Justen “Jughead” Allport: Close Shaves
The term underground surfer is overused and under-appreciated. Those surfers that charge big waves, not for the exposure, the likes, or the money, but purely for the love, are a rare breed. We can’t think of a surfer that fits that bill better than North Shelly firefighter Justen “Jughead” Allport. For the last 20 years, Jug has put himself in some of the heaviest positions, on some of the heaviest waves in the world. He’s done it with equal measures of raw talent and recklessness while holding down a real job and raising a family. His fearless approach has seen him face some truly dangerous situations. And yet Jug always manages to scrape out of them. Sometimes hurt sure, but somehow alive. We asked Jug to talk through just a few of his closest shaves.
Trapped at Ghost Trees
This was back in 2005. I planned to surf Mavericks, but it was fogged out, so we decided to surf Ghost Trees (a rare big-wave spot that breaks off the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course in Monterey Bay). I landed in San Francisco from Oz that morning, but all my surfing gear was stashed up near Mavs. So I drove down to Ghost Trees and I borrowed a wetsuit and a mal and paddled out. My mate Skindog was already in the lineup on the ski. On the fourth wave, I kinda pulled into the tube on a big one, but got clipped, and couldn't get my feet out of the foot straps. I was underwater attached to a heavy tow board that was doing windmills. It broke my leg in four places. Within a few hours of getting off the plane, I was staring at a hospital room roof.
I was surfing Toowoon Bay, just near home, it's a fat right and was about two foot. I had my leash on my ankle, but under my wetsuit and it was snagged on a rock. The board was further out to sea, and I couldn’t get to my leg to take it off, because the swell was pushing me inwards, and I couldn’t get my head above water for any length of time. And the leggy just wouldn’t snap. I told the guys at O & E afterwards you are making them too strong. And finally, after what felt like 20 minutes, but was probably five, the whole plug ripped out of the board and I was free. I swear I thought I was going to drown, at home, in two-foot waves. I didn't know if I die of a drowning or embarrassment.
Torched at Tassie 2019
Shipsterns had been pumping, and I’d surfed all day. However mid-morning I got pressed on the reef and had done some damage to my back. Anyway, I was on the boat in the arvo and was pretty sore, but I didn’t want to seize up, and the boys were scoring. So, I grabbed the 6’4” and paddled out. I’d had two okay waves, and then a big set came. Sometimes those bigger ones cap a little further out and give you an easier entry, so I put my head down and paddled my arse off. But it just backed off and instead doubled up on the inside ledge. I was committed, but as soon as I stood up I was in the lip, so I decided to pin-drop it. However, halfway down the lip hit me in the head, threw me off-axis and I landed on my side.
I came up, spitting blood, and couldn’t even get on the rescue sled. Eventually, I got back to the boat, the last surfer in, but on the way back I was in so much pain. I stayed that night at Marty Paradis' place, but I was buckled and didn't sleep. The next day I got a flight to Sydney and drove my 12-seater bus back home to the Central Coast. That afternoon I took my daughter to TAFE, where she was training to be a nurse, and there was a hospital next door. Now I never, ever, take painkillers, but I was in so much pain I went in to get some. The doctor put on the stethoscope and after one listen said, “Well, you’ve punctured your lung," and asked how I did it?” I said surfing yesterday. He was like, "Where?" I said Tassie. He asked how did I get here? I said I flew, then drove. He said, "Well, that’s the worst thing you could have done, you are lucky to be here." I had an MRI and found out I had nine broken ribs, fractures on the T11 and T12 vertebrae, and two bulging discs as well. So that was that.
Shelved at Solander
The first time I surfed Ours, I took off, wiped out and got washed straight up on the rocks. I stood up on that shelf with the rock wall behind me and I was up to my ankles in water. Then an 8-to-10-foot wave broke ten yards right in front of me. At the time it was the biggest they’d surfed it. The Bra boys had surfed it a week before, about the same size, but this was a more east swell and gnarlier, so no one was surfing. Anyway, I just had to cannonball into the wave and then got pinballed through the rocks and eventually into deeper water. Later that arvo RichieVaculik sent me a photo of me on the rocks just before the wave hit with the caption, “You’re not supposed to stand there.” He was right.
Going Chicken at Cyclops
"It was around 2010 and I had surfed Cyclops the year before, but I went back with Paul Morgan, Brett Burcher and the photographer Russell Ord. We were the only ones there, and it looked six-foot, but you kind of knew it was bigger. We had two jetskis, and I was keen, but Morgs and Burch were like, "Nah, we ain't having anything to do with it." And I didn’t want to be a hero, but it was really glassy, and I knew it was pretty much unrideable, but there was the odd good one. But we were all uhming and ahhing.
Eventually, Ordy, was like, “Right, fuck this, I’ll shame you into it. I’ll go surf it”. So Burch and I went on the ski, with Burch driving, and decided to whip Russ into a couple. Morgs said he’d grab the camera and take a few pics from the channel.
Now Ordy is a big unit, he played rugby league to a really good level, and he took my board, which was way too low volume for him. The first one he let go of the rope too early and tried to pump my board to get down, but couldn’t. We had to bolt in to get him and just grabbed him seconds before the next wave came. He was like, “Get me another one.” I said, “Ordy, you are going to die.” He said, “Well, you pussies won’t surf it.”
The next one was even bigger, and he did the same thing again and let go of the rope too early. He had to pump to get into it, and then we saw him just disappear down into this vortex. I thought, “Well, that’s the end of him then." Then a few seconds later he just came with the spit way down in the channel. We couldn’t believe it.
We drove over and pulled straight up next to Morgs, who was checking the photos. Russ jumped on the ski, grabbed the camera and just started deleting all the images in the sequence saying they were too soft, or out of frame. I mean, it was probably the best wave ever ridden at Cyclops. I would have the shots blown up for the kitchen wall, no matter how out of focus they were.
So anyway, I had to go out after that. Birch whipped me into one, and I made the drop but it was sucking so hard that I dug a rail, and went over the falls and hit the reef and cut my knee open. So we bailed and it headed straight to the hospital.
It was funny because I had been at the same hospital the day before, getting 12 stitches in my ear after surfing another reef. The doctor, who was about 80, had told me not to surf for at least 10 days. On the way out of the docs though I had grabbed a latex glove cause I knew there would be waves the next day. For that Cyclops session, I put the glove on my head to stop the water from getting in. On the wave I caught the fingers were poking up at top so that I looked like a friggin chicken. Talk about a rooster! Anyway, the doctor asked how I'd cut my knee. I told him I did it surfing and he just blew up. We hobbled out in hysterics. Man, I’ll never forget it. Ordy was the hero that day."
Writer: Ben Mondy
Filmers: Alex van de Loo
Photography: Stu Gibson / Skids. / Alex van de Loo
Music: Nightcrawler - Takaicardia