Above: ‘L.A. Bob was a well-loved Northern Beaches character who lived out of his van for over 30 years. All images from the film ‘Home’, by Frost Films, on Vimeo.
The Northern Beaches community is grieving the drowning death of a local surfing icon, best known simply as “Bob”.
An unconventional character who lived out of his van parked at the Avalon headland for more than 30 years, Bob was also known as “LA Bob”, because of his love for surfing the Little Avalon break every day.
The 62-year-old local identity had a reputation as a kind and unique character and a free spirit, with an undying love for the ocean. His fame went far and wide last year after his story was captured in an award-winning short documentary by filmmaker Spencer Frost, titled Home. The film won Newcastle’s short surf-film festival Fisher Flicks in 2017, and was the Vimeo Staff Pick of 2017.
Home is a bittersweet film to watch after Bob’s tragic death, which reportedly happened around 8:50am this morning.
It is believed that Bob’s legrope got hooked on the reef, trapping him under the water. Channel Nine reports that Surf Life Saving NSW don’t know if Bob suffered a medical episode in the water. Although other surfers pulled him out and began CPR before paramedics arrived and took over, he could not be revived.
The film Home portrays Bob as a man who hit hard times in his mid-life. Married at age 20, he had a child, but divorced at age 26, and then travelled the world until his money ran out. He was left in financial hardship and unable to afford rent.
“I decided to live in the carpark,” he said.
Bob worked doing physical labour between 10 and 30 hours a week to earn a living, and surfed the rest of the week. Most of his friendships came through surfing, which he described as a great “leveller”.
And he loved his van-life.
“I’ve been called crazy on a number of occasions, mainly by some of the younger kids that see [me] living in the van,” he says in the film. “I choose to live like this. I like living in the van.
“I don’t have any regrets… about how it’s ended up. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing… there’s probably things I could change obviously, but I think I’ve had a great life. Yeah, I’ve had a great life. I’m comfortable, I’m happy in myself, I’m really content in my life.
“I’m parked on the ocean all the time, I wake up in the morning and get out and smell the salt air, and listen to the waves. I don’t need to go anywhere. Many people turn up every day here to sit on the headland and read their book and watch the ocean for hours at a time. But I’m always here.”
Bob was a man who believed happiness is something you develop from within, and described the ocean as his “joy” and his “happiness on many levels”.
“It sets challenges both physically and mentally, especially in times of stress,” he said. “If life is stressing me out in different ways, you can jump in the ocean and float around, and any troubles, any problems, just seem to float away from me. Just lying back, enveloped in that water, it’s just a great feeling.”
“How good is life?
“Once I saw the ocean I’ve never been able to look away from it… and I’ll continue to live next to it until I die.”
According to Surfing World Magazine, Bob shaped his own surfboards specifically to surf Little Avalon, and he said to have taught many local children how to surf.
Nine News reports that Avalon locals gathered at the beach today and laid flowers on Bob’s van in his memory.