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Nicole Gibson

Local author and one of AFR's Top 100 Most Influential Women.

On Valentine’s Day, Gold Coaster Nicole Gibson launched an influential new book and online program to help millennials redefine their approach to love in an attempt to combat mental illness.

She’s also been named one of AFR’s Top 100 Most Influential Women and is the former Commonwealth Commissioner for Mental Health (Australia’s youngest no less). We sat down for a chat with 25 year old Nicole about how we can stop mental health from becoming Australia’s biggest health epidemic.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve always had a connection to the Gold Coast as parts of my childhood were spent here, but I decided to officially move back two years ago after travelling and living in Sydney and Melbourne.

What do you love most about our beachside city?
We’ve got the most amazing surf beaches and hinterland to explore. We’re only 50 minutes from Byron Bay and 10 minutes from an international airport, yet I can still ride my bike barefoot to get my morning coffee! Nothing compares to the feeling of flying home into Coolangatta airport after a work trip.

You recently released a book, Love Out Loud, tell us about how it came to life…
It was time, many people had encouraged me to write a book but I never felt the creative pull. I was always too busy on the ground speaking to set aside the time to write. Books are a time for intense introspection. It’s a pretty remarkable story – about 10 months ago, I was meditating on the beach off the East Coast of Spain, when I asked the powers to be, ‘’what’s next for me?” and “how can I continue to serve humanity”. It was in that moment, my phone started to ring and I answered to a woman who proceeded to say; “Nicole, I’m a book coach from Melbourne and I’ve been following your work for many years, I wanted to reach out to ask if you would be interested in my guidance through this process.” Immediately I was struck with that feeling of knowing this was my path, I had goosebumps head to toe and from then on, the book started to write me (literally) – as all great art tends to do.

What has been your journey to get to where you are today?
It’s been a pretty incredible process – I believe my journey really started when I began reframing two very significant questions to life: “what can I get from life and what can I give to life”. From here, I started seeing the truth and gained vision beyond the self and my own ego – I began to heal from a very severe mental illness and the world opened up to my life magic.

You were named one of AFR’s Top 100 Most Influential Women, how did that feel?
I try to not identify with accolades, as it can be easy to get swept up in. I do what I do because it’s my love. It’s an expression of my love. It grows and expands me, and challenges me every day. To be named this, however, was incredibly humbling and reassuring.

What is your mission with this book and beyond?
To help people realise their nature; to turn away from fear and let love take over. There’s no boundary to this message; my mission is to travel the world activating people.

Mental Health is set to be the world’s biggest health epidemic by 2020, what can we do to change this?
Love! Of course! When we strip everyone’s stories back, it becomes clear that mental illness or “disease” is dis-ease…meaning when we’re not in balance or when we can’t find ease. That’s what it feels like when you’re in the darkness. I know this because I’ve been there; it feels like there’s no way out or like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Our culture promotes individualism over community and ambition over fairness – it will be a challenge for us to step out of this collective darkness as it’s difficult to reverse some of these statistics. We need to search inside of ourselves and connect to the part of us that is connected to the whole; my win is your win, your loss is my loss. Here we have the superpowers to change the world. There is nothing more powerful than compassion.

What’s next for you?
I’m about to head over to the UK to give a TEDx talk at Oxford University – it’s a bit of a dream come true.

What’s been the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
There is far more of what makes us the same, than what separates us.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: Currumbin
Cafe: Burleigh Social
Restaurant: Estu Izakaya
How does your weekend usually look?
It’s always varied – depending on the stress of my week and whether or not I need to release some stress – but I love going out for breakfast and going to the beach or swimming in waterfalls. Another thing I love to do is head off on a road trip down south – it’s always an adventure.

Amy Shark

Amy Shark is a born and bred Gold Coaster who has taken the music world by storm over the last few months.

After releasing her debut single Adore in 2016, Amy became a household name going on to claim second place in Triple J’s Hottest 100 and last week, announcing an Australia-wide tour.

We sat down for a chat with Amy to find out how her life has changed and what she loves most about being a Gold Coaster.

It’s been a whirlwind few months for you, how are you feeling about it all?

I’m still Amy, but I get to write and play music full time now so I’m in the clouds!

You grew up on the Gold Coast, how has the culture here shaped your musical career?

The Gold Coast music scene was obviously not as savvy as the major cities but in a way it was kind of nice, there was never any pressure and I loved being able to write a song in my bedroom, then randomly ride to the beach and back. Growing up here was all about warm summers, sleepovers, theme parks, beach hangs and pool parties.

How did you come to be where you are today? Any defining moments?

When I finally took myself seriously, focusing on my sound and perfecting what I wanted people to feel when they listen to my music.

How did it feel to hear your song on the radio for the first time?

I was super proud! I will never forget that night.

What’s it been like trying to break into the music scene?

Well I kind of gave up ‘trying’ to get noticed, and it was the best decision I ever made. I finally channeled all my energy on my music.

If I were an aspiring artist on the Gold Coast, what steps would I take to get where you are?

Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you want to be a musician to be rich and famous or do you want to be a musician because you can’t stop making music? Cause if it’s the first one you’re probs gonna crash.

What do you love most about the Gold Coast lifestyle?

It’s chilled, it’s warm and there’s avocado on every menu.

You’re not a Gold Coast local if you haven’t…. 

Thrown some tins in your bike basket and rode to Burleigh Hill.

Being a local we have to ask for your favourites…

Beach: Currumbin

Restaurant: Romanos

Pub: D’Arcy Arms

Coffee Shop: Society of Florida

Music venue: NightQuarter

Tour dates and tickets available here.

Mitch Crews

He’s the local lad best known for his pro surfer status but Mitch Crews is a guy with his fingers in a few pies. Strange saying that one but let’s move on.

Recently he, along with his mum and sister, opened West Brew Coffee in Tweed Heads, bringing their passion for beans to the quality-coffee-starved southern folks.

We sat down for a chat with Mitch about caffeine, living the salty life and qualifying for the 2018 World Series.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved up here when I was about 14 with my family and I’m 28 this year so awhile. I was born on the Sunny Coast but I’ve been in Currumbin ever since.

What do you love most about living here?
For me obviously being a surfer, the good waves, the warm weather, I think the Coast pretty much has everything you need in terms of living a quality lifestyle. You’ve got the great beaches, the awesome hinterland and a great nightlife and café culture developing now. You can’t really beat that. I’m fortunate enough to travel a lot through what I do but coming home, I feel like this is the best place I could live.

How’d you go in the Burleigh Pro on the weekend?
I got quarters so I guess that’s fifth. It was good fun, I was a bit disappointed I didn’t go further but it’s all good. For the past few years, the conditions haven’t been that good but this year was one of the better years. It’s a great event, I’m glad they have it, it’s always a bit of fun.

How did this pro surfing thing come about for you?
I started doing it when I was 10 but nothing was ever really planned. I surfed every day, mornings before school and after school and slowly but surely it evolved into competing then I got noticed by brands and sponsored and it just sort of happened. I’ve been really fortunate.

You had a massive set back a couple of years ago; can you tell us about that?
In 2009 I was 19 and had some really bad pain in my lower back, swelling that kind of came up abruptly in my wrists and ankles, it was really strange. I thought I’d injured myself but in the end I was diagnosed with a type of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is inflammation in the spine and sacrum. It was a bit of a shock because obviously I need to use my body to do what I do. It was strange to go through that journey of figuring out how to fix it but I got on a good routine and found a way to combat it. That was eight years ago now and I went on to a have pretty successful career after that so it was a blessing in disguise really. At first the doctors said I wouldn’t be surfing and I don’t think they realised the magnitude of what that meant to me, which was everything. I was pretty determined to prove that wrong. It took about six months but I did the last year of the junior series and ended up winning that year. It was a really cool, eye-opening experience.

How did it change your approach to surfing and life in general?
I’ve always looked after myself, I’m into holistic lifestyle training so it just opened my perspective a bit more and taught me not take things for granted so much. Obviously when you’re in your early twenties you want to go out and carry on with everyone but it made me a bit more mindful of the bigger picture and being able to do whatever I want to do every day, which is surf.

What do you get up to around here when there’s no waves?
I recently opened a coffee shop with my mum and sister so that little side project has been keeping me busy. I like to go out to the hinterland and shut off every now and then. I think that’s really important right now, everyone’s so wound up so it’s good to go chill. I do travel a lot as well but it’s looking like I’m going to be around home a bit longer than usual early this year so I’m stoked about that.

Tell us about West Brew Coffee…
I’ve always loved the coffee culture and when I’m not surfing I spend most of my time around cafes drinking coffee with friends. An opportunity came up where a little space down in Tweed West was available and I thought it would be nice to bring the coffee culture to that area. I don’t really have the experience in hospitality but my sister and mum were very passionate about getting involved. I’m good friends with Nick Pearce at Blackboard so I decided to open up a little coffee shop. We’ve had a great response from the local community and everyone’s really excited. Also with KC opening Hymn down the road, I think it’s brought a lot of attention to the area now. It’s so beautiful down there and it hasn’t really been recognised. In Tweed West there’s some of the most beautiful waterfront property you can get and I think it’s got lots of potential to be a nice new suburb for young families to move down too. It’s been an awesome experience, I’m learning every day about coffee and what people want.

Most importantly, what kind of food can we eat there?
We do a small breakfast menu, we’ve got this Brew Muesli dish, it’s got coconut cream, with Paleo activated muesli rather than your stock standard that’s everywhere else. Basically the philosophy we’re trying to go by is supporting local farmers surrounding the area so like Piggabeen, Murwillumbah, Kingscliff and we’re trying to use organic produce where we can. I’m a really big believer in supporting local. I got to meet some farmers from around the area who are doing it all the right ways, all organic and it’s really cool to see. They’re doing business the old way but they’re really passionate about their products and it gets me so psyched.

What’s the plan for 2018?
This is the first year that I don’t have everything fully structured. I’m going to a few of the Qualifying Series events so I’ll be jetting off the Japan and South Africa just before June. I’m doing a bit more free surfing stuff, maybe some video projects for magazines. No real huge goal for the World Tour but the next month has a bunch of Australian events that I’m doing so that’ll dictate if I’m going to have a good hard slog at the QS. It’s exciting, I’m so fortunate to get to do what I do and being involved with the coffee shop is really exciting, I’ve found this new passion.

Got any life advice for us?
I definitely live every day to it’s fullest. I believe you’ve only got the one moment to shine so there’s no use in taking the safe road.

Your favourites on the Coast…
Surf break: I’m into Burleigh at the moment; my last few surfs there have been really fun
Café: Obviously West Brew but I live in Tugun at the moment so I do regular Good Day coffee a lot
Restaurant: I like The Collective, I think what’s happening in Palmy right now is awesome. I like baskk in Kirra and Justin Lane is always fun
How does your weekend usually look: Over the holidays I found myself going to all the places I just listed a bit but recently it’s just been surfing a lot because the waves have been really good. I’ll usually hit Currumbin Markets on a Saturday morning then no doubt surf, hang out at my house and have a few mellow beers in the afternoon, nothing too complex

Photos 2 and 5 via Surfing Queensland.

Mitch and Nerissa McCluskey

Two of the most passionate people in the local hospo industry, Mitch and Nerissa are the brains behind two of your favourites – Commune, in Burleigh, and Etsu, in Mermaid Beach. The pair, who might just be the busiest (and happiest) couple on the Coast, are now on the verge of opening a third venue.

We sat down with Mitch and Nerissa to chat about the new yakitori restaurant and building a late night bar-hopping scene in Burleigh.

How long have you been Gold Coast locals?
Mitch: We were both born here. Next week it’ll be 39 years for me. Nerissa’s moved away a couple of times. We met in the hospitality industry out at Varsity Lakes then Nerissa moved away to the snow and I started managing Bumbles in Budds Beach. When she got back, we got in contact again and started working together.

What do you love about the Coast?
Nerissa: I’ve tried to move away a couple of times but it’s just nice, easy, healthy living here. I love being able to walk around with no shoes on. I quite often walk from our house along the beach and to Commune and you can’t do that in Melbourne and Sydney or most other places. It’s just nice, it’s our home and we know everyone, people from school. The people here are happy and you really get to see that, especially in the café, we love building relationships. In the city, it’s so different.

How do you come up with such different concepts for each venue?
We build restaurants we love and that we know our community will love. Because we were born here, we want to give back to our mates around the Coast. You just have to wait for that perfect storm – the right idea, the right time and finding the right venue. We weren’t looking to open a place but we were sick of our jobs and thought this location (Commune) would be perfect and we were just ready to do it. Then with Etsu, which has been open a few years, we knew we wanted to open a Japanese restaurant and that it would be all inside. I (Nerissa) love long, dark places and Mermaid was the perfect location for us. We have never forced anything, it just always works out.

Tell us about the new place you’re opening in Burleigh?
When we got back from Japan this year, all we ate was yakitori and everyone else seemed to be talking about it too. Yakitori means grilled chicken – the restaurants in Japan mostly just make dishes from all parts of the chicken – thighs, hearts, skin, liver, neck, inner thigh, everything and they all taste really different. It’s really sustainable using the whole chicken too. We’ll make a chicken liver pate and a chicken soup too. We’ll also definitely cater for the vegos and have some really amazing Wagyu for the boys too. There’ll be a couple of raw dishes, but it’s a really different menu to Etsu. We’re looking at opening early to mid October.

Have you got the fitout sorted?
It’ll be a bit similar to Etsu where you walk in and there’s a dining bar but we’ll have a kitchen dining bar. Everyone will sit around it and the chefs will be cooking right in front of you – we’re just going to focus on that as our main feature. We’re right next to Lockwood Bar so we’ve put a hole in the wall for back door access so we’re hoping to make a cool little late night bar hopping trade. We’ll also dedicate a little area to a small Japanese whiskey type bar, people can access that from another entrance or just sit down there if they’re waiting for a table. Dining-wise, people will sit on the floor with their legs crossed, which is how it’s done in Japan.

What are your thoughts on the Coast’s growing dining scene?
We go to Melbourne and Sydney just to check out restaurants but now the Gold Coast has so many new places opening we don’t need to. Even just in Burleigh there’s so many, tacocat just opened and all these new places are popping up everywhere. It means we can just ride our bikes to dinner, it’s so good. It’s the perfect time for us to be able to do what we want to do too with all these things opening, it gives us the freedom to get a bit more experimental. It means everyone’s more appreciative of our industry, which is really good. It works here now, where it wouldn’t have a few years ago.

It benefits us in so many ways too. It’s more attractive for people to come and live and work here. Finding good, professional staff and lots of them can be challenging, so having that pool of staff wanting to live here, especially chefs, is great. Even in terms of produce and suppliers, the bigger the industry grows, the more everyone has available. We can get our hands on more and better products. It keeps us on our toes too, if someone new opens, we have to get better. We’re constantly reevaluating what we’re doing. If you’re not growing, you’re going backwards.

What are the biggest challenges for you in the industry?
We find the hardest thing is staff – finding the right people for what we want to do and having them be as passionate as we are. We always find staff who want to open their own places, which works out really well for us because they’re super passionate and we encourage that. Our Head Chef at Etsu came from us advertising in Melbourne.

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?
Mitch: We work hard and lead by example and that makes it all rewarding.
Nerissa: You should go to work and be excited, if you don’t love it, don’t do it. We love what we do and it doesn’t really seem like work, it’s just our lifestyle now.

Being Gold Coast locals, we have to ask your favourites…
Beach: Burleigh. Before we lived here we lived in Mermaid and loved it there too
Café: There’s a few, we love No Name Lane and we go to Alfred’s, down to All Time. There’s quite a few around now, Double Barrel Kitchen is cool. Elk is really good.
Restaurant: We love Rick Shores, sitting out in the sun is so good. The Lamb Shop, Glenelg Public House and Lupo just opened which is great.
Weekend hang: We ride our bikes around, Sunday arvos on the hill are always good.

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