Steve Parker was born in Melbourne in 1977. Shortly thereafter he was put up for adoption and did not meet his mother until he was 11 years old. Steve grew up on Victoria’s east coast and called Phillip Island home. It was on the east coast, at the protected beach at Shoreham, that he was first introduced to surfing by his dad.
Steve Parker Indigenous Art (2010) by Steve ParkerAustralian National Surfing Museum
He was soon taking to the Island waves with his mates. Steve’s grandfather was from the Torres Straight Islands so for Steve, living on Phillip Island felt familiar, with ocean and the islands being in his blood.
“Identity is such a big thing, knowing where you are from is such an important part of our culture”.
Steve Parker Painted Quiver (2011) by Steve ParkerAustralian National Surfing Museum
Steve recalls his first surfboard as a chunky ‘S’ deck given to him by his dad and after surfing it briefly he stripped the glass of it and reshaped it. Those skills have now progressed to him making boards for himself and other surfers.
“I like shaping my own boards and the feeling of riding surfboards you have created yourself” he says. “I also get boards from some local shapers at Island Surfboards and guys like Howard Hughes in Aireys inlet”.
Steve hand paints the artwork on his surfboards, blending traditional indigenous designs with contemporary art to produce unique surfable art. Steve gets to put these boards through their paces, surfing the cool water and powerful swells that charge along the coast of Phillip Island.
Steve Parker 3Australian National Surfing Museum
Through surfing Steve has been reintroduced to his broader family and indigenous culture. Steve is the Indigenous Aquatics Officer for Surfing Victoria the states peak surfing organisation. The programs he manages see Steve travelling to various corners of the state and engaging communities and encouraging participation.
“It is important for people to be proud of who they are”, “the growing roster of events provides a great way for people to get involved”.
In 2012, Steve organised the running of the Australian Indigenous Surfing Titles (at Bells Beach) the first time the event has run after a gap of sixteen years. It was an event that was really well received and generated a lot of interest, which is a great result for Steve and other indigenous surfers as they celebrate the combination of their cultural heritage and surfing culture. Steve said “It was such an important event and something that will provide a great platform for us to move forward in the future”.
Surfers Their Stories: Steve ParkerAustralian National Surfing Museum