Nathan “Beaver” Jager was the life of the party. He was the party. He had friends from the top pro surfers to people from all walks of life. Most of all he was a Palmy boy through and through. He gained the nickname “Beaver” when the Palm Beach Boardriders made a trip to Bali and he was so keen and frothing all the time that the eager beaver moniker just became “Beaver”.
Nathan was a popular man with the ladies as well, some confusing the nickname, thinking it was to do with his prowess with tuning the ladies, but if you spent any time with Nathan, you knew how the name came about: it was always go, go, go.
Unknown to his friends and family, Nathan had a dark cloud above him that no one really knew about: inside that boisterous, out-going exterior there was something most guys don’t talk about, and that is a struggle with depression and mental illness. This resulted in the world losing Nathan to this disease, breaking hearts, and leaving many to question why and what they could do to stop something like this happening again.
From the afternoon after Nathan’s death, the Palm Beach boys made a pact, that no matter what, they would look out for their mates and ask if they were OK. They promised if they were ever in that dark, dark place that could call each other and talk.
Then Palmy Boardrider Daniel Binskin, came up with the concept of The Eager Beaver Open Pairs Surf Compeition. The objective of the event was to raise awareness of mental illness within the surfing community, with proceeds going to charity group SANE Australia.
Mental illness is not prejudiced, nobody is immune and many suffer from it without support.
The idea is that through education we change attitudes within our community so nobody else has to go through what Nathan did.
SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath applauded the efforts of Palm Beach Boardriders in staging the event and said the support for the cause was testament to Nathan’s popularity.
“It’s important to educate the community about mental illness while tackling the stigma associated with it and events such as these go a long way in doing so,” he said.
“Research suggests men in Australia are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, so education and support among the male population is incredibly important.”
“The funds raised will also aid our efforts in campaigning, education and research which will ultimately help Australians living with mental illnesses lead better lives.”
Latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests there are six deaths by suicide each day in Australia, and one in five Australians is affected by mental illness each year.
So the event would be all about community, teamwork and support, with an Ambrose tag-team format that would encourage everyone to compete, regardless of age or skill level. The format promoted working as a team rather than an individual.
So come Sunday 9 February, nearly 100 of Nathan’s mates came to compete and celebrate his life. There was a roll-call of top surfers and Palmy locals, former WCT surfer, Dean Morrison, high wave charger Ryan Hipwood, and many top surfers from the qualifying series of the World Tour.
The format was exciting and fun, and just like Beaver would have liked, there were a few beverages on the beach with all his mates, a bit of skylarking and fun.
The waves were pumping at Palm Beach and a good sized crowd was enjoying the excellent standard of surfing, and the fun and excitement of the teams surfing format. Beaver had sent the waves, and everyone was having a good time.
In the end it was former WQS surfer just back from the US, Leigh Sedley and his team mate, Burleigh lad and former Big Brother star Kane Dignum who took the win from Burleigh lads Jye Brazenas and Paul Surman. Brydon brothers James and Nick came in third.
A win was had, but funds were also raised for SANE Australia and most importantly, there was acknowledgement from all that were there that no matter what happens in life, you always have a mate you can call on when times are tough.
The day finished with local hip hop Palmy punks Boned playing their tunes to a big crowd at the Palm Beach Allstars Sports Club, and stories of the adventures and escapades of “Beaver” being told into the evening.
“Beaver” was a personal friend of mine and his passing was a tragic loss that could have been prevented.
It’s for this reason that we ask you to remember to be a mate to your mates. If you know of a friend who has changed their habits or withdraws from social outings all of a sudden, it just takes a phone call to ask “are you OK mate?” You never know what a difference that could make.
If you or someone you know needs support, contact:
MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Photo courtesy Luke Sullivan, Eager Beaver Memorial Surf Contest 2014