A Surf Gal We Adore: Imogen Caldwell
Words by Lucas Townsend | Photos by Sylvé Colless Being in the presence of Imogen Caldwell is finding fame before anyone else. The kind of Australian fame that crosses onto US shores and commands clicks, glossy pages and your attention. Convicts so damn loveable their beauty couldn’t actually be real, too. Think Rachel Taylor or Margot Robbie or Ell Mac. […]
Words by Lucas Townsend | Photos by Sylvé Colless
Being in the presence of Imogen Caldwell is finding fame before anyone else. The kind of Australian fame that crosses onto US shores and commands clicks, glossy pages and your attention. Convicts so damn loveable their beauty couldn’t actually be real, too. Think Rachel Taylor or Margot Robbie or Ell Mac. Sans twang, deep blues that’ll split celluloid, all blonde and natural. Imogen’s everything small-town of her upbringing, too. Dangerously beautiful, effortlessly fashionable, feisty in reply as we sit in the Rocky Point RVCA House in Hawaii, and bold, oh so bold.
“You know where Perth is, right?” she asks.
“Have you heard of a place called Carnarvon? It’s 12 hours north of Perth. Well, I’m from a place another two hours north of there.”
The Bluff. Population: 13. Just south of Gnaraloo. Like I said, small-town.
“I’ve been raised where the rough terrain of desert and the raw ocean meet. It’s right on the borderline and there’s nothing for miles. It never rains, there’s no trees, just barren. But it was an idyllic place to spend your childhood, I couldn’t have thought of a better place.”
Imogen was born in Newcastle and is everything DIY we love about many Australian upbringings. She spent one year in school before her folks sold their business, and threw her three brothers and sister into the caravan and set off to navigate the great, dusty land of Oz. They made it halfway and fell in love with empty spaces. (Concrete jungles are reserved for nightmares, not dreams.)
“We stayed at The Bluff for three months during our trip. They offered Mum and Dad the job to manage the camp station and we’ve been there since. We’d get home tutors but went through a lot of them. They’d have to pitch a tent, or sleep in a caravan and they’d stay as long as they could handle.”
“I started surfing nearly three years ago, mainly out of boredom and because my brothers did it. When there was no waves we’d go diving or fishing… what else was I going to do?”
Midway through this interview, Julian Schnabel enters the lounge room, stands behind my right shoulder and says nothing, awkwardly. He’s staying with RVCA on their North Shore tour and he’s wearing sunglasses at night and pyjamas.
“I am Julian… How am I doing? I’m good,” he says.
“It’s a good life, she’s got.”
I nod accordingly, as if eight years old and answering my principal. He carries on his way to do art things.
“He’s like a really famous artist,” Imogen whispers.
Did you know about him before? I ask.
“No idea. I’m from the fucking desert.”
Residence aside, what mid-90’s baby would, right?
“I’ve never even seen a cocktail in my life,” she adds.
It’s little wonder Imogen, just 18, and girlfriend to Courtney Brown, is the newest signing to the RVCA label. She is the surfer slash model Australia’s never really had. Less surfer-trying-to-model and more surfer-totally-hot-enough-to-model. Monyca Eleogram, minus the love story and soul claps. Straight up.
On a trip to West Oz last August Nathan Webster, the gent pulling RVCA strings, found nirvana. “We drove into the desert and I saw this little mirage sitting, perched on a rock,” he says. “Then, I saw her surf and some pictures and I knew it was a big story, such an incredible girl. She had to be on RVCA.”
“The modelling side of it fell into my lap,” Imogen says. “I’m happy to do it, it’s fun. I just want to have a good time and if it takes me to places like this then I’m stoked.”
This is the North Shore. Just down past Rocky Lefts, in fact. Imogen sits, all in black. Jeans, fitted singlet, ankle-high leathers with just enough heel. She rests back on an old, dull couch and never did an antipode better exist.
Imogen surfs Pipe, too. Like, Pipe Pipe, and all while an entire surfing community thumb-down like the Ancient Romans to anyone who falls in the colosseum. A spectacular slip can be social suicide along Ke Nui Rd.
“Pipe is just like Tombstones at home, expect you don’t have the step out here,” she says. “The North Shore is big for me. This is lots of people. There’s only two families that live at the Bluff permanently. Mine, and another one with eight kids. Most of the year tourists and campers are coming and going but sometimes, when it gets really quiet, it’s only our families. It’s… just… different.”
“Don’t talk to him too long. Don’t talk to him too long. Don’t get too comfortable,” Mr. Schnabel says walking by again.
He’s still wearing pyjamas and I wonder if it’s a little inappropriate, because decorum. Imogen looks at me for translation.
You might tell me something you don’t want to? I offer. Perplexed.
“Well, you know… It’s a generic sentence,” he says. “Something to think about. If you talk long enough he’ll start putting shit down. Less is more.”
He looks to me. “Y’got a lot already, don’t you?”
I look down at all the shit I’d been putting down and make one last note: Imogen given first lesson in self-importance during interview; a prerequisite of stardom, apparently.
But, that egoism don’t fly too well in the desert. Imogen quickly shakes off his disdain, reignites our chat and shows why humble beginnings is the best grounding for fame.
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