Mary Prince 1 by Mary PrinceAustralian National Surfing Museum
Family sits at the heart of the surfing experience for Surf Coast grandmother Mary Prince.
"I was surfing before I can remember” says Mary who started surfing with her brothers as a young child. “My brothers say that I was surfing before I was old enough for school. I don’t recall anyone teaching me how to surf, I just followed my brothers and did what they did.”
Mary, who grew up and went to school in Melbourne recalls “I couldn’t wait to get to the beach, they were the happiest times of my childhood.”
Morris Minor on the Great Ocean Road above Apollo Bay (1966) by Mary princeAustralian National Surfing Museum
The support within her family also extended to Mary’s father. “He was really keen that his daughters had a go at everything.”
Mary’s dad was a chemical engineer who did some experimental work with blow moulded surfboards in the 1960s. When they could, the family would head off down the coast.
“We had a holiday house at Point Roadknight and every chance we would get the car would be loaded up with children, dogs and other animals and we would head off to Anglesea.”
Mary Prince Vintage Wetsuit (1976) by Mary PrinceAustralian National Surfing Museum
Having her own family presented greater opportunities for Mary to share her love of surfing.
“My kids were all standing on surfboards when they were still in kinder.” says Mary who has gone on to teach her grandchildren to surf as well.
Mary also got to spend time surfing with some of Victoria’s greatest surfers, Wayne Lynch, Gail Couper and Alan Atkins. “Our families would often get together at the beach which helped if there was a contest to be organised.”
Mary Prince 3 (1967) by Mary princeAustralian National Surfing Museum
Although concerned that surfing with her kids (and grandchildren) would be seen by some as being uncool, Mary is finding a growing acceptance and respect in the water when people discover she is both a grandmother and a surfer.
“I was out surfing at Snapper Rocks and young surfers were paddling up to me and asking how old I was, and saying how cool it would be if they could surf with their parents.”
On aging as a surfer Mary says, “You have to age gracefully or bail out.”
Mary Prince 5 (2011) by Mary PrinceAustralian National Surfing Museum
Mary recently took delivery of a new 6 foot 2 inch quad fin. “I have a quiver of surfboards that range from 6 foot to 8 foot, boards for all occasions, I always have 3 boards in the car. That way I always have the right equipment for different conditions.”
Even as a 58 year old, Mary maintains the enthusiasm of a teenage grommet, with a car full of boards and some great West Coast waves only a few minutes away.
“The most important thing in surfing is getting in the water, challenging yourself, and having fun.”
Surfers Their Stories: Mary PrinceAustralian National Surfing Museum