“Salt Water Dancing”

by Samia Goudie

Rosellas, that flashing green, tips of blue and yellow, finches, snappy little ones, kookaburra’s laughing on the cracked telephone pole, the one just out from the pot plant covered lime green deck.
That’s my morning opposite the beach at dawn.
‘Up and at ‘em, come on’, I call out to no-one in particular.  Singing as I push the dolphin blue covers off and snap up stretching high, on my tip toes, nearly touching the fresh white paint on the ceiling of my bedroom;
I sweep my arms down and around, dropping my body over and touching the ground.
Then out the door, kettle on the boil, tea leaves ready in the blue ceramic pot and that old enamel cup, that AUNT gave me. ‘Here love, did I give you one already’… ‘yep but now I have three ‘, ‘three to make proper tea in’, and then we’d laughed. ‘Proper tea, 2 bags, strong and black in an enamel cup, right’. Yeah, ‘Strong and black’. 

I laugh now at the memory; my cackle joins the kookaburras who are doing their morning job of waking us humans up. ‘Jingiwallah’, I say, as I greet the day, they sing to remind us to take care of country. That’s what I got told.
I pause, just for a moment like I’ve been taught, close my eyes and breathe deep. 


Now leaning over the balcony, I can see the headland to the left, shaped like a face if you look from my angle. Rocks below and ledges where at high tide it’s impossible to pass. You have to live with a place to know these things, know how to be. How to read the wind, the tide, the time of day, the smell of the coming of rains, what cockatoos mean when they come, or what it means if a sea hawk flies overhead. We need to know these things, not forget. Country needs to know our smell; know we are friends. That much I know.

At the low tide the rock pools offer up their colored stones and shells washed smooth. The marvel of them, there in clear still pools speak of endless deep time and faraway places that connect us all. The sea anemone black and blue, open and close, then open again, soft frills waving gentle, a slow fan dance. Then one solo fancy dance by a single simple blue curled sea worm, gone in a flash. 

Bright living sea beings hiding from prying fingers. 

Off to the horizon the sun is breaking across the ripples of swell, a wind just off shore, whisper soft, pulsing breath, an inhale, and then as if someone has pursed their lips, a slow long exhale, heartbeat, drum sounds, it’s there if you listen and feel. If you plant feet on the ground, its there.
We know this, right.
‘don’t forget ‘… ‘Yes Aunty’……. ‘don’t forget our ways, our languages, our medicines, our foods, hunting and gathering, ceremonies, don’t forget’.
But I already don’t know, can’t speak language, just bits of words, bits of medicine.
                                 Don’t forget, means learn.
It’s mid tide now and the waves are forming in sets. One … two … three …… then a curl rising, peaking, then crashing rolling and opening up with a clear glassy face, silver blue streaks reflected back from the fresh sunlight hitting the surface. Glimmering, clear. 

It’s calling to me. Time to do the surf ceremony. 

                                 Salt water dancing.

I drink my tea, warming up, and pull my board shorts up, the ones with the indigo pattern and my pink rashie, then barefoot with my sleek 7’ft mini mal under my arm I cross the road. Past the fish and chip shop, and then as fast as I can leaping with joy, straight down across the dry sand, till I stand on the shore.
I stand, wiggling my feet as they sink into the bubbling wet hard sand where the tidal marks have left their intricate carved lines, patterns, becoming, changing and disappearing.

 Air bubbles sparkle as pippies take in air announcing themselves, ‘maybe a good feed later, a stew, lemon and salt’ ….and then here’s the small balls of sand left as tiny white sand crabs run along leaving their trails, messages for those that know. Trails. Crab trails.

Pausing hand to cover my eyes I search from end to end. Headland to headland. Wind caresses my arm, just like a lover would and I feel something, something like, LIKE, like ……something unnamed.
                      I don’t have the word, just the feeling.

One … two … three … go, and I run board lifted and dive onto it, perfect, a dancer in tune with the moment, a dancer whose watched and listened and learned, like that.
‘don’t forget’.

In one smooth move I rise, catching the top of a breaking wave just making it over.
This is when I paddle and paddle fast. The next wave rolls in and I duck dive pushing the board down with my arms, and dive under the wave deep underneath into the stillness as the wave breaks rolling across the surface.
Then I rise again, sucking in, taking breath,
           again, and again.

Body straight, legs together, arms sweeping in perfect rhythm I’m now drawn out in the Riptide. I find a spot to lift myself up wards and sit, legs making small circles in the underneath, keeping me in place with the ebb and flow, just on the edge of the calm, past the break.

No one else is out yet. This is rare and when it happens, I feel blessed. ‘Thank you’, I yell, again to no one in particular.
Then lying down having eyed a new set rolling in, I paddle into position, wait, and then as the third wave starts to form, slide in just under its face, rising as it picks me up. 

I paddle harder, then I’m on the opening of the crest,
looking across and into the breaking face,
I crouch and dig my back foot in,
shift my weight and then swing my hips and arms to rise up and turn,
gliding along up and down,
turning and curling with the clean solid face,
till it fades near the shore.

It’s a dance.
Everything else fades and disappears. 

Like ochre painted,
the salt seeps deep inside, opening every crevice and washing the body cells,
my cells replicated again and again,
those thousands of beings that live moving and making me. Making it all. 

The web that connects.

This is waking up,
this is ceremony,
it echoes star stories of night journeys, sings in the hum of ocean craft, stories of ancestral strong swimmers, whales, dolphins, sharks, totems;
           And the big feeds when the woven nets caught the fish on their run.
In this briefest of moments, a sliver of tidal memory awakens and I am the wave, we are. Like the solo fancy dancer.
           Here then gone.
Salt Water Dancing.

Aunt calls out from the balcony,

Time for a cuppa then,
proper Tea,
‘I’ll be waiting for you ‘,

           I shade my eyes to look,
           her outline fading,
           now dissolved back into the clear cloudless sky that hints at dusk.
                                 It’s time to paddle in.


Firstly, I wish to Acknowledge the Ancestors and Elders of this country, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri Peoples, past and present, whose unceded sovereign lands I live on.
This story was written on Ngunnawal country, a place now called Canberra, the capital of so-called Australia. It’s where I was born.
It’s a long way from the sea.
The memories that inspired this story come from living on Dharawal, Wodi Wodi and Yuin country. I pay my respects to the Elders there, past and present, and thank them for the gift of living on their country.
The area I mostly surfed was along the bays and open beaches, along the coastal strip that runs from the escarpment south of Sydney NSW and along the south east coast of what is called The Illawarra, around Wollongong NSW.
I thank all who shared this ‘surf dancing ceremony’, and the ocean that blessed me with so many teachings.
I pay my respects and gratitude to all those who keep country strong and whose lands have nurtured me.
‘Don’t forget’.



Bundjalung is the main language of my family group. This is not the language of the countries I mention in my acknowledgements.
‘Jingiwallah’, is a Bundjalung word for Hello. (Used as greeting).
‘Boogelbah’, is a Bundjalung word for Thank you.
Note, ‘surf dancing ceremony’ is my own descriptor, metaphor, not a literal traditional practice. A contemporary rendering of living culture.
The rest, I’ll leave it up to you.

Please note: the following photos may contain images of Aboriginal people who may no longer be living. 

All images are attributed to Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, ICIP copyright maintained in full.

Copyright for these images is shared with the photographers, Samia Goudie and the people in the photos, with gratitude for their permission.

Naru Surf are on Gumbaynggir Country, find them @narusurf. All photos provided with permission from Naru Surf, 2023.

See also the short film Us Deadly Mob directed by Samia Goudie, 2005. Tribal Magic Award winner at Nimbin Film Festival 2008.


Clarence Slockee (the main dancer at front centre) with NAISDA dance students, invited dancers for opening of a surfing competition, 1996. Wodi Wodi Country. Photo and copyright by Samia Goudie and retained by participants in the photo with permission.

From left to right, Jodi Edwards, Patti, and Samia Goudie in the women’s surf heat, 1996. Wodi Wodi Country. Photo by S. Winch. Commissioned by Samia Goudie.

From left to right, women’s open surfers Tauri Demestri, Melissa Combo, Samia Goudie (at back), and Jodi Edwards, 1996. Wodi Wodi Country. Photo by S. Winch. Commissioned by Samia Goudie.

Four photos of the Naru Surf Gathering. Naru (Ngaarlu) means water in Gumbaynggirr Language. In the early 1990s, Naru Surfboards were hand-shaped by Aboriginal surfer Eric Mercy. 

Amber Hamer paddling out, 2023. Gumbaynggir Country. Photo by Brad Rathbone. Copyright by Naru Surf, 2023.

Halle, Naru Surf grom, 2023. Gumbaynggir Country. Photo by Brad Rathbone. Copyright by Naru Surf, 2023.

Hendrix, Naru Surf grom, 2023. Gumbaynggir Country. Photo by Wayila Creative. Copyright by Naru Surf, 2023.

Hendrix, Naru Surf grom, 2023. Gumbaynggir Country. Photo by Brad Rathbone. Copyright by Naru Surf, 2023.

From left to right: Amber Hamer, James Mercy from Naru Surf, with Samia Goudie (past project lead of Illawarra Creating Healthy Cultures program) in conjunction with Jodi Edwards Illawarra Sport and Recreation (1996) to current. Photo on Ngunnawal Country by Amber Hamer, 2023.



Samia Goudie in her surf dancing days.

Samia Goudie identifies as a Queer Bundjalung woman who was born on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country where she was removed from her Mum and adopted.

Samia is a member of Canberra based UsMob writers and FNAWN, First Nations Australian writers’ network. She has had multi media /word /installations and exhibitions of visual art and poetry at various locations including the Wollongong gallery, M16 gallery Canberra, ‘new media’ Territoires’ lab of arts and media, University of Paris. Her multimedia /artwork has been is held in private collections Nationally and Internationally.

Samia has been publishing poetry and short stories more frequently over the last several years and has works published in the Southerly, IWP Iowa press, Wakefield press, Norton and Norton, 3CCmedia journal, Aiatsis Press, too deadly our voice, our way our business (UsMob writers anthology), Giant Steps (2019) and What We Carry (Recent Work Press, 2020), Routledge Press and in Mascara Literary Journal. She is regularly invited to perform her work and submit to journals and anthologies.

Previous to this Samia worked as an Academic in Health and more recently as an Associate professor in the School of Arts and Design at University of Canberra. She has previously published in those roles academic work as well as making a number of documentaries, short films and digital stories within community projects. Her digital story projects have been used in projects in Cape York, for decades, and also in the USA when she travelled and shared her work with tribal colleges and Universities as a Fulbright scholar. She has also worked with Traditional healers to develop online material through Beyond blue for Aboriginal people to support mental health and wellbeing. Writing has become even more important to Samia due to an accident in 2020 that has led to becoming disabled and unable to work. Improving access for others and contributing to elevating the voices of marginalised people and challenging limiting narratives remains an ever-increasing motivation.

Samia has received support to write her first novel as a runner up in the Boundless Indigenous writers’ program with Text publishers, the NSW writers Centre. She was highly commended for her submission to the Varuna writer’s Indigenous fellowship 2020 giving access and support to the Varuna National Writers House, which she recently undertook as an invited writer. residential writing space in the Blue Mountains. She also undertook a residency though the ACT Creative Recovery and Resilience Residency Program, with the Ainslie Gorman Arts Centre in 2022. 

She won the KRG, Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert FNAWN poetry award 2022, which was published by Cordite Publishers Autumn 2022. Samia considers this award as one of her most meaningful experiences as Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert was a huge inspiration and founder of UsMob writers and FNAWN. First Nations Writers Network.