Each year, Southend Boardriders hosts the Paul Baxter Shield. Open to any surfers (aged 14+), the event format is tag team, with surfers surfing on retro single and twin fin boards or softies, catching a couple of waves and then returning to the sand to tag a team mate and send them out in the water for their turn. The winning team is recorded on the perpetual surfboard trophy. The day is open to the public and always includes a healthy dose of music, food, prizes, fancy dress and shennanigans.
So who was Paul Baxter?
Some of the older members (and Mums and Dads of the younger ones) were good friends with the late Paul Baxter and by everyone’s account he was a great guy and an absolute freak (in the good sense).
One of the Animal’s buddies was John Seminara. “Paul Baxter was one of a kind. His nick name was the animal and he lived up to it in everyway possible. I remember once he was fishing in his kayak out from the heads at La Perouse and was upturned by a baby whale. With his kayak gone, he had to swim back to land which took him something like 8 hours, most of it in the dark. He would bodysurf South Point at Malabar and out at the reef at Southend.”
He was the type of guy that would hitch hike to Perth with no money just a singlet a pair of boardies on and a pair of thongs with his trusty black dog. Once he rode an old school push bike with no gears all the way up to Byron Bay.
When he was a garbo, he would work all winter in just a pair of boardies, a singlet and thongs while everyone else would be cold wearing their footy jumpers and trackies.
He cured himself of sickness by going into the bush and living off bush tucker. Paul was going to Bali in the early 70s, he would stay up in the hills with the old Balos and was known as the best story teller of all time.
He was actually an optometrist by trade, he was also a Green Beret and a black belt in karate – he was just an all round bullshit guy. He was cutting down a tree once with an axe and hit his leg, he needed about 12 stitches but instead of going to hospital, he stitched himself up. I could go on all night, he was just a top bloke, a classic guy – a one of a kind.”
Surfing NSW CEO Mark ‘Winny’ Windon was another of the Animals mates. “Paul Baxter aka The Animal – Hard to know where to start – he was a great guy – exceptional waterman and a friend for life if you were lucky. All the older guys – Clubby, Fish, Stag, myself would all have a good story on the Animal.
I can’t remember what year – but it was Easter – maybe 75/76 – possibly earlier. We had a good swell just before Easter, hanging around for a few days, the reef had been cranking around 6ft plus. Clubby and I paddled out before dawn on Easter Friday – it was still good. Two of us sitting in the line up – we were pretty stoked being the first two out. When out of nowhere a voice says – “You two clowns going to catch any waves?”.
The animal had been out since about 3am body surfing – Yeh- body surfing with the full moon. Scared the absolute crap out of us. He epitomised the surfing free spirit.”
To see some of the photos of how a Paul Baxter Shield surf comp goes down, check out…