John was born in Stirling. He came from a relatively wealthy family but at times was embarrassed about his parents having money. He rebelled through his music, and The Clash and The Damned were a huge influence on him. I’ve reflected this attitude in a very subtle textured anti-establishment symbol running under the white water on the wave in the painting.
John is Stevie’s older brother (also featured in the exhibition). When they moved to Australia, John
was really into skateboarding. It was an easy step for him to graduate to surfing at Blacksmiths beach on the New South Wales coast. His first board was a red twin fin which I’ve shown in the image of the surfboards along the bottom of the painting. John talked about how in Australia everyone used to store their boards underneath their houses which makes me think of the phrase ‘Down Under’.
The beach dominated his life. He was either surfing at dawn, hanging out at the beach shop playing pin ball, eating burgers or regrettably having to go to school. John became so much a part of the scene that he ran the Nine Mile Board Riders Surf Club for four years, organising competitions, surf trips and events. He loved the lifestyle, the parties, time at the beach, camaraderie, community and adventures.
When he moved to the Bar Reef Rats Surf Club the scene became more competitive and he enjoyed it less, but he still talks warmly of his time in Australia. The text running down the side of John’s hoodie says Bar Reef Rats and has the Nine Mile Board Riders logo, similar to his brother Stevie’s painting.
John returned to Scotland in 1989 to help look after his mother and worked for the family’s quarry business which became a big part of his life and is reflected in the text that runs down the side of his hoodie.
Once back in Scotland John didn’t surf as much until Stevie moved to Lewis and he started to make trips up to see him. As these trips became more regular, his dad Wallace bought a house in Guershader which became a surf bachelor pad. It’s here that he met Chrissie over a romantic game of table tennis. The reference to this time in Guershader can be seen on John’s shoulder.
Chrissie became an even bigger attraction, so he found a work life balance by working in Kilsyth during the week and travelling back to Lewis at the weekend. John proposed to Chrissie on a late-night session in the Harris Motel and they married in 2010. There is a reference to Chrissie and the Harris Motel in text on John’s shoulder.
John said what makes surfing in Lewis so special is ‘the vibe in the water’. His favourite break is Bragar when it is double overhead on a crisp autumn day.