The Downtime Agenda

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  • Words — Jessica Washington
  • Images — Julie Adams

It’s possible there’s no one who loves the beach as much as Eugene Tan. The Aquabumps photographer works with his wife, Debbie, to share the beauty of beaches through stunning prints. While their lives may appear to be an endless summer vacation – that’s certainly not the case. DTA spoke to the couple about swimming, surfing and switching off.

Eugene and Debbie Tan, Aquabumps.

Uge:

To an outsider, your whole life looks like downtime. Is this the case?
I’ve made a living out of my passion which means I get to travel a lot to photograph beautiful places for ‘work’ – but it also means holidays are a hybrid of work and holiday. Work trips I usually shoot for up to 10 hours a day, like my recent Rio trip – I document people enjoying their downtime at the beach relaxing or surfing but that doesn’t mean the guy behind the camera is doing the same thing. I usually have a heavy backpack full of lenses, I am sweating my ass off, thirsty and dying for a swim.

The tough thing for me is I see photos everywhere, so I might be sitting with my wife Deb on a deck chair in Italy watching the sun set over the Amalfi coast and I think ‘oh gauwd – there’s a shot’ and I scramble up to my room to grab my camera to get the shot. It’s pretty hard for me to switch off – so lucky I love what I do.

What do you do to unwind?
Surf whenever I can, hang with my boys & Deb. Watch a good movie, sit in my back yard and drink a corona.

Who is your downtime partner in crime?
Probably Deb the boys and my surfboards. I can’t wait for my boys to be big enough to surf with me – then it will be the 3 of us and the waves. Every year I go to the Mentawais with a group of mates…that really is 2 weeks of downtime for me. I surf 3 times a day, shoot some – but not a lot and really switch off from the outside world – well as much as I can running a business and keeping the daily emails going every few days while I’m there.

What’s your favourite movie of all time?
The Godfather.

What are you reading right now?
Aquabumps
to see if I have made any typos. Where’s Wally is pretty big in our house too. I spend a lot of time online – so much of my reading and research is spent when I’m at the office on my computer.

Sydney can be quite a hectic place, what do you recommend for those who want a bit of quiet time?
Get away for the weekend – there are so many deserted beaches only a few hours out of Sydney with endless waves and no one out. Go south, go north it’s untouched, uncrowded and blissful. Make your home a quiet sanctuary, then it doesn’t matter how hectic it gets on the outside you always have somewhere to retreat.

Best surf beach in the world?
Hawaii is pretty good and you can’t beat the Mentawais – I’ve been going for about twenty years for two weeks every year.

 

Now, let’s chat with Deb:

How important is downtime to you?
Pretty high up there – after my family & work comes me “Bee Bee” (as my boys only ever call me). I’ve always felt it was so important as a mum and hey for anyone to take time out for themselves. It’s kind of like filling my own cup up so I’m rich in love and happiness to be able to give it to the people that matter the most to me.

Are there consequences for you in not getting enough downtime?
My downtime has always been some form of exercise – it starts with my pushbike and I’ll ride for a soft sand run, yoga class – probably doesn’t sound very relaxing to most but to me it’s where I deal with things that may be bothering me, think about work, how to be a better mum and wife. It’s actually how I slow my thoughts down and reset…it’s my meditation and yes if I don’t get it I am sooo grumpy and spend the whole day trying to find a gap to do something even if it’s for 15 minutes (yes I’m a bit nuts).

This has always been my form of downtime – ever since I was a little girl, so you can imagine once you become a mum, a wife and with work, it’s harder to make time for yourself – but Uge is very understanding of my make up and what I need, so is always supportive in helping me find time for it.  I’m very good at making the space for it myself too. If I can’t get to a yoga class I will practice with my boys in our back yard. They are very good at a downward dog.

Where are you when having downtime?
My two very special soul and heart places are the Power Living studio in Bondi and the soft sand track in Bondi followed by a swim in the ocean. I used to run up and down that track most days through both my pregnancies…up until a month before I gave birth and then my special place became the pool at icebergs. If I walk past these places and may not even be going for a run or class, my heart fills up with happiness…it’s like it wafts off the sand or from the street where yoga is like an aura of happiness.

There’s one other special place I get to have downtime with my number one man and that’s under the sea. We don’t get to do it so much anymore now we have the boys, but once a year we go on a trip just us and Uge will grab his camera and housing and we’ll run down to the water, jump in and just swim. It’s so quiet down there – no kids just us and the sea. It’s always been our special thing to swim out the back through waves in Hawaii, sometimes home in Bondi or last year in Italy. I hope we do it until we’re old and wrinkly, but I’m sure the boys will catch up soon enough and be like nah mum it’s our turn! I’ll be just as happy to watch that too.

Where is your favourite vacation spot for Downtime?
Hawaii on the North Shore… I fricken love it there. I think I may have been Hawaiian in another life, it’s like when I am riding my bike through those palm fringed canopy tracks or diving in that warm north pacific ocean basked in the warm light of the sunsets…..I am home.

We’re also working towards our own little shack up the coast – North about 3.5 hours and that is also my special downtime place. I take my yoga mat everywhere and get to practice overlooking the sea usually with one of my boys, it’s pretty special.

What are you reading right now?
Aquabumps
to check for Uge’s typos, a cook book called The Healthy Life, my girlfriend ness’s cookbook – Tamarama Kitchen and Porter magazine (and not really even that), Where’s Wally, That’s not my Truck, The Green Sheep (haha).

Tell us 5 artists on your downtime playlist
Matt Corby, The Wolf, Coldplay, James Bay, Ben Howard.

Tell us about your ideal Sunday
Beach time with my boys (all 3 of them) or just time as a family usually trying to wear the boys out. We usually ride our bikes down or our scooters, swims, surf and afternoons at home with all the doors open onto our garden, music playing while I cook for everyone.

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I have two Aquabumps prints in my home but my favourite would be "The Beach Inspector" which hangs above my bed. It's a shot of Bondi Beach with a single lifeguard buggy. The beach looks so calm, quiet and empty - just as I like it!