Most of us greet DETOUR signs with a frown. Nick Colbey grins.
In 2018, after a seven-year stint in Sydney, Colbey decided it was time to head home to Byron…via the rest of Australia. Yep, this fella took a 35,000km detour back to his place and filmed the whole adventure.
This is HOOROO–a film about surfing, self-discovery and the beauty of the land Down Under. Hitting the road for well over a year breeds many tales. We sat down with Colbey (virtually) to dig deeper into his epic excursion.
First things first, the Hilux ute that got him through it all. Aka, ‘The Coastal Emu’.
“It was pretty classic–my friend Jezza loves a good bargain…in between laying bricks we were bidding on the car. With three seconds to go, Jez put an extra $15 on it and the rest is history.”
That extra 15 bucks snared Colbey the ultimate bargain. Grand total: $715. Much better than the initially estimated $6K they could have spent on the ideal setup.
After beginning the recorded journey by charging glassy waves with his mate Coby somewhere near Wollongong and copping a serious breeze further south in Wilson Prom National Park, Colbey and his newly arrived co-pilot Dylan ‘Fed’ Grant (a VB loving photographer) head south to Tassie.
They arrive to capture one of the film’s most stunning frames, as Colbey paddles out through a tunnel so unreal it almost looks manmade. It’s wild! Pressing the filmmaker for details, we come up short. In staying true to the surfer code, a boardrider never surfs and tells. “It’s one of the most amazing paddle outs I’ve ever done. The sound is incredible, but I’ll leave it at that.”
Although we’re served a delicious snippet of Tassie’s beauty, it’s Colbey’s mention of an LSD-laced gummy bear eaten at Dark Mofo that we’re eager to get to the bottom of.
“By the end of the night, we ended up in a dark and dingy club. Fed was having a blast, but I was just watching people zombie around in a field of fake smoke and drum ‘n’ bass. I think I’ll have my gummy bears in the outdoor sunshine next time.”
Over the film’s 65 minutes, we’re graced with plenty of dreamy line-ups, none more so than when Colbey and Fed reach a ‘secret spot’ on the Nullarbor Plain. After driving “two lifetimes”, the boys strike solid gold. The vision of Colbey getting barrelled alongside a pod of dolphins is a joy to watch.
“The dolphins were surreal that day. My friend and I thought maybe they were huddling around to protect us from something.” A comforting thought when your mind jumps to slow-mo’s during ‘Shark Week’. While on these incredible creatures, he shares another breathtaking story that didn’t make the cut.
“It was 6ft, glassy water and blue skies. As a set came, these two shadows came rushing towards me…luckily they were dolphins–a mother, father and their young adult. I kid you not; the young one was riding the wave right underneath my rail for about 100 metres. We both kicked out together, and I was in awe, just hooting and frothing.”
From here, the two fellows cut across the great plain into Western Australia and the Margaret River region. To this point, they’d braved gnarly weather and camped out in some of Australia’s most isolated places – therefore, a pub was a sight for sore eyes. The footage of the lads taking their first sip is priceless. “Ah, the Settlers! What a place to drink. We stayed up all night, and I woke up with a goatee and a shaved patch on my chest.” It seems the beers went down a little too well.
With a camera bag full of film, Fed bid his good mate adieu. After three months with his good mate in tow, Colbey would now go it alone.
During our discussion, the wanderer lets us in on how he dealt with loneliness. It’s beautiful to hear it from someone experienced in being hundreds of clicks from anyone for long periods. “It taught me to enjoy what you have right here and now…that your food is warm and your car is still moving forward.” Colbey tackled being lonely head-on, living for seven months in a secluded cabin in Gracetown, WA. That’s a long time to be alone in anyone’s language.
“I surfed a lot and played plenty of music…I got a job at Dominoes delivering pizzas in The Coastal Emu (laughs)…I later got a foot in the door to be the projectionist at an outdoor cinema in a winery. I met some local families and some really accommodating and wonderful souls.”
Although Colbey was eons from home, these people treated him like one of their own. Australia does have its fair share of deadset legends.
Throughout HOOROO, some of the larger swells wigged us–so we asked Colbey how he shushed the head noise paddling into those walls of water.
“I guess it’s from missing all those ones you should have had a go at…This is really corny, and there’s thousands of surfers better than me at charging, but a mentor from Byron…used to say “hesitation = devastation”. That little rhyme still rings in my head. (R.I.P Ben King!)”
Getting to the nitty-gritty, we asked about his grizzliest wipeout. “I fell out of the lip and got sucked over and driven straight into the reef head first. I was lucky enough to get into a position to shoulder barge the reef instead of headbutting it. I snapped my board…” The things we do for love, aye?
The film’s heaviest moment is the devastating fire that ripped through the back of ‘The Coastal Emu’. The calamity leaves Colbey with scars deeper than those to his hands and feet. The cause of the blaze remains a mystery, but he surmises the second battery likely spat the dummy.
“I was on a bumpy road beforehand, and I foolishly had all my kitchen stuff near it. I suspect something metal jumped onto the battery and connected the terminals, slowly causing a current and then sparking something.”
Amongst all the possessions lost, his Nanna’s guitar stung the most–gifted by his Pop after she passed away.
“It was a beautiful nylon string guitar that she barely played because she got arthritis at quite a young age. So it was in great condition. I’m pretty lucky to have had my camera bag in the front seat with all the footage!” Phew.
HOOROO leaves you warm, fuzzy and reawakens that adventurous spirit. This big-hearted larrikin leads by example and shows us how to take it a little easier on ourselves. Just before serving up a belter of an outro, Colbey leaves us with these kind words:
“This country is a gigantic wonderland with a past so deep and a future so uncertain. One thing is for sure; we are very fortunate to live in a house down under with such a big backyard to play in. I urge you to go and see it for yourself.”
Cheers, Nick for giving us that nudge in the right direction.
Our names are Will and Jakson. Hooroo, and thanks for reading.
The Sydney Underground Film Festival is a truly unique experience that showcases obscure, thought-provoking cinema or as I like to say, films you wouldn’t take home to meet your parents. It’s a one-of-a-kind festival that features eclectic storytelling from across the globe as well as our own backyard.
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