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Humans of Eumundi - Ray Kelly


Don't judge Ray Kelly until you have walked a mile in his shoes.

And not the shoes he makes, his own shoes. 

The man behind Nedz Sandals is more than an extraordinary craftsman, with a keen eye for detail and quality. 

Ray is a well-travelled, father of four (grown up children now) and keen surfer who danced with death five years ago. This is Ray's story.  

Ray grew up on a dairy farm in Dayboro, a small-town west of Brisbane.

On school holidays, he and his family would visit Mooloolaba. It was here his love for surfing was born.

At 13, Ray moved to Brisbane to start high school during the 60's, an era which only further implemented surf culture into his heart and soul.

"I feel so fortunate to have grown up in that surf culture age," Ray said.

"My mates and I would come up to Noosa for surf trips, but this was back in the 60's when Noosa only had one shop in the whole town and a little dirt road."

After school Ray lived the 'hippy backpack life' travelling from Indonesia to Southeast Asia, Nepal, Europe and New Zealand before settling in Byron Bay in the 70s.

Living the dream as a young yet well-travelled Aussie, Ray was more than content to settle down in the bay to surf and make leather sandals. 

"It was a time where leather craftsmanship was huge. Everyone was making leather sandals, bags, belts... you name it," he said.

"It was an awesome job because you could pick and choose your hours. Surf in the morning, make a few sandals, then go for another surf. But by the 80s the fashion changed and I had to support my family, so I started building."

Little did Ray know a career move to the building industry would only benefit his sandal making skills years down the track.

Ray said working in construction with the mechanical and engineering side of things has helped his sandal craftsmanship immensely. But it wasn't his choice to hang up the building belt so soon.

Like a powerful wave swallowing a lone surfer, Ray's life turned into an uncontrollable wipe-out when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2012.

For years his friends called him Ned (Ned Kelly) for no other reason than sharing the same surname. Bay Ray soon discovered another connection to the infamous bushranger - relating to the quote "such is life."

"Being diagnosed with cancer definitely makes you appreciate life a lot more," he said.

"The old saying 'live life to the fullest' couldn't be more fitting."

Lucky Ray had seen the world, surfed many breaks and raised four beautiful children. He had lived life to the fullest, but he had more to give.

And so he did.

Ray survived his illness and went on to live his best life possible - making sandals and surfing.

Back to where it all began but now living in Noosa, Ray spends his treasured days with his partner Denise, doing what he loves and selling his beloved sandals at The Original Eumundi Markets. 

Although this time around, Ray's hands bring a whole new set of life lessons and skills to each pair of sandals... not to mention there's more colours to explore compared to the standard black and tan leather he had back in the 70s.

He also helps a lot of disabled people by custom making shoes to fit individual feet.

Ray said he's had all kinds of different feet walk into his stall at the Original Eumundi Markets.

"I had one man come in with a size 12 right foot and a size 9 left. Another lady had one deformed foot, she had 20 operations but still couldn't find a shoe to fit," he explained.

"It's good because they can come see me at the markets, go have a coffee and a look around and come back and their shoes are made ready to go."

Every foot has a different journey. Whatever journey you have had or are about to embark on, Ray's words of advice are simple.

"Work hard and be honest. Be happy with what you've got and appreciate your health."

Take Ray's words and go create your own journey. And why not walk it in a pair of Nedz Sandals?

Find Ray and Denise at Nedz Sandals at The Original Eumundi Markets every Wednesday and Saturday.



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