Italian surfer Alfonso ‘Fonzie’ Puzzarini & his partner Chiara Pieri moved from Italy to the South West in 2011. The family runs the popular Shaana Café at Yallingup Beach. They have a six year old daughter Shanti and dachshund named Kikko.
Images: 2014 -2016 Shaana Café at Yallingup. Pics by Alfonzo, Loz Smith and Jim King.
This is Alfonso’s story of how his family left Italy and moved to West OZ.
I was born in Cervia, a sea-side village in the province of Ravenna in north east Italy in 1971. The village is located on the Adriatic Sea. There were small waves near my village, but no surf magazines.
Image: Map of Fonzie’s home town Cervia on the East Coast of Italy.
I have salt in my veins. My village is famous for producing sweet salt from an old salt farm dating back to the Etruscan period.
Photo: 1980s old salt farm in Fonzie’s village. Alfonso pic.
My best school friend Pietro had a surfboard and we started surfing by sharing his board. One of us would surf, while the other took photos.
In 1984 (age 13) I bought my first surfboard…a homemade twin fin epoxy surfboard. My second surfboard was a thruster from Tazz & Gerbi Surfboards in local Ravennia. They started the first Italian Surf Magazine called ‘Surf News’. It was free and is still going online today.
Image: 1998 Italian Surf News mag. Image courtesy of Alfonso.
In the 1980s not many people were surfing on the Italian East coast. Tuscany & Rome on the West coast had a few surfers. In 1986 Pietro, Giorgio and I (age 15-16) started searching for waves. We made our first trip to the West coast by train and surfed Viareggio in Tuscany.
Photo: 1988 Fonzie & his Italian surf mates at their town beach Canalino Spiagga. Alfonso pic.
Giorgio (far left standing), Alfonso (centre sitting with Oakley sunnies) and Pietro (squatting far right).
Then in 1987 at age 16-17 my friends Pietro, Georgio and I caught the train to Biarritz in France and surfed real good waves. After that trip, we returned to France and Spain every year at end of summer during the school holidays.
Photo: 1980s Fonzie surfing at Zarautz beach in Spain. Alfonzo pic.
After I left school and finished compulsory Naval Service in 1991, I went on a surf trip to Bali for two months with friends Diego and Mirko. We mainly surfed Kuta/Legian beach breaks but also scored beautiful long lefts at Medewi.
Photo: 1991 Fonzie’s first trip to Kuta/Legian in Bali. Alfonzo pic
L-R Diego, Fonzie and Mirko in Poppies Lane.
I returned to Italy homesick. Even though I was surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, windsurfing and motor cross. I was still restless as I fell in love with surfing after that Bali trip.
The ‘Surfing Shop’ in my home town sponsored me in skateboarding and snowboarding. We used to compete every second weekend in Italy.
Photos: 1990s Fonzie sponsored skateboarder in Italy. Alfonzo image & pics
Left: (Top) 1990s Fonzie tattered wall ride in Ravenna street park (Bottom) 1986 Fonzie on the right in Skate Park with mate.
Right: 1990 and 1988 Fonzie free styling.
I went Heli-skiing in the mountains. Weather & visibility was poor and we only had one run, but it was excellent. I went down the hill behind a mate and it was like surfing through the powder snow.
Photo: 1990s Fonzie sponsored snow boarder in Italy. Alfonzo pics.
Left: 1988 Fonzie snowboarding Les Arc in France.
Right: 1998 Fonzie snowboarding Pink Mountain on the border of Italy & France.
I really enjoyed trail bike riding, but didn’t do it for long because there were too many injuries.
Photos: 1990s Fonzie dirt bike riding in Italy. Alfonzo pics.
After I got my driver’s licence, I would listen to swell reports and weather forecasts then drive to Viareggio in Tuscany or Rome on day trips. We drive fast in Italy and the trip from the east coast to west coast would take approximately three hours.
My surfing was improving and I received a wild card into the European Surf Championships at Tuscany. I was knocked out of the competition early, but I was hooked on surfing. Every holiday I went on surf trips to France, Spain and Sardinia Island. Sardinia Island is the 2nd second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, it has the best and most consistent surf in Italy.
In 1989 I was working in the Surfing Shop in my home town when I met a guy from Scarborough WA. His name was Simon and he was a licensed shaper for Rusty Surfboards back in Perth. I helped him get surfboards blanks and he told me about the waves in Oz.
In the mid 1990s I went on surf trips to California, Barbados Island in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico (Puerto Escondido and La Punta) and Sri Lanka.
In 2000 I travelled to West Oz and windsurfed and surfed the metro beaches around Perth and over at Rottnest Island. After months working in WA, my friends Matteo & Massimo and I were headed to the East Coast when we stopped at Yallingup Beach on route. The old Surfside Café was still there. I thought what a beautiful place, I would love to live in a place like this.
But as it was my first stop we moved on, I thought there would be plenty more, but no, there wasn’t!
We drove across the Nullarbor to SA, Vic and NSW.
Photos: 2000 Fonzie’s OZ trip. Pics by Alfonso.
Top: (Left) Fonzie and Koala. (Right) Fonzie at Esperance.
Bottom: (Left) Fonzie in Kombi at Lancelin. (Right) Massimo and Matteo on Nullarbor Plain.
On the NSW North coast at Byron Bay we met former USA Surfing Champion Rusty Miller. He was running the surf school at Byron Bay and invited us to his 60th birthday at his place. We made him a special meal that night.
In 2014 Rusty Miller from Byron Bay attended a book signing function for his Turning Point book at Shaana Café Yallingup.
Photos: 2014 Rusty Miller and Loz Smith at book signing function held at Shaana Café. Loz Smith pics.
In 2001 I returned to Italy and spent another summer there. But I was still restless and sold my share in a Piadina (flat bread) business to my brother and moved back to Oz.
I opened an ice cream business at Scarborough and through that business got my Austalian visa. I was surfing at Scarborough and windsurfing at Cottesloe. I had heard of waves in the South West and started driving down on my own. I have an Italian surfing friend Tommy living at Margaret’s. He has a ‘One love, one fin’ sign on his green Kombi.
Photo: 2016 Tommy’s a ‘One love, one fin’ green Kombi at Gracetown. Alfonso pic.
In 2006 I quit my ice cream job and sailed from Sydney around the top end of Australia all the way to Dunsborough in WA with renowned pro-sailor Max Fossati of Whitbread, America Cup fame. I took my surfboard and we surfed Burleigh on the Gold Coast and saw some beautiful waves off islands up north, but was told they were no-go zones because of big crocs.
We surfed a small wave at Broome and while there met WA surfer Peter ‘Rinso’ Wise. Rinso joined the crew and sailed with us to Dunsborough. In Exmouth, Rinso borrowed a car and showed me the beautiful waves in the region. I dived in the crystal clear warm water and saw turtles, whales, manta rays etc.
We also stopped in Carnarvon and the Captain gave me a few days off to make a surf trip to Gnaraloo & the Bluff. I got amazing waves, but it was scary on my small twin fin. We arrived in Dunsborough in September 2006 after a three month boat trip.
Photo: 2006 Red Bluff (Carnarvon) WA. Alfonso pic.
L-R Winky with thruster, Fonzie with twin fin and Tommy (one love, one fin) with his single fin board.
In 2007 I went back to Italy because my Dad was sick. He passed away while I was there. During this time I met Chiara Pieri from my home town. Straight way I told her “hey I live in Oz”. She said “I never thought about Oz, but why not!”
At the end of 2007, Chiara and I travelled to Oz and stayed at Scarborough for eight months. We then did a trip around Oz and then called in at Nias & India on the return journey to Italy in 2009.
In November 2009 our daughter Shanti was born.
It was not pleasurable living in Italy and in 2010 we moved back to Oz for five months while we were considering options about where we wanted to live.
We had three choices on our wish list:
- Byron Bay
- Northern NSW
We chose Yallingup and in 2012 started Shaana Café on Yallingup beach front. (The name Shaana is derived from Shanti & our friend Anastacia). We do Aussie style breakfasts and lunches with typical Italian piadina bread and of course coffee and cakes. We close Shaana Café for winter (June –September) and head to warmer waters in Bali & Italy.
Photos: 2015-16 Fonzie surfing SW waves on a longboard. SW pics by Loz Smith and Brian Bell.
Photos: 2015-16 Fonzie surfing Canggu Beach Bali on shortboard, longboard and finless Alaia board. Canggu photographer unknown.
My partner Chiara Pieri surfed little in Italy, but she fell in love with surfing at Yallingup. Initially she was scared in the water, but now with tuition from former pro surfer Claire ‘Bevo’ Bevilacqua she is an addict! If she doesn’t surf twice a week she gets frustrated and takes it out on me, especially at work!
Photos: 2015-16 Chiara surfing Yalls and Bali (Canggu & Uluwatu). Pics by various photographers.
Our daughter Shanti (age 6) got her first board at four years old and is a competent skateboarder. For her 6th birthday she received one of Taj Burrow’s old boards from Claire Bevilacqau. She loves surfing on her new board. Our dog Kikko is a dachshund and is land based.
Photos: 2015-16 Shanti surfing and skating with Kikko pics. Pics by various SW photographers.
Multiple MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi grew up in my village in Cervia Italy and we have known each other for a long time. In October this year I travelled to Phillip Island in Victoria to see him win the Australian leg of 2016 MotoGP World Championships.
Photo: 2016 Fonzie with Matteo Flamigna, Valentino Rossi’s technical adviser at Phillip Island Vic.
Photos: 2015 Chiara and Fonzie with Hawaiian Pro Surfer Carissa Moore in the South West. Loz Smith and Fonzie pics.
When you next visit Yallingup Beach call in and have a meal or coffee with Alfonso and Chiara at Shaana Cafe Unit 2/ 6 Dawson Drive, Yallingup Western Australia 6282 Tel 08 9756 6999