Layne Beachley – Beneath the Waves

Neil Beachley was in New Zealand on business when he received the phone call from his wife, Val, at home in Balgowlah Height, Sydney. ‘I’ve got to go and pick up my baby tomorrow,’ she informed him, her tone matter-of-fact. ‘Two things: what are we going to call it and how do I get there?’ It had been just ten months since the couple had applied to the child welfare authorities in New South Wales to adopt a baby girl, and both were pleasantly surprised, but unfazed, by the simplicity and speed of the process.,br> ‘Buggered if I know,’ came Neil’s characteristic response to the question of the child’s name. ‘You think of something.’

Layne Beachley: Beneath the Waves is a biography of one of the biggest names in women’s surfing. It documents her story from birth through to the present, acknowledging that there will be more to come. Layne Beachley was born in 1972, six weeks early, and relinquished by her seventeen year-old birth mother after being told by her father that unless she did so she would be cast out of the family. She was adopted by Neil and Val Beachley. She began surfing at age four and according to all who knew her was characterised by her determination and will to win. Her journey to become a world champion is a long one, and full of twists and turns in both her professional and private life. Along the way, she attracted her share of detractors with her outspoken enthusiasm and self-promotion. There were also many, many and supporters as she competed her way into the record books and fought for recognition of the sport she loved.

Everyone has a story and how that story is told is dependent on who tells it and why. Michael Gordon interviewed extensively for this biography and often uses direct quotes from sources in building a picture of the life of champion surfer. There are accounts from Beachley’s family, friends and supporters but also from competitors, sponsors and commentators.

Elite athletes are viewed as public figures, in much the way that movie stars are. It’s difficult for them to maintain a private life or to control how they are perceived in the media. Their training for this public life is seldom as complete as the training for their sport. For example, the meeting of 26 year-old Layne Beachley with her birth mother was coloured by the media as well as by the personalities involved. Beachley’s diary entries bring the reader close to her emotions as she travels the professional surfing circuit, while others give perspective to her sometimes harsh self-assessments. There is much here for the aspiring professional surfer, or any other athlete, as well as for the reader wanting to understand more about one of Australia’s best known surfers.

Layne Beachley: Beneath the Waves, Michael Gordon
Ebury Press 2008
ISBN: 9781741667288