Jock Serong’s Short History of… Mike Jennings

Surfing World Magazine, June 2015

shorthistorymike

Amid the current angst about dual citizenship, Surfing World Senior Editor Mike Jennings – ever the futurist – has taken a pre-emptive step. Rather than wait around for the Feds to knock, he’s renounced Team ‘Straya and will take up residence in the country our wise leasers call
Canadia”.

Emerging from the great tradition of Port Phillip Bay slopwhackers (whose ranks also include Claw, Singding, and Ted Bainbridge), Jennings grew up an avid North Melbourne fan (putting him in company with Tim Rogers, Ricky Ponting and almost nobody else). He bleeds blue and white (yes, that looks weird) – once appearing on Today Tonight as “Wayne Carey’s Biggest Fan” during one of the champ’s various scandals.

Mike Jennings found his love of surfing thanks to his dad Kevin; a marathon-running, ocean swimming legend, who would often pack young Mike, brother Joey, and mum Di in the car for family holidays to Phillip Island. That early history on Bloke’s Island gave Jennings a sceptical eye when it came to the beaches of Avalon: beneath that sartorially-pinpoint exterior roars a lustful belly that craves meat pies and kegs. Kev Jennings, by the way, is a surf history buff who’d held a copy of SW No.1 since release, and which he presented to Mike when he landed the job as Deputy Editor of the mag.

Teenage Mike was the deadly rakish aesthete who knew cool shit months before everyone else while his contemporaries listened to Limp Bizkit and Nu Metal, Jennings discovered Radiohead. While they read The Da Vinci Code he was quoting Ayn Rand and Vonnegut. He developed an acute sense of fairness as well, vehemently opposed to any sort of bullying, racism or homophobia, and capable of skewering the flimsy logic that backed such prejudices.

When Jennings the sensitive, intellectual surfer with the Michael Hutchence hair hit university, women attended lectures in droves in the hope of spying him across the auditorium. They never did. He was far too busy for classes: a one-man cultural revolution, contributing short pieces to his mates’ magazine, Spook. In a beret he was Che. Shirtless he was Jim Morrison in a white wine and fennel reduction. He couldn’t put a foot wrong.
In 2009 h, Jennings entered and won Little Weeds, a Stab initiative aimed at unearthing young surfing, photographic and writing talent. As winner, he got to edit an issue which gained instant national infamy for his cover design which featured… well, which pre-empted Bill Henson by several years.

Irresistible talent will eventually meet perfect opportunity, and in 2010, SW prepared to gobi-monthly to monthly, and the position of Deputy Editor was created. It was as though the role was created for Mikey Jennings: as he sauntered down the street to an interview with Reggae Ellis (poker face), Neil Ridgeway (wisdom of Solomon) and Vaughan Blakey (crippling hangover) one, or maybe all of them, muttered “who’s the hipster from Melbourne?” But Mikey just laid his chihuahua on the table and started directing the questioning.

Mike brought instant change to the magazine. Thoughtful, funny, fair and interesting articles weren’t new to Surfing World, but tucking to your t-shirt into your jeans and shaving only one side of your head certainly were. Two years in, he took the job as Coastalwatch Editor, bringing a literate and passionate flair to the ugly gaping wound that is the innernet media.

Despite flagrantly cruising the internet all day in search of gifs and cat memes, Mike was rewarded with a new role as Senior Editor of SW. And there he penned probably the most important and best story of his career on Otis Carey, the indigenous surfer who called out the latent racism of the Australian surf community when he took on a surf magazine over its racially insensitive comments. It was a stand up or look away moment, and Mikey Jennings stood tall.

The Canadians will take a while to adjust to his brilliance, his lovable eccentricities and his propensity to down tools when it’s firing. As for the man, he’ll need little excuse to get loose in the juice with the moose. – Jock Serong

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