Probably like a lot of people around here, I didn’t know local surfing legend ‘Algae’ Reid’s first name was Alan.
In fact, I didn’t know his nickname was ‘Algae’. I always thought it was ‘Algy’.
So last week when I saw it spelled ‘Algae’ next to a classic photograph of him surfing The Pass in 1962 on a bright, new information sign at the popular surf spot, I thought the Cape Byron Trust had cocked it up.
‘Algae’ set me straight though.
The name was given to him by members of the Tallebudgera Surf Club back in the late 1950s because he would never get out of the water and the nickname stuck.
As a teenager he used to go down to Tallebudgera on the Gold Coast on weekends to escape Brisbane. It was there in 1959 that he learned to surf on a balsa board and where a life-long passion was ignited.
After a couple of years, he reckoned that even back in those days the surf got too crowded on the Gold Coast, so he headed off to Byron Bay for a surfing weekend. And it was just about love at first sight.
“I had to come down here to live for the surfing and the environment,” he said.
“I couldn’t tolerate Brisbane any more.”
He moved permanently to the town in 1963 and while the surf was crowded on weekends, he recalls it was a different story on week days.
“There was a lovely lot of locals to enjoy the surf with,” he said.
He met his wife and respected surfer, Elaine, on Main Beach in 1964 – while surfing of course – and they were married in 1967, with the marriage producing two daughters and a son.
While raising the family and with ‘Algae’ down the years variously working at the former meatworks, Sunnybrand and latterly at Byron Bay Hospital, there was still time for them both to indulge in their passion for surfing and, of course, that passion hasn’t diminished.
At almost 67, ‘Algae’ is still addicted to the waves more than 50 years after hopping on to that balsa board.
“I try to surf daily if possible,” he said.
“Once you are in the mob, you are in the mob.”
Elaine said ‘Algae’ was a local surfing legend and ‘he is still good too’.
“I love watching him surf,” she said.
These days there are a lot more people surfing, but ‘Algae’ doesn’t let the crowds get to him.
“I think it’s every man for himself and it’s open slather out there,” he said.
“But it doesn’t bother me. I take whatever Mother Nature throws up at me.
“It’s frustrating at times, but you still have to do it.
“The end of the story is you are addicted to the waves.”
‘Algae’ said he still loved Byron Bay ‘to death’, but could understand the frustrations brought about by holiday crowds and traffic jams.
He advised anyone who got ‘desperate’ about what was happening in the Bay to walk up to the cape and take in the view across to Mt Warning to remind themselves just how good it was.
The photograph of him on the sign at The Pass was selected by the trust in conjunction with the Byron Bay Historical Society to represent the history of surfing at The Pass.
He has vague recollections of that day in 1962, but he does know he was riding a 9ft 6in Gordon Woods board which weighed 35 pounds (almost 16kg) and he remembers getting ‘locked into’ the wave. But that’s about it.
‘Algae’ said he was deeply honoured and humbled to have the photograph of him selected to go on the sign.
“When I think of all the other good surfers over the years, it’s very humbling,” he said.
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