Few people would imagine that I’ve spent the last three months in envy of my brother. He is currently in his second year at Swansea University – in the freezing Welsh valleys, completing assignments and attending lectures. I’m currently in my fifth month of travelling, enjoying the baking heat of the Australian summer, sleeping in late and partying away the night.
But there’s been something lacking; something my brother has had no shortage of – surf.
I’ve spent five months on an island that’s host to some of the best surf breaks in the world, surrounded by crystal-clear, warm water. But I spent three of those five months without surf. I’ll admit it: I cried a little.
There are many reasons for my surfless Oz adventure. I spent a month in Cairns, the awe-inspiring Barrier Reef providing some salt-water therapy during my dive course… But there was no decent surf for thousands of kms.
The second month I spent travelling from Perth to Darwin. Sure, western Oz has some of the most insane line-ups you could ever get your stick wet in, and the mutant slabs of Margaret River offer suicidal-looking, dredging barrels on the right swell. But there wasn’t any. It looked promising for one brief day, but there was no way I was going to tackle 6-foot shore dumps in just inches of water – I left that to the local spongers.
Then I hit Sydney, home of the infamous Bondi beach. What a let down. The conditions weren’t appealing, especially after a couple months out of the water: shallow sandbanks, heavy shore breaks and hefty rip currents.
But things have changed over the last two months. I’m slowly turning the tide on my brother’s tales of winter swell. I’m living the dream in a van on the East Coast. The sun is shining and the swell is consistent. And my brother gets more and more pissed off every time he checks his email or Facebook.
It hasn’t been an easy two months, not by a long shot. I’ve had to go through the ordeal of re-losing my surf virginity, in Australian waters on unfamiliar breaks.
I grabbed my 9 footer and enthusiastically got stuck in to something I thought I could easily handle at Manly beach: 3-4 foot. But I was out of practice, out of energy, and out of patience. I spent the very brief session trying to re-learn the sets, paddling unsuccessfully into waves and resigning myself to white-water rides.
Things began to pick up when I headed to the Great Ocean Road, and I enjoyed a smaller session at Torquay beach, and another on the way back at some nice horseshoe bay. I felt better – I’d eased myself in and taken it slow; I was getting to know the ocean again before going all the way.
I made my way up to Byron, hitting a high with a sunset session at Park Beach North in Coffs Harbour; a slightly more punchy left with the advantage of being the only one out – every surfer’s dream.
Since arriving at Byron, I’ve scored numerous session at The Pass, Clarkes Beach and Watego. I’m back in the pack again.
I’m now holed up on the Gold Coast before heading to Noosa for some proper logging waves. I’m in the water most days and my stamina and performance are slowly picking up.
Yes, this article is meant to make you jealous of the fact that I’m sunning it up, sampling beautiful breaks, free of the constraints of the English climate and the rubber it requires. But – more importantly – I hope it makes you realise the importance of getting in the water as often as possible, even if it’s just to paddle up and down the beach.
Re-losing your surf virginity is painful and annoying.
Make your mum proud – stay a surf slut.