“I was born in Darwin and moved to KI when I was 11 or 12 years old; I am a 7th generation islander. Our family moved here in 1860; Henry Snelling is our great ancestor, our bloodline. My great, great grandfather John Florance moved here in the 1880s; we have been here for a fair while. Dad came from a family of 13 kids, big family, that all branched off and then branched off again; there are quite a few still over here but also all over Australia.
The happiest time of my life was when I had my first child Bella, I guess it sort of sealed the deal with me and Mel. We met in 2002 at the ‘Desperate and Dateless Ball’ organised by the Red Cross. It was held at the Entertainment Centre, there were hundreds of people, it was quite a big event. I just got together with a group of guys from Kangaroo Island because we were desperate and dateless over here and we just decided ‘Righto, let’s go and do it.’ She came from Coonalpyn, a small country town in the southeast, with a group of girls.
Basically, you register to the Red Cross and they would send a paper form in the mail asking you things like ‘what would you do if you were on a deserted island?’ They put it through their computer system and match you with somebody and they matched me and Mel together. Here we are now with four kids.
I am passionate about riding and racing motorcycles; it is what I really love. Mel just lets me do what I want to do, she supports me 100%. She does not love it, she doesn’t come along all that often, isn’t really that interested, but she lets me do what I love which I am very grateful for.
I got my first motorcycle when I was four; a PW50 and it’s basically the same as the bike we got my lad Jack. I was fortunate enough to win Northern Territory Junior Motocross Championship in 1991 and competed in the Australian Junior Championships in 1992. Racing was my life. When we moved to Kangaroo Island, there was no racing, but I was always able to ride with the boys around here. I bought my first race bike when I was around 25 or so, I got stuck back into racing again.
The single hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally, was competing in my first Hattah Desert Race in Mildura. Four straight hours of some really tough sandy tracks which suck the life out of you. With a 400-bike mass start, there are bikes going everywhere—you really have to have your wits about you.
You sort of get into the zone and think of nothing else. You can have the worst week of your life and you get out riding your bike and just forget everything. Go out and concentrate on the job at hand basically. It’s more of a mind over matter thing, you just keep on going. At the 24-hour reliability, it can be three o’clock in the morning, minus one degree, blowing a gale and hailing, you are absolutely and completely buggered, but you keep going. You’ve got to be a certain kind of crazy, I guess.
In my job here, I’ve trained hundreds if not thousands of people how to ride a motorcycle. At work, the quad bike is not play for me, it’s a work tool. I love combining my passion for motorcycles and love for the island together. I’d like to get into coaching kids how to ride motorbikes safely, somewhere here on the island as a local thing. I have always thought about it. Teaching young people new skills and being outdoors, I really love it.”