What do Madonna, Whoopi Goldberg, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Adrian “Ace” Buchan have in common? They’re all celebrities to varying degrees, and they all can claim authorship to a children’s book. We won’t comment on the first three, but we do have plenty to say about Ace. In an age when many professional surfers are more interested in their iPhones than their ability to change the world, Buchan’s doing his part to make a difference. Even if it’s with a story he first wrote when he was 10. Here Ace tells us about his first venture in publishing: Macka’s Barrel Into the Dreamtime, launching April 30.
What inspired a guy who’s one of the world’s best surfers to write a children’s book?
Well, since I was a kid, my dad – who’s an English teacher — has always encouraged me to read and write and use my brain. I actually wrote the original version of this story when I was in Year 5 in primary school. So, I was, like, 10 years old. It for a project assignment, and it was one of those things where I’d use the same story and just twist it a little bit for other projects, you know. And it just kinda grew like that. My dad always said we should try and get it published and eventually we made it happen.
Is the illustrator, Anthony Williams, a friend?
Yeah. He’s someone I met at our boardriders club at home in Avoca. He’s a local guy, loves surfing, kind of a struggling artist, you know. He did some great stuff for the book and we’re stoked he’s a part of it.
Will this generate some big press back home?
Um, hopefully, yeah. Look: I never did this as a money-making exercise. It was just fun and I had a lot of fun writing it as a kid. I think the story is relevant for young kids – the themes are common themes we all face. Hopefully people like it. It’s basically for the groms. Hopefully they pick it up and are stoked.
What’s the premise of the story?
It’s about a young, white Australian boy who lives in the outback and there’s a really bad drought. Strangely enough, Australia’s in a really bad drought at the moment so it’s pretty timely. He lives on a farm with his parents and they’re struggling to survive so he leaves the farm with his cattle dog. He goes on a mission, travels through the bush, and starts to see all the devastation, the deforestation. One night he has a dream of an elder aboriginal appearing in the fire, telling him that he’s on a mission to save the planet. There’s definitely a magical realism element to the story. He ends up meeting an aboriginal boy and they take a journey through the outskirts of Sydney and the kind of impact the city’s having on the land. The smog, the pollution and everything else that goes along with it.
They eventually travel south to Jervis Bay, better known as the Aussie Pipe. It’s there where they learn to surf, hang with the aboriginal kids and really get in tune with nature. In the end, they meet the aboriginal elder he dreamt of.
When I was a kid, I went to the Aussie Pipe for the first time. I walked through the rainforest, surfed these perfect waves, hung with the aboriginal kids in the area. I just thought it was a really cool thing, that a place could be so untouched and pristine and so close to the city. It was a cool experience and that sprouted the idea for the book.
So maybe that elder has shown up in your dreams, as well. Surfers have still got a lot of responsibility to lead the way environmentally. We spend so much time in the ocean and we rely on the environment to make us happy, you know. As far as the aboriginal thing: it’s just something we as a people need to address in this country. We have a lot to learn from them.
What’s next? The Great Australian novel?
I don’t know. I do enjoy picking up a pen every now and then. But it’s not every day that I feel really inspired to write. I enjoyed it when I was in school, especially with my dad’s influcede. But if the book is received well, maybe I’ll have to start thinking about a sequel.
Sounds good. By the way, what was the grade you got on Macka’s Barrel back when you wrote the original story?
Um…I don’t know. I’d have to dig it out. But I think I did OK.