Len Collard has been surfing since he was 13 years old, and says he got into the sport because “my friends were doing it and I wanted to hang out with them!”
Born in Pingelly, Western Australia, Len now resides in Spearwood, a suburb of Perth, and is well known in the area as a surf aficionado. He is also one of the people who helped get WA’s own Indigenous surf meet off the ground.
According to Len, the Wardandi Indigenous Surf Classic is the most prestigious event of its kind in Australia. “We’ve run seven in a row, never missed one and we ain’t stopping now,” he says.
Wardandi attracts a lot of young surfers from all over the West, even from as far up as Broome. “I’ve tried to compete but the young guns are sneaking past!” grins Len. “It’s all good fun though. We really must encourage our young kids.”
At the most recent Classic, held at Injidup Beach in October, Len placed a credible fourth in the men’s open division on his Maurice Cole board. “And what with the way these young crew are going,” he says, “I’m not likely to do any better!”
The late George Webb was the respected Elder who started and then nurtured the competition, along with his wife Vilma [see page four]. Len describes him as “the old boss of the fullas down Margaret River way and the head cultural storyteller. It’s been a while now since his death, but we’re still feeling what’s happened.”
When he’s not hanging over the nose, Len is program chair of Murdoch University’s Aboriginal & Islander Studies Unit and has lectured there since 1996.
Len has two daughters – Mia, 20, and Ingrid, 18. They got into surfing as kids, just like their father. Ingrid in particular has now taken a shining to the sport.
“Ingrid really enjoys surfing,” says Len. “She came second in the open women’s division at Wardandi.”
Looking back on his life thus far, Len is happy to have found a sport he enjoys so much and that keeps him fit and healthy.
“I enjoy surfing with my family and with my mates. I’m greedy, actually – I love it anytime! It’s nice when you’re with your friends sitting on the western end of Rottnest surfing out bullets and you’re the first to get the swell. You know you’re the first to get the waves coming to Australia.”
If you haven’t got anything that makes you get up in the morning to watch the sun rise, then Len reckons you should think about taking up surfing.
“The water’s free and we’ve got plenty of it over here!”