Jack Auburn isn’t your typical 24-year-old surfer, bleached and browned by the coastal sunshine. Throughout his childhood, he spent countless hours outside under the wide country sky mucking around in runnelled crop fields and climbing trees. He’s grateful that not much has changed, although the handfuls of country dirt that used to run through his fingers has been replaced with sand. Now, instead of coming home covered in dirt, tree sap and scrapes, he ends most days covered in coffee grounds, ocean salt and paint.
Jack wouldn’t admit to being an adult but he would say that he’s grown. His childhood curiosities have developed into more refined and practiced interests. He’s gone from making messy dirt pies to crafting the perfectly balanced cup of coffee. His pencils and chalk have been substituted by oil and watercolour paints, a blank canvas an improvement on his square of cement footpath.
Jack’s creativity started young but he says it wasn’t until he was surrounded by the street art of the city that he knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. ‘I wanted to make something bright, something beautiful. Something that when someone looks at it their mind goes blank and races at the same time.’ He humbly argues that he hasn’t reached this level yet, but if the walls of the surf shop he works in are anything to go by, I think the public would disagree.
Surrounded by his painted energy and the smell of freshly ground coffee, sun soaked customers fill the milk crate benches of the local surf shop. Behind the counter, Jack nods his head to the music while he froths a jug of milk with one hand and grabs a cup with the other. Just by watching him, you know that when he says he wouldn’t change a thing you can be sure it’s true.
Jack has never felt guilty about moving off the farm, stating that ‘Where we start is not always where we end up.’ Taking joy in the little things like spotting whales from his balcony, his coffee-scented clothes or seeing his work up on walls, Jack wouldn’t live life any other way. A country childhood gave him the time to become a strong young man. But it was a coastal city that gave him the space to grow.