Roy retires to beach after nearly 45 years working at Bay

ROY Meisel came to Australia in August 1971 with fellow Californian and local Byron surfing identity Michael Cundith.

One of Byron Bay's original surf industry legends, Roy is also a decorated Vietnam War veteran and often leads the Anzac Day parade through town.

He served in Vietnam from 1967-1969 and was there during the infamous Tet Offensive.

Whether by choice or chance, Roy's retirement last Friday coincided with the 46th anniversary of this historic battle. Returning home after his war service, he knew he needed to leave America and "wipe the slate clean".

GONE SURFING: Roy Meisel, retiring after 43 years in the local surfing industry, with a picture of the original Bare Nature crew.
GONE SURFING: Roy Meisel, retiring after 43 years in the local surfing industry, with a picture of the original Bare Nature crew. Christian Morrow

"I knew I would either wind up in Mexico or Hawaii but took that next step to Australia, the world's biggest island," he said.

Roy stepped off the train in Byron Bay when you could live on $20 a week - "ten bucks a week for food, five for petrol and five for rent".

What happened next is the stuff of local surfing legend. Roy slapped down $1500 of his savings for the key to the derelict butcher's shop that stood at the corner of Browning and Tennyson streets.

And together with Bob Newlands, he started Bare Nature, Byron's second surf shop.

They opened with just four surfboards and one rack of boardshorts as stock, but Bare Nature's range quickly expanded, selling Mexican candles, Balinese jewellery, leatherwork and all things surfing.

They also stocked that quintessential seventies surfware item for women - the crocheted bikini.

By 1988 Roy sold his interest in the shop and worked at Town and Country Surfboards, laminating boards, fitting fins and filling.

Roy Meisel in the 1970s
Roy Meisel in the 1970s

Roy's retirement plans are simple: he plans to head back to the beach. He sees his beloved Byron Bay as a true international surfing mecca that draws people wanting to connect with the soul of surfing.

"Byron has everything - international visitors, great music, great pubs and the most beautiful women I have seen anywhere in the world," he said.

"The only thing that sucks about Byron are the potholes and the toilets. Everything else is cool."

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