JOHN Cruickshank remembers well the freedom he felt at 11 when he grabbed a bodyboard and headed to Newcastle Beach with his brothers.
"It was our escape from reality, you know, a single-parent family, not much money, we'd get $2 to spend for the weekend and surf," he says.
"My brothers were already professional bodyboarders and it was scary for me because I felt that expectation on me. But I just got in, caught waves and didn't worry."
Mr Cruickshank went on to compete with his brothers and now he and his wife Sarah's three sons are tearing up the national circuit.
This year Hayden won the under 16's title, Brandyn, 14, took out the groms age group.
Not to be outdone, a video clip of up and comer Jaxon, 8, went viral.
Mr Cruickshank, meanwhile, came second in the Opens category.
Pioneers of Newcastle's small but passionate bodyboarding community, the Cruickshanks have relocated their D5 Body Board Shop from Warners Bay to Glebe Road at Merewether.
"We wanted to put body boarding back in front of everyone," Mr Cruickshank says of the prime location.
"Here it's easier for everyone to stop in."
The store relaunch was attended by Hawaii-based Mike Stewart, nine-time World champion bodyboarder who is widely considered the "god father" of the global bodyboarding movement.
It was Stewart, after all, who first put the wheels in motion for the Cruickshanks to consider opening their original store in 2011, when he asked Mr Cruickshank to be a rep for his brand (Stewart's boards can be found in store).
"We had people queuing around the corner to see him and he signed boards for four hours," says Mr Cruickshank of his friend.
The new store has stock for all ages and sizes and the Cruickshanks say that the quality of their boards is superior to any department store. In addition, they walk the talk when it comes to fitting and plugging (or fitting the leashes) of their boards.
While surfers are limited by wave conditions, body boarders can ride pretty much anytime, anywhere.
"The entry level is easy - you catch your first wave and you get hooked," says Mr Cruickshank.
"Then at the [competition] end of the sport, it's insane - you're like an acrobat with all the aerial moves."
The family's passion for the sport - often captured by Mrs Cruickshank and shared on their social media - is clear and remains strong.
"It's like a reset button - as soon as you get in the water, your worries fall away. You're out there and it's just you and water. It's really simple," Mr Cruickshank says.
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