As a whole, surfers are appreciativeof the gifts the ocean throws us.We’re thankful; it’s an escape froma range of complications and offersclarity. Many of us use surng as aretreat when the chips are down andknow one good wave can changeyour mood, your self-esteem, yourperception on life. You leave yourtroubles in the shorebreak. ForJames the sea was a place wherehe could escape the turbulenceof a childhood fraught with familyinstability, and the spectre of losinghis mother long before he was readyto face such grief.
James was born in Victoria, lived infour different States by age six. henomadic lifestyle was the result of twoyoung parents struggling to negotiatea rollercoaster relationship, andstruggling to look after themselvesand their young child.Hollmer-Cross has early memoriesof being set up in a makeshift bed inthe back of an old VW, parked outsidethe coastal pub where his parentswould party. His folks, entrenchedin ’70s Victorian surf culture, met intheir teens and found themselvesliving together before they eventhought about where they wereheaded. James’ mum, Sonya, rode aHodgeman surfmat and dad, Mike,surfed the length of the Great ceanRoad. James’ early years were beach-based, surrounded by surf.Mike, still young and unsettled,could never hold a job for long andwas easily drawn to partying, andany surf that was on. Sonya keptthings together as best she could onthe homefront. he family moved toasmania after being burnt out of
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home in the Ash Wednesday res and,despite a series of on-again, off-againattempts to make things work, nallyseparated soon after James’ brotheryler was born.he boys did the mum’s place/dad’s place shufe for a while beforethey were rocked with the newsSonya had leukemia and wasn’texpected to make it through. Jameswas eight, yler just two. James’sense of security, almost solelybased around his connection with hismum, was under attack. his threatof loss remained in the balance foryears while Sonya bravely took onthe cancer, the transplant rejection,an ensuing double-lung transplantand a host of associated chronichealth problems. “Looking back,Mum’s woes made me realise thatlife’s short,” says James. “And it alsoshowed me it’s possible to overcomeanything. Even cancer.” James stillhad a ways to go, but watching hismother overcome adversity sowedpersonal seeds of determination.James’ tough times were oftenoverwhelming, and he tried to copeby retreating into himself, shuttingout the world or by disappearing intodrug and alcohol benders. He couldoften be found staring blankly intothe void, not quite present. herewas no doubt that the absenceof the fundamentals in James’childhood had a major impact onhis behaviour. n his early teens,under the influence of guys mucholder, James mastered the art ofcat burglary, sneaking into holidayhomes to steal booze, or sometimes just to sleep.he situation was far from theideal foundation for a career inprofessional surng. asmania is nofarm for pro surfers, with few olderguys to look to for inspiration. eopleof the Apple sle know too wellthere’s been plenty of talent bred inthe State that has come and gone,submerged by constant battles withisolation, cold weather and tall poppysyndrome. o make matters worse,ark Beach, James’ local, was ratedAustralia’s shittest beach break bya magazine in the ’90s. Yet time andtime again James turned to the oceanfor clarity. he tide was turning in thelocal surf scene, and James foundhimself competing with those aroundhim in a bid to nd joy in among thefear and confusion. “here weregood people around me,” he says.“ark Beach developed a strongsurng community. A lot of us hadrocky backgrounds and connectedthrough surng.”
Looking back, Mum’s woes made me realise that life’s short, and it also showed me it’s possible to overcome anything. Even cancer.
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