Kenley Pierce was in the last heat of the giant Bells Beach competition in 1965 before they cancelled. He’s still surfing into his late 60’s and comes from the famous Victorian “east coast”. A loyal guest of Heaven on the Planet, Kenley has been coming to Heaven on the Planet twice a year for 3 weeks each time for over a decade.
Thanks Ken for agreeing to talk to us. Many guests plan their return trips around you. You’re a big friend and we really love having you at Planet.
How many long-term partners/marriages have you had? Just 4 but that’s a long story.
How did you first hear about Heaven on the Planet? Through a surfing magazine, Australian Longboard, which did a great story on Planet. The mag did a five-page cover on the history and Planet’s cuisine, its rooms, its services. As a regular visitor and surfer to Bali, my partner of the time decided to come and have a look … so that was October 2006. That magazine really impacted. The photography was really good. Nan one of the original staff here still surfs with me, he was in the photo shoot for that interview.
What are some of your best memories?It’s a hard question to answer … there have been highlights of every trip whether it’s the quality of the surf, the size of the surf, the people I have met, the company I have kept. Probably the biggest highlight is bringing Troy my son here for his 40Th birthday. There aren’t many places in the world where we could have come to share a passion. We were both blown away being able to do that together. To be able to appreciate the beauty of our surrounds and to share it with my best mate, my son. Surfing some of the best surf in the world has been another highlight and sharing the experience with people. September 2013, Dave from Portland, Colin McKay & Mike from NZ and I just the four of us surfing 8-10ft glassy, perfect right hand waves pre-dawn was one of the best surfs I have ever had in the world. The four of us just looked at each other over breakfast and said “How good was that?” I have surfed some pretty good surf over the years and that was one of the best. None of us brag much, but we had the best day ever. Some of the biggest sets were 10ft, tide was right, all the conditions were right. We were enjoying a surf in a beautiful location, watching the sunrise at the start of a new day.
What’s that crazy story about Kenley’s Step? We had a lot of fun with that. One night over dinner a big group in Komodo asked me to wake them up in the morning. I paddle out pre-dawn every day from Planet Beach and if there’s no surf I watch the dawn and then paddle back. That morning I tripped over trying to sneak past Komodo without my headlight … and put myself out of the waves for the rest of the trip with a big bulging hip! That step near Komodo is now officially “Kenny’s Step”. Later, Dave Green sent a cap to Planet with a peak and little LED lights. He’d written Kenny’s Step all over it. Kerry gave it to me in a sunset ceremony at the pool and said something about karma for not waking up the guests. The step is still there … it’s the only up-step on the path down to Planet beach.
What makes Heaven on the Planet special to you? Heaven on the Planet ticks all my boxes … Proximity to home, travelling time, the ability to be totally independent ie not to be reliant on anybody. I wake up at 4 am and go for a surf, I can, I don’t have to wait for a boat. I enjoy watching the sunrise, I don’t have to wait for a designated time period to catch a boat, I can do it by myself.
One of the most startling things that one will never tire of is the horrendous trip originally from Mataram going through a third world developing countryside thinking “Shit I could be going through Africa”. My original partner that I first came here with said “What have you got us into”. To finally arrive, the view takes your breath away. Even if there is no surf I can just look at that magnificent view. I have it on my screensaver at home and people always want to know where is that? The sheer beauty of the turquoise coloured sea.
You’ve seen staff come and go, do you have any favourites? Zen is a favourite. And you guys, the owners of Heaven on the Planet, Moira and Kerry. I have watched Zen’s personal development over the years. He’s had the opportunity to mingle with all the international people that come through here and that’s really helped him.
How many friends do you reckon you’ve made at Heaven on the Planet? In my 16 trips to Heaven I have never experienced a bad group of people. The good times enjoyed on the water extend back to the land and enjoying a beer and times at the bar and restaurant. But there are nine friends who are now friends for life, including Moira and Kerry. We coordinate our holidays together and they are international businessmen usually May, June, September and October. Paul, Tony, Mark, they are the ones I met in 2006. We keep in contact when we are not physically at Heaven on the Planet surfing. We all come from different points of the globe. Every time, I’ve met new friends and have met an eclectic and international mix of people. I keep in touch with them via the IT highway and this is how we find out when we are going back to heaven?”
Simon has always been up with me. I wake up my mates Simon and Paul to come out for an early morning surf. Then I befriended Rhiannon who has worked for ABC for 28 years … old, young, powerhouse woman who had just come from Gallipoli working there covering the anniversary of ANZAC shouted out across the bar saying are we still going out early in the morning. Simon gave me the hairy eyeball and said “big mouth”. Rhiannon clapped her hand on her mouth and said “I have stuffed up”. The popularity of Planet has increased, but it’s still possible to experience a wave to yourself because of the consistency of the surf. The sheer beauty, the length of the ride, everyone gets a wave by themselves. Throwing an eclectic bunch together, put them in the surf for an epic session, then in the evening we all get together for a dinner party every night.
What about your family? I love both my children equally and one of the highlights of my life was bringing my son Troy here for his 40th birthday. Because of the unique surf break at Heaven, it was a special father and son experience with us in the water together at sunrise. My daughter would have as much fun. She doesn’t surf but she SUPs and she has an outgoing personality and would love it too. Everyone loves Troy and everyone loves Tash.
Footnote: Ken is special because he gives praise where it’s due. Not all of us remember to tell each other how special they are or what special attributes they have. Ken looks after the women and kids in the surf. He makes sure they get a turn. They are always very grateful especially the folks who are out of their comfort zone. They may be an Editor of a well-known Australian magazine, incredibly comfortable in their world of deadlines or lunching with other well-known celebrities, but not so comfortable in the water for the first time with a new board. Or a Principal of a big NSW high school surfing with the boys and not sure of the break, Ken is always helping.
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