“Remember, you must keep your chest completely covered up. No sun whatsoever.” Dr Coulter’s words follow me into a surf shop in Bondi Junction. Nick brought me here to buy a rash vest or, as they call it in Aus, a rashie. A rashie is a lycra t-shirt that surfers wear with or without a wetsuit to prevent the nasty chest rash caused when bare flesh rubs against a surfboard. They have the added advantage of being UV resistant claiming an SPF of 50+. They are light enough to swim in. So what’s the down side? Rashies are universally covered with hideous logos. ROXY screams one, BILLABONG exclaims another amidst a crude swirly wave pattern. I crinkle my nose. Nick turns to the surfer-girl sales assistant, “Do you have any rashies without logos?” She gapes at us with a disdainful shake of her head. In my emotionally unhinged mind I imagine she’s thinking “Why does an old woman like her want to go to the beach anyway?”
We do a few circuits of Westfield Shopping Plaza looking at similar but more expensive rashies before returning to the first shop. There is a different, more mature, sales assistant on duty. She directs us upstairs to the menswear department. Here we find a dark pewter coloured rashie with the single word 'O’Neill' subtly inscribed in almost-invisible black lettering. It’s on sale – 20% off. I take it.