Mike Di Sciascio has deep roots in Torquay’s surfing history.
Moving to the coastal town as a teenager, Mike landed a job as a shaper with Strapper – which has been making surfboards in Torquay since the 1960s – soon after and eventually became owner of the business in the late 1980s.
Now director of Strapper, Mike still shapes surfboards and the company remains a fixture of the local surf industry, with its headquarters and surfboard factory in Torquay and retail outlets in Geelong, Ocean Grove and Aireys Inlet.
My Coastal Home visited Mike and his partner Jenny (pictured top right) at their Jan Juc home, which recently hosted WSL surfers and locals for the Hurley Team Strapper party (seen in the “Tall fescue grass” picture).
I was born in Bendigo and then I moved to Geelong, and then when I was 15, left school and left home and moved down here. Basically, all I wanted to do was go surfing.
I’ve been partners with Jenny for six years. My ex-wife and I had two children: Koko’s 20, Lily’s 18, and they’re both at university. I’ve got four brothers and a sister. Surfing, Torquay and family have been very good to me. From my point of view, there’s a responsibility from that: I’ve had really good success, so you’ve got to not just be a taker but be a contributor.
I started working at Strapper (in 1979) and I ended up buying the business (in 1989) – I’ve always worked hard but I worked really hard then, I embraced the change and took on new challenges. I did an extreme amount of travel in the ‘90s – some for surfing but mostly work – and your vision just goes like that (spreads arms) and you start to see over the horizon rather than being stuck in the time you’re in, and that really was the university degree I didn’t have.
Torquay when the Rip Curl Pro is on
There’s nowhere like it, and it’s still really small, really tight, really community-focused – even today was (during the men’s and women’s finals). We were in the Rip Curl stand today, and I’m looking around and 80 per cent of the faces, I might not have known the faces, because there’s younger crew, but everyone there I could go “oh yeah, that person’s there, that person’s there”. The whole surf community here is really small, and everyone knows everyone.
I was going to say 90 per cent, but it’s probably 100 per cent surfing-related. We don’t do much (outside surfing), other than the snow. We snowboard at Hotham; I’ve been snowboarding for over 20 years.
Torquay Boardriders Club life membership
I’ve been part of the club since the ‘80s. I was president for three or four years, and made a life member in 2000. It’s a huge honour. Some of the things that are in the Boardriders now, like the life memberships and the Australia Day single fin comp, all started when I was president. The club was in a bit of a transition phase (at the time) and we held it together.
My brother had a trade as boilermaker, got a couple of degrees, then reinvented himself as a winemaker and is doing really well. Valentino was my dad, and his nickname was Wally. I’ve got some of these bottles dating back to 2004. Some of these vintages, only family can get. These are not worth a cent, but they’re worth everything to me.
I’ve got a bit of a thing about trees. We have a Norfolk pine in the back yard, and another one in the front yard. It was here 50 years ago, so it’s really old. In Australian beach culture, Norfolk pines are part of it. My whole thing is surf, beach and lifestyle, that’s number one; and the tree ties into it.
These are just my boards. I use two or three all the time, but all of them I use, and I’ll never sell any of them. You know Bells ’81, when it was the really big swell? I rode that (the board he’s holding) when I was 16 at Winkipop, and I was the second or third guy in the water, which is kinda scary when you look at the board. Most of these are current – these are to surf, the collectibles are in storage.
Tall fescue grass
It’s 95 per cent tall fescue. The grass here undulates and it mirrors my memory of Torquay Caravan Park when I was 15 or 16. With the house, having a yard was really important, so the smallest part of the house is the ground floor. You do stuff (to the lawn) weekly, but it’s not a lot of effort, it’s pretty fun – except for when the Jan Juc Grass Growers Guild comp is coming up. I’m a three-time winner for this size of lawn (small lawn under 200 metres) in a row.