Local surfing legend Lee Winkler has had a flourishing career, and He’s competed as part of the world championship tour. We explore Lee’s lifestyle …
You’re a born and bred local. What do you love about this area?
I love the ability to be able to have a diverse approach to my lifestyle here, and there is everything from white sand beaches, waterfalls and rainforests to a fresh hamburger or quality fine dining.
The people are much the same, as you will find all types of characters here, and it is every sense a relaxed atmosphere when socialising.
I’m a surfer at heart, though and love the beaches, which I need in my diet every day. So with loads of beaches, I can have it in a social sense with other surfers, or I have no problem finding a wave on my own, with no soul around.
I believe the city and surrounding suburbs offer similar elements in this diverse way – and that’s cool. And although it does not have the hustle and bustle culture of a major city with the strapping lights and major events, we do have our own chilled blend the way we like it.
> You’ve been surfing for most of your life. What is it about surfing that drew you in?
I have been surfing now near 25 years and when I look back at those years, I have been driven by the friendships, anticipation, art, nature, health, travel , career, adventure, creation and this may sound trippy, but the list goes on.
Surfing to me is a lifestyle – not a hobby, career or a sport that I do. I’m 100 percent committed to the ocean and all these experiences that come with it.
> You’ve surfed in some of the biggest comps beside the likes of Kelly Slater and Mark Occhilupo. What’s the most memorable experience or place you’ve come across in your travels?
The likes of Kelly Slater and Occy – it was a childhood dream to surf with them, and it’s something I will cherish and share with my kids. And I have countless experiences that are so insane. So just let the mind wander … and that was most likely the outcome of my best overseas experiences.
> Tell us about some of the biggest achievements of your career.
The biggest achievements in my career in the competition picture was qualifying for World Championship Tour in 2002 and coming runner-up at the Rip Curl World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach in Hawaii in my first year.
In the big picture, surfing on the World Tour and going to childhood dream destinations and surfing the best waves in the world with just your friends really does exceed any trophy – so they are the real highlights.
> How did the recent tragic passing of Andy Irons impact upon and unite the surfing community?
Andy Irons passing was a tragic physical end to a magnificent human being, and to be honest, his passing still fills a lot of my daily thoughts today.
The world surfing community, I believe, has never witnessed a sheer warmth of love and respect for one of their own like Andy received, and our wishes and thoughts go out to his wife Lindy, newborn son and family.
> You’ve used your love of the water to launch your own surf school here on the Coffs Coast. Tell us about the business.
The Surf School has opened up a lot of relationships within the community for me, and that is without a doubt the most special part of the business.
Working with kids is something I cherish, and I see myself working with kids in some capacity, whatever career choices I make during my lifetime.
It suits my lifestyle a lot, the Surf School, and it’s amazing to see the dedicated students develop into quality surfers and get captured by the culture.
> Thank you Lee.