Sam has been an avid surfer since he was just a little fulla – seven years old, to be precise. Born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, he lived at Cundalee mission till he was about six. He then lived in Perth, which is where he started surfing.
Growing up close to the beach turned out to be a huge advantage for the young Sam. “It seemed like a natural progression to take up surfing.”
Sam has been surfing for over 30 years now and has the moves to prove it. Most recently he came first in the men’s open division of the Wardandi Indigenous Surf Classic, held at Injidup Beach near Busselton in October.
“I was happy and proud to win the competition,” says Sam. “I have been competing in it for several years, but this is the first time I’ve actually won!”
The powers that be must have been smiling on Wardandi, for conditions were perfect with waves of up to four feet rolling in. “The sun shone and offshore winds blew all day,” says Sam.
One of the great things about the Wardandi Indigenous Surf Classic is that it’s a friendly competition with a strong community focus. Most competitors are good mates and the atmosphere is fun and convivial. “There is great camaraderie among competitors. We always wish everyone well.”
Sam has two boys – Cohen, seven, and Yagan, eight – whom he hopes will one day turn out to be as fond of the surf as he is. “At the moment they just enjoy going down to the beach and mucking around on their boogie boards,” he says.
As a young fulla, Sam used to surf against some of Australia’s all-time champions including Tom Carol, Shane Horan and Jim Banks.
“In my early days I won the first state schoolboys surf championship in the under 16 division. I was the only Aboriginal competitor and really the first Aboriginal representative surfer in Australia.”
Surfing isn’t the only sport at which Sam has excelled. He played Australian rules for South Fremantle for three years, making a number of A-grade appearances during that time.
But surfing is where Sam Sadleir’s heart really lies. And as far as he’s concerned, he couldn’t think of a better way to spend his days.
“I’m pretty lucky to be a surfer,” he says. “It’s such a healthy lifestyle and it makes me feel real good. It’s hard to describe – only a surfer knows the feeling. It keeps you fit and out of trouble. All you have to do is get down to the beach and you can do it all day long. Every wave is so different.”