Straight Edge,Megan Kinninmentlooks at the latest lifestyle choice of young people in Byron Simmo (left), Winston McCall and Ji
Straight Edge,Megan Kinninmentlooks at the latest lifestyle choice of young people in Byron Simmo (left), Winston McCall and Ji

No booze, no sex- meet straight edge



SIMMO wears black and sports tattoos, has ears pierced as wide as your thumb and delights in slamming into people at hard core, heavy metal music gigs.

His lifestyle choice is extreme too -? although not as you might expect.

This gentle and articulate 22-year-old surf instructor is part of the Straight Edge youth movement which, despite the hard core music scene it connects with, makes clean-living its mantra and is sweeping across the Northern Rivers.

Born in the USA as a reaction to the ultra-violent lyrics of 1980s punk music, Straight Edge is now a growing youth subculture in which the kids don't take drugs, don't drink alcohol and shun promiscuity.

Many are also strict vegans and don't drink coffee or take prescription drugs.

The Northern Rivers Straight Edge members gained unwanted nationwide notoriety after it was alleged on A Current Affair that they were involved in media celebrity Rex Hunt's brawl with a group of Byron youths ? although the Straight Edge kids The Northern Star spoke to said they were witness only to the brawl and none of their ilk threw a punch ? and they certainly weren't drunk.

Straight Edge central is the Byron Youth Activity Centre, known as the YAC, which has regular alcohol and drug-free hard core music gigs that attract 300 kids, many of whom are Straight Edge.

In the six years the hard core scene has been going, Byron Bay is now considered an international hard core venue, with the Straight Edge culture developing in tandem.

"If you came to a hard core show it would look like a big kung-fu show," Simmo says.

"But that's where you're allowed to go crazy.

"It's a release.

"On the surface it appears aggressive, and it's certainly energetic," agrees Byron Youth Centre co-ordinator Paul Spooner.

"But the movement is based around looking after your body.

"It has a really positive feel about it."

Fellow YAC co-ordinator, Ellie Renaud is also supportive.

"It is a unique community because there's this group of young people making a positive, proactive choice not to get involved in drugs and alcohol," she said.

One of the volunteer organisers of the YAC's hard core gigs is 23-year-old Winston McCall who, when he's not cheerily serving customers at Mac's Takeaway in Byron Bay, is lead singer of heavy metal band Parkway Drive.

Like his mate Simmo, Winston is plastered in tattoos and lives for the heavy beats and screeching sound of hard core music.

He has been Straight Edge for five years after discovering the pitfalls of alcohol abuse.

"Kids at (high school) get introduced to alcohol at a young age, and I started drinking at 16," he said.

"Once I turned 18 and I was legally able to buy alcohol I went to pubs and found I was bored with it.

"It wasn't fun any more, not remembering things the next day."

The decision to go Straight Edge was a considered one: "It's a lifelong choice and there has to be conviction to it.

"It was a big deal. I tested it out by not drinking for nine months before deciding."

Straight Edge kids also take their body art very seriously, Winston says, using tattoos both as a method of affirming their lifestyle choices and to identify themselves as Straight Edge.

Symbols that have been traditionally associated with hard living, such as the triple Xs that often denote hard porn or heavy liquor, have been subverted by Straight Edge youth to symbolise extreme clean living.

"It's a pride thing," Winston says.

"You see someone with a Straight Edge tattoo and you feel like you know them."

Fellow Straight Edger Simmo has also made a life-long commitment through the tattoos he sports: Each embedded with positive affirmations of his life, post drugs.

After becoming addicted to 'weed' (marijuana) at the tender age of 15, Simmo was introduced to the Straight Edge lifestyle through a friend.

Tattooed on his left calf is a delicate drawing of a crouching, hooded boy ? head down and shrouded in darkness. Behind is an adult man, muscles flexed, captioned by the words: 'Strength within'.

"This symbolises the strength in me emerging," he said.

"I feel like I've left an old life behind."

On his chest, in freshly embossed skin, is the phrase 'Holding this moment', another affirmation of the power of positive choice.

However, not all Straight Edge kids opt for tattoos.

"It's something I'm proud of, but I don't need to go around telling everyone," says 19-year-old Jia O'Connor, who has been Straight Edge since he was 16.

Like Simmo and Winston, Jia made the choice to abstain from alcohol and drugs after experimenting from a young age.

"I started smoking at 13, mostly dope," he says.

"In Year 8 I got caught by the police and they let me off with a warning.

"I thought 'this is definitely a wake-up call'.

"Since that day I've stopped smoking.

"Then at high school I started drinking and I had a really bad experience.

"I spewed up all day.

"Before becoming Straight Edge I stopped drinking for six months. Then I said I was Straight Edge." n Continued from previous page

That Straight Edge was the right choice for Jia was confirmed, he says, a year later when his cousin died from a heroin overdose.

Winston McCall says that, considering the harsh look and music of Straight Edge, he is often surprised by the level of parental support.

"If I was a parent I'd look at it and say 'This looks sketchy'," he says.

'Sketchy' describes Byron Bay mother and clinical nurse Debra Hayhoe's first reaction to the bunch of black-clad, pierced and tattooed youth seated in her living room.

"I thought they must definitely be into alcohol, but my kids said 'No Mum, they're Straight Edge'

"Now, I think 'thank god'. They're a smart lot of kids."

n What do you think?

Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- ions@northernstar.com.aun Continued from previous page

That Straight Edge was the right choice for Jia was confirmed, he says, a year later when his cousin died from a heroin overdose.

Winston McCall says that, considering the harsh look and music of Straight Edge, he is often surprised by the level of parental support.

"If I was a parent I'd look at it and say 'This looks sketchy'," he says.

'Sketchy' describes Byron Bay mother and clinical nurse Debra Hayhoe's first reaction to the bunch of black-clad, pierced and tattooed youth seated in her living room.

"I thought they must definitely be into alcohol, but my kids said 'No Mum, they're Straight Edge'

"Now, I think 'thank god'. They're a smart lot of kids." What do you think?

Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- ions@northernstar.com.au



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