IAIN "Ratso" Buchanan, the former Cronulla pro surfer who became head judge of the world professional (ASP) tour in Europe, returned to Cronulla on the weekend to celebrate winning the world ASP Masters title.
The New Zealand-born Buchanan, 50, recently managed to topple Australia's former world open surf champion, Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew, to win the world masters title.
While he was crowned last week in Queensland, his old Cronulla friends decided to also toast his success at Cronulla's Amodus Cafe on Saturday — and make him a life member of the Cronulla Boardriders Club.
After settling in Cronulla in 1979 the teenaged Buchanan became one of several good surfers to emerge out of the newly-formed club, including eventual world champion Mark Occhilupo.
"We always had some good rivalry, and one year I finished second to "Occy" in the Coke [Coca-Cola] trials and another local, Sean Charters, finished fourth," he recalled.
"That was just to qualify for the main event where I finished fifth. That was 1984, and proved my best. I finished 36th on the world tour."
Buchanan supplemented some meagre tour earnings by making and shaping boards, both in Cronulla and Manly, before eventually becoming a tour judge.
He says the standard of surfing continues to rise on tour, in both men's and women's events, adding that the ASP has used the latest technology to allow surf competition around the world to become much more "accessible and easier to watch".
"I've noticed each year the [surfers'] manouevres continue to go up a notch . . . and the best guys come to the front," he said.
However, Buchanan said veteran and 11-time world champion, Kelly Slater, who is competing in the Quiksilver Pro contest on the Gold Coast, continued to be the "best all-round surfer" on tour.
"The guy might be 40 but he still has the balls to go out and tame the monster waves of places like Teahupoo, Tahiti and Hawaii consistently, and perform well wherever he competes," he said.
Buchanan returned briefly to his home city of Christchurch in February last year, and was there when the devastating earthquake hit.
"It was shocking, tragic; the city will take years to rebuild," he said.
Unlike their residents, Buchanan's "home" most of each year continues to be on tour, but he returns to Sydney and Christchurch where he can catch up with his family and friends.