My ten year old daughter rides a 7’6″ soft board. We surf together inside the mouth of the Richmond River, where a sand spit juts seaward from an island in the middle of the estuary. Alexandra’s enthusiasm is contagious, although her little brother, Christopher, still prefers the safety of dry land. He’s only five. It’s an idyllic setting just five minutes from home, in the middle of Ballina. It means a lot to me personally, because we are a broken family divided into two very different worlds, governed by two very different approaches to life. Basically, I just want to go surfing.

On the northern bank of the river, there sits an outcrop of basalt columns, which are the remnants of a 20 million year old lava flow, from when Mount Warning was an active volcano. As we wait for the set, I tell Alexandra about the local geology, kind of hoping to put things in a perspective far beyond the petty struggles of her frustrated parents. I explain that when igneous rocks meet sedimentary, a completely new type of rock is created, called metamorphic rock. The extreme heat causes a recrystalisation of the minerals in the rock, which becomes much harder, but still retains its layered structure. Then, I notice she is paddling for a wave and I am elated that she has discovered the ocean.