Opening image: Mick Lawrence – surfer, environmentalist, larrikin. A Tasmanian original. Photo Nick Green

Remembering Mick Lawrence: “I’ve Finally Found My Tribe”

Back on June 14, Tasmanian surfing lost a giant with the passing of Mick Lawrence. One of Tassie’s surfing pioneers, Mick led a rich surfing life and over the years became one of the island state’s most respected surfing elders. But Mick was also a writer, filmmaker, a bit of a renaissance man and in his later years, a passionate advocate for Tasmania’s wilderness. Mick led Surfrider’s Tasmanian branch in campaigns against salmon farming and seismic blasting. He featured in Surfrider’s film ‘Southern Blast’ but was as much a spiritual guide for the project and its young cast.


Surfrider’s Drew McPherson moved to Tasmania two years ago and spent much of those two years riding alongside Mick. He remembers his good friend here.

Mick was a key figure in the filming of Southern Blast and acted as a guide to as the production visited some of Tasmania’s wildest and most threatened corners. Photo Nick Green

“I met Mick Lawrence pretty much as soon as I moved to Tassie. I wish I'd met him years earlier, but I really just met him at the right time.

“Ally King – then-president of the Tassie Surfrider branch – called me. She had a heap of work on as a marine scientist and was scouting for someone to take over her role. She spoke to me about this guy, Mick, who she met at an event where she spoke about offshore oil and gas. Mick had been bowled over by it. He’d been working for Surfing Tasmania, but he'd never really heard much about this stuff. He'd also never seen somebody of Ally’s age speaking out about it, and Ally’s passion really bowled him over. Ally was like, ‘Hey, I've got this guy Mick. I think he’d be perfect to take over.’

“We were headed over to King Island to work on the seismic blasting campaign and we brought Mick over with us. He and I just hit it off straightaway. It was incredible. I guess it was perfect timing. At that point, we’d just started working on Southern Blast. We had Matty [Hannon], the director and I'd been picked to produce it, but I'm an environmental campaigner. I'd never produced a film in my life, so I was in the deep end. Then Mick showed up who’d been making films his whole life. I basically hit him up that weekend and he said, absolutely, I'd love to help. After King Island, I don't think a week went by where I didn't speak to him a couple of times.

“Mick lived around South Arm with his wife, Robin. I'd go and spend time and stay with him. It got to the stage that whenever I flew out of Hobart for work, I would drive to his house, leave my car there and he’d drive me to the airport. On the drive, I’d get the latest update on what's happening with salmon farms and everything else he was up to.

“What really inspired Mick was seeing young people standing up. He often said that he was sick of hanging out with this generation. He was bored and sick of them complaining about all this stuff that was happening in Tasmania and not really doing anything about it. He said that his generation and the generations before had stuffed it up for younger generations and he wanted to do everything he could to help them.

“The Tassie surf community adored him. I think those early Tassie surfing pioneers were pretty rough and pretty rogue. They weren't environmentalists to start off with, that's for sure. It was just their way of life. Mick’s got stories in his books where they’d burn tyres after a surf to stay warm. He told me it had taken him a whole life to become an environmentalist. But he was just so well respected. You ask anyone down there.

“He just figured that surfing had given him everything. The ocean had given him absolutely everything. He called himself a total surf bum. He goes to me, ‘Mate, all I did was surf. I didn't really do anything else.’ But obviously he did. He had a long career writing and filmmaking. He was super humble. He quit surfing a while back. He got one last perfect wave at one of the breaks down there. He got a couple of tubes and rode it all the way to the beach and just decided that was it. He hung it up.

“Matty and I used his Mick’s house as a base to shoot the film. We basically lived with each other for months. Every day we'd be up at ‘sparrows’ going out on these adventures, surfing and filming. You'd have moments where you're out in the water and it's pissing down rain and we’re in a tinnie all goofing around – everyone's under the age of 40 – and here’s Mick in the middle of it. I remember sitting there with him that day, and he just goes, ‘You know what? Today I realised I've finally found my tribe. It’s taken me my whole life, but I finally found my people.’

Leading the Tasmanian branch of the Surfrider Foundation, Mick was deeply engaged in the fight to stop the expansion of salmon farms around Tasmania. This image was taken during a visit to Flinders Island early last year. Photo SA Rips

“Mick didn't see himself as a turbo greenie, which is funny. He just loved that environment and was so connected with it. Mick had lost his son in an accident 10 years before I met him, and I know that he wouldn't have gotten through that without Tasmania and that environment. He basically just immersed himself in it. He got right into sea kayaking. He’d spend weeks out there. He’d go out to Port Davey with a kayak and a tent and just disappear for weeks on end. I think for him, the Tasmanian environment saved him and made him able to deal with life after losing his son. And then he just wanted to give back to that.

“His knowledge of Tasmania was so vast. It seemed he just knew everything about it. I would call him a couple times a week, whether it was to talk about winds or swells or currents or Tasmanian politics or anything. He just knew everything about Tasmania, and he just absolutely loved the place.

“He was an incredible man. He had this thing where every moment you spent with him felt special. You needed to cherish it and that's how it felt for me. And that's why I spent so much time with him. It felt important. You were just learning so much. He was so open to sharing knowledge. A lot of people especially in that generation have so much knowledge but aren’t connected with younger people, but Mick just wanted to share what he had. And for me, obviously making a film down there being an ocean conservationist, and then eventually moving down there, to have access to that knowledge, I learned things from him that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Things that have played a big role in shaping who I am.

“When I think of him now, I just think of his cheeky grin. He always had a cheeky grin. Last summer he’d come and hang out with us at the house at Koonya. We've got pianos and music gear set up and we’d be jamming, and he'd just be there hanging out with us the whole day with a beer in his hand and a big grin on his face. He just loved it. He just cherished life.”

Mick, on the Flinders Island trip with Heath Joske (left) and Dan Ross (right). Photo SA Rips

Opening image: Mick Lawrence – surfer, environmentalist, larrikin. A Tasmanian original. Photo Nick Green

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