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20 Mar 2014

TEN years after Pete Murray soared to fame with breakthrough album Feeler, the singer-songwriter is riding a wave of a different kind.

Murray, who is on the album’s 10th anniversary tour and promoting a remastered Feeler, has a strong sense of pride about his success on a recent trip to Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands.

He travelled to the islands with world surfing champion Mark Occhilupo, fellow musician Ash Grunwald and former NRL star Mark Gasnier — mates with very different backgrounds with a common aim — to find the perfect wave.

Their surfing, musical and cultural adventures were captured for the two-part documentaryLatitude Zero.

Murray, whose laid-back songs So Beautiful and Better Days are staples in the Australian songbook, lives near Byron Bay and has been surfing for six years. The idea of paddling for waves over Indonesia’s treacherous reefs filled him with fear.

In Pete Murray’s TV doco ... Mark Occihulpo, Ash Grunwald and Mark Gasnier. Picture: Foxt

In Pete Murray’s TV doco … Mark Occihulpo, Ash Grunwald and Mark Gasnier. Picture: Foxtel Source: Supplied

*How did the idea of going on the surfing trip come up?

It was through Ash (Grunwald). He told me about it and that they were looking for people to go along. I’d heard there was surf there, but had never been to it.

*The surf looks pretty vicious. How did you handle it?

To be honest I was crapping myself. It’s a reef break and the water really rushes across it. And the reef is super sharp. I was very nervous.

*That’s understandable. Six years of surfing isn’t that much when you’re in those conditions. How did you cope?

I tried to surf every wave the other guys did. The first one we tackled was called Greenbush, a gnarly left-hander. I just thought, “I’ll get on this one, grab the rail and hold on for dear life. It was a pretty good introduction to the area given we were told it was super dangerous and that we shouldn’t surf there.

*Had you gone there feeling fit?

No, because it’s been hard for me to get in the water. I have two boys and I’ve got to spend a lot of time with them when I have them. So my life is either work or the boys. I hadn’t surfed for three months before the trip. I was out of condition and paddling all day is hard. I was so fatigued.

*Do you fear sharks?

I try not to think about them too much, but the thought does come to you if you are in murky water because you think you won’t be able to see them coming. There was one day at Byron when I saw a fin come out of the water. It was coming my way and I thought it was a dolphin. You look for the way a dolphin swims and I realised it wasn’t swimming like a dolphin. The next minute I looked down and it was swimming under my board. A couple of friends came out to see me and apparently there were three of them (sharks), about eight or nine feet in length.

*Did you manage to avoid landing on reefs in the Mentawai Islands?

I did. There is a place, Surgeon’s Table, so I was pretty happy to not get cut there.

Latitude Zero, Fuel TV, Tuesday, 6pm


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