Andy Marr is basically a smile in a wetsuit. At least that’s what I remember of the days paddling out at big Dunes, trying not to get pinched between the Atlantic and the sandbar and seeing this big grin paddling towards me to say howzit. That’s Andy Marr in his happy place. The heaving Dune. Friendly, affable, stoked you made it. Hooting you into and out of waves. Cackling maniacally with the uncontained joy and excitement of the whole experience.
*Cover Image – Alan van Gysen/ Issue 43.5, The Senses Issue. Missing out on quality Zag content? There’s a simple fix, become a subscriber now.
There’s no jostling with Andy, if you want the next wave, just call it. If it’s his, you’ll know. And when it’s on, he is too. In the last decade he’s paddled some of the heaviest water the South Atlantic has kotched up on Cape Town’s reefs. No stickers on the board. A reputation that stretches from Waimea to Dungeons and beyond, for all the right reasons. Being nice, generous to strangers and, of course, charging balls deep on the biggest days, no question.
Was Andy Marr always like this? Or like Obelix did he fall in a cauldron of the magic potion as a lightie?
Well if you call a gnarly car accident a cauldron. 5 November 1994. Between Knysna and Plett, Andy Marr drove, at high speed, straight into a truck, jack-knifed across the road.
“Broken ankle, hand, collarbone, cheekbone. 3 plates, 6 pins, 27 screws.” He says matter of factly. It was a turning point, for sure. But it’s hard to imagine Andy Marr as anything but nice. “I used to be quite a fighter in my youth.” And he cackles his cackle. “You know, boarding school. Full of testosterone, sexually frustrated… young people!”
“I went from 76 to 63kg. Very fragile. Flicked over by a gust of wind. Cruising around in my wheelchair… At 20 you think you’re going to live forever. The whole world is ahead.” The accident was a big reality check. “You never know if you have another minute.” He says. “The rug can get pulled out from under you. So don’t be a doos.” That became his mantra. “Well at least try not to be a doos.” He laughs.
“The doctor said, ‘You might walk, but you’ll never surf again.’ So I set my intention and thought, you’ll see. It took a while but I was back in the EP team by 1997.” At the end of 1998, Andy finished his three-year marketing diploma at PE Tech and went to Hawaii to surf Waimea, paying for the stint by working as a carpenter. The rest is history.
For the last 10 years, Andy’s kept a log of every session. Although he’s let it slide lately. “I read back and a lot of stuff seemed a bit subjective.” He laughs. “I tried to keep it factual, but surfing’s become therapeutic, just being in the seawater, breathing that oxygenated air. So I’ve shifted from making it a high-performance thing to a type of therapy. You know, just to keep the smile on your dial.”
Still charging? “Sometimes work gets in the way.” He laughs. “But I generally try stay fit enough to have a fighting chance. And if you feeling spoeked you can go and do water safety. If it’s 25 foot and onshore, I can say it’s not for me.”
And how about navigating Cape Town’s growing surf scene? “It has changed. It depends on how people behave in the water.” Do they recognise the key figures? Guys like Mickey Duffus, Simon Lowe and Pierre De Villiers. We sometimes have to bark.”
I can’t imagine Andy barking at anyone. “Well if they’re naughty.” He chuckles.
The stoke personified by Andy Marr is the pinnacle of good taste in surfing. We should all be a bit more like Andy.