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New Guinea '76
By Drew Kampion

Back from Bali, Steve [Valiere] went to the Australian immigration office with his expired visa. "I said I wanted to be a resident, and they asked, 'What can you offer our country?' And I said, 'Well, I'm a laborer.' I just had turned 21, and they just went, 'Okay'--ka-chunk! [Stamped!] It was different times; people just before and after me were getting turned away."

Valiere parlayed his new residence visa into a surfer's dream life. His friend Greg Strickland was back from J-Bay and shaping boards at Noosa, and Valiere was happy to leave the life of a laborer behind as the two set up a surf shop on an island across the river from the Tewantin pub. He glassed and Stricko shaped. There was plenty of work around--sanding, laying up and grinding fins and polishing boards; he also glassed for Bruce McKean, Darrell "Rooster" Dell, Bruce Vincent, and Kevin Platt. And for awhile, he had steady work blowing blanks and gluing up stringers for Clark Foam--the usual stuff for a surf traveler.

The two friends would work a few months, then fly up to Port Moresby. Valiere found New Guinea "unimaginably primitive," and completely irresistible. "I was in Bali in '73," he says, "and the waves were perfect (and still are), and I ended up going to New Guinea year after year instead. So that's how good the surf in New Guinea is." Renting some sort of beater in Moresby, they explored the coast, traveling from village to village as far as the Indo border; they found plenty of quality waves.

Up in the Owen Stanley Range he saw "natives lathered in pig grease, their shiny black skin covered in tattoos and dyed welts, a big horn for their cock, ass grass and stuff…oh my god, it was trippy!" Once, they passed a road crew, and there's this guy with a stop-go sign in one hand and a spear and bow and arrow in the other -- and it's cold up there, too! He's got no clothes on. I met people that were cannibalistic in their days and maybe their father or grandfather still was."

Valiere spent four years in Noosa making side trips to New Guinea, and then…well, the worm turns. "Year after year, Stricko and I were going up there, living in the villages with the native people, but it was unsettling for the guys working in town--the guys wearing knee socks--the Brits, the English, the Australians. Although they were a pretty liberal group on the whole, there was also this kind of bureaucratic vibe. What we were doing was really sloppy--we'd come out of the surf and drive into town in our rusted-out pickup truck in our sarongs with a truck full of New Guinea people, and we'd pull up to the market place, spend a couple bucks fillin' our truck with bananas, potatoes, tobacco and dried fish, and head back out into the bush. They didn't like it. It challenged their thing, which was white and black--the whites were runnin' the deal, and they tolerated us for awhile because they thought we were cute."

Read "The Arful Life of Steve Valiere" in its entirety in the TSJ archives.