Port Macquarie’s Mick Cain spent 10 years as an elite surfer before opening a local surf school and shop. We talk to him about the highlights of his surfing career and the joy he now gets from bringing out the best in others and encouraging more people to hit the waves.
> When you look back on your time as an elite surfer, what are the highlights?
Highlights for me personally were during my first trips overseas, when traveling and competing internationally. It was a time full of new places and new experiences. Finishing 3rd in the 1991 ISA World Title in Barbados is always a really fond memory.
Also, getting a 3rd in the Hang Loose Pro in Brazil with thousands and thousands of people on the beach was pretty crazy. Also 2nd in the Bronze Age Pro in Japan and winning the Mango Pro.
> Is it a lifestyle you miss?
No, I don’t miss it at all. When I finished traveling and competing I wasn’t enjoying it as much as in the early years. Now I have a beautiful wife and little girl and am enjoying life more than ever.
> When did you first start surfing- do you remember your first surf?
I remember getting my first Coolite surfboard off Ken Williams at Sportsworld in the Galleria Building for my 5th birthday. We lived near Nobby’s Beach and I remember taking it down there for my first surf.
> What do you love most about surfing?
Everything. Being in the water and not knowing what your next wave will be, you feel so alive and fresh. I can surf alone or with good mates or with Em my wife and even later with my kids. It’s just the best.
> When did you start operating the Dawn Light Surf School with your wife Emma and what sort of programs do you offer?
I began Surf Coaching at the end of 1998, but my wife and I started DLS Surf School at the end of 2003.
We offer a very wide range of surf programs from your first time beginner to your everyday surfer wanting to improve, right through to programs for the elite competitive surfer. We do a Youth in Sport program for the PCYC also, which is great.
> You have now established the NSW Institute of Surfing. How does it complement the surf school and do you employ many people?
We are still in a bit of a transition stage, but DLS Surf School is now basically the Learn to Surf component of NSW Institute of Surfing (NSWIOS).
We have Shane Fletcher as NSWIOS Operations Manager who has done a lot of work to get it up and running. We also contract a number of other people to do coaching work for us when needed.
> Why did you decide to develop the Institute and what sort of programs does it offer?
It was developed through a need that we were already partly servicing in the market. We decided to meet this need to a greater level and formed more detailed and complete programs and packages that go beyond just being a surf school.
NSWIOS offers your entire beginner to elite surf packages as well as board design consultancy and purchases and surfer/athlete management. Check out nswios.com.au for all programs offered.
> You have held a range of high level surf coach positions, including National Development Squad Head Coach and NSW State Junior Head Coach. What positions do you currently hold?
I have been NSW Head Coach for the last six years and have just been asked to continue for another year. Due to limited time and starting NSWIOS, this is the only position I currently hold.
> What do you find rewarding about coaching others?
It’s different depending on the level, but the overall interaction with people and seeing people reach levels and goals that they didn’t think possible is great to be a part of.
> Are you currently coaching any high profile surfers?
Being NSW Head Junior Coach for six years has allowed me to work with a lot of the country’s best junior surfers.
At the moment I’m still working a lot with Mick Campbell and other local talent, Matty Banting. I have also been advising some WQS surfers on competition strategy and doing some work with Quiksilver’s junior surfers.
> It must be rewarding to see how well Mick Campbell has been doing since his return to the World Circuit…
As far as Cambo’s return to the WCT, I can’t say enough about his achievements. One of Mick’s greatest assets, which shows in his current great results, is his willingness to take both positive and negative criticism and use it to better himself and his performance levels.
His results have been good this year but his actual performances for his standard haven’t been as high as he is capable of, so the rest of the year is looking really positive.
> Are there a lot of promising young local competitive surfers moving up through the ranks at the moment?
Yes, 12 year old Matt Banting is a young local who is the best in the country for his age and has already had great success competing. He has won the Rusty Grom Fest consecutively in the last two years. This event is seen as the hardest under 16’s event in the country.
Other up and comers to watch for are Jack Jermain and Tom Howard, a young guy who has only been surfing for 6-10 months, who are both 10 and 11 yrs.
> What are the key ingredients to being a good surfer?
Having a good base level of fitness is a large factor in becoming a good surfer, as well as experience in reading the surf and knowing which are the best waves to catch.
But having the right board is the most important factor in enjoying your surfing as well as improving. If you have the wrong board you can quickly become frustrated and discouraged.
> How do you stay motivated and help others to stay motivated?
I surf and train with good mates and we all encourage and feed off each other which becomes contagious. I find encouraging people and offering positive correction is a great motivating tool and in my experience, brings the highest level of improvement.
> Do you think more women are becoming involved in the sport?
Yes, women are definitely the biggest growth area in the surf industry over the last five years, both in and out of the water.
> What’s next for you?
I have some Junior and WQS surfers coming to Port for 2 day clinics over the next few months. I’ll also continue to coach and train Mick Campbell as he prepares for the 2nd half of the year.
I already represent a number of surfers in athlete management and plan to focus on and expand that area of NSWIOS.
> You have a young daughter, with another child on the way. Do you think they’ll be hitting the waves in the future?
Ella already loves the water and waves and my wife Em surfs, so I don’t think it will be a surprise to see the whole family surfing together in the future. It would be unreal!
> Thank you for your time Mick.