Part 2 SOMETHING FOUND
Moving to Perth in Western Australia, being no more than 5-10 minutes drive time from the beach really changed the way I surfed. Established mindset of waiting for perfect conditions like nice offshore wind, good sand banks and incoming tide, would have resulted in a landlubber type existence. I just had to get out there no matter the conditions, because that is what the locals did. Howling onshore, offshore it did not matter as long as you got wet. Soon it was 2-3 early mornings and the occasional evening after work plus weekends that averaged 4-5 surfs each week. Perth waves are average at best, closing out most of the time.
Paddle out during closeout days. Take the drop. It had some punch, exploding onto pretty shallow sand. One thing this surf does do, is force you to be quick to your feet at takeoff, otherwise the wave is over before you have even started. Rides may only be 2-4 seconds long at best. So I improved. The takeoffs tuned up so to speak. Late takeoffs and air drops (freefall drop) became standard fare. When I ventured further to waves that actually properly broke left or right, I found the surfing much freer, less prone to mistakes, set up much earlier to control more what I did on the wave. To top it off, even if I couldn’t access a wave for a few weeks, the takeoff form was still there firmly imprinted forever.
Trigg Point is the go to spot especially over Summer and if you want to thrash it out with 200 other frothing humans all competing in a takeoff zone the size of a postage stamp then go ahead. A few little reef breaks just north of Trigg add to the variety. At Trigg, there was an established pecking order that needed to be obeyed, which I did and over time was accepted as part of the general pack. Not to say that especially during Winter, after a few Cold fronts in a row, these beaches can really light up with some shifty A framed action, as was my good fortune to surf during the Winter of 2014. It really pumped! Still have one such barelling wave firmly in the head forever!
A small drive north of Perth and a few secret spots that are not so secret anymore had consistent waves not subject to the ever shifting sands of Perth beaches. Get there early and only a few out with a nice mellow vibe and backdrop of Coastal Reserve dune system to relax the soul. Within an hour, word has got out. I look to the car park it is full. All of a sudden at least 40 are out in the water. The mood turned from nice mellow vibes to no smiles and hassling for waves. The old guard ‘locals’ Crew (aged from 40 into their 50’s) move in. They really didn’t care about surf etiquette, they drop in (cardinal sin) and will happily take off on top of someone desperate to get out of their way but cannot.
Paddling back out after a wave I spotted a guy who had been caught inside desperately trying to avoid a surfer taking off. The avoidee moved to the left to get out of his way. Just as he did, the one taking off adjusted his board to the right and made sure he ran over the hapless surfer now underneath his triple finned surfboard. He laughed as he did it and yelled out, “you F@#$ing ‘Kook’, just F#@k off”! I really could not believe my eyes that someone had set out to damage another person like this.
The surfer that had just been run over, appeared to be in a fair bit of pain and half off his board. I paddled over and saw two splits down and across the back left shoulder of the wetsuit and blood is starting to come out. He is a younger guy that I recognised as a Perth Beach regular who was pretty good at his craft. It is suggested that we go in and really check the shoulder out, and we did.
Meanwhile, one of the other ‘Crew’ members paddled in before us. He was waiting on the sand, got up close and yelled, “You get the F@#$ing message“! Laughed again, no care for damage caused and started paddling back out. I yelled out a few expletives myself, but was ignored apart from an annoyed glance back over the shoulder.
Blood is really starting to pump out of the sliced shoulder blade. Sliced Man’s mate turns up, rips off a section of his towel (strong boy), and is used to stem the blood flow. Still in wetsuits, we head to the local medical centre for treatment about 10 minutes away. 22 stitches were required. Two fin slices, one in particular had cut deep into muscles. Much rehab required and took him just over three months to regain almost normal use again. Driving to Stitch-up world, the story comes out out of a small disagreement earlier when one of the ‘Crew’ had deliberately dropped in on him, and it escalated from there. “Sliced Man” mentions that it wasn’t the first time.
A bit of quiet research (I worked locally) turned up that out of this ‘Crew’, 2 were long termers and the rest? “Johnny come lately”, they were. Fly in Fly out Crew at the mine sites. These disgusting humans had done this considered callous action due to their fake claim of being Locals.
Out of the water, they presented the facade of being responsible members of the Community, were involved with local clubs. When surfing they were just a bunch of common thugs. Such a facade! Over five short years, so called localism started to rear it’s very ugly head due to this bunch of middling to older age men. If one of the ‘Crew’ was doing solo sessions, they behaved most of the time and only occasionally dropped in. As the ‘Crew’, they turned into an outlaw Gang. Bliss evaporated for all that were already in the water, whenever this ‘Crew’ turned up.
It was always about hunting in a pack and to stomp on anyone in their way. They had completely lost sight of the pleasure of surfing. My spittle is quickly sour when random thoughts cast back to the ‘Crew’ at that “Spot” (hint: just before Two Rocks). Such a pity. The quality wave and it’s blissfull location, seriously did not deserve them. This”Spot” that had been my Oceanic Ashram for over 16 years, was no more.
One bonus was a new found surf buddy in ex-“Slice Man”, surfing Perth beaches. A thoroughly good Human. Water and wave bliss will always be found surfing with people like ex- “Slice Man”!
Finally, arranged for a dream trip to the NW of West Australia – Red Bluff at the age of 50, 12 hours drive north of Perth and fully provisioned for a four day stay. Remote camping it is. Tassie mates had been there in early 1980’s and brought back some amazing Super 8 footage that had stuck with me. What a place! Ocean alive with non stop swell medium to big, unbelievable amount of whales right through to one cruising into the Bay, breaching 3 times and swimming back out again. I am sure it was just for fun and show. The thunder of the massive shorebreak resonating off the amphitheater like Cliff surrounds for some reason was the best sleeping pill! A nice warm up walk out along the edge of the lower cliffs to the actual surf point allowing the mind to just drink in this explosion of Nature highlight reel. Realising that when you get out there that it is twice the size from what it looked like from the camp site. Realising that the shoreline rock shelf is peppered with small holes and every one has a nice spiky sea urchin living there.
The wave itself? Live was much better than Super 8. Surfing Perth Beach breaks really had not prepared me for these relentless steam train lefts. Yes, I was surf fit, but it ended there. Transition from 3-4 second waves to this was like coming out of a cave after many years in exile and forgetting what walking meant. The speed and power of a real Indian Ocean swell almost overwhelming.
Much bliss of paddling out in the lush sub-tropical water with whale spouts nearby, was tempered by the waves. About twice the size of standard Perth, with some further up the Point getting seriously barrelled and coming out, while myself and a few others muddled around at a second take off location. The first session, not a wave caught, one very hesitant take-off that ended up with over the falls and a fair bit of underwater time. Those who hesitate……… I decided to just be tourist as I had the best seat in the house enjoying the spectacle being put on by those that had the wave wired.
Four days and a grand total of four waves ridden. All during smaller sessions. Not much for a 12 hour drive from Perth, but at least I paddled out and took the drop. Ashram rating 7/10 because the place was amazing, but not that 15/10 that had been tasted in the past. Plainly I was just not prepared and confidence took a fair belting. The trip also exposed a level of fear of bigger surf that had been lying submerged for many years, mainly from twice almost drowning in large surf that I was plainly unprepared for, once at Coal Point in Tasmania being repeatedly held down by a big set (8 waves) that closed out the Bay, while stuck in a Bed of Kelp and at Margaret River being held down for so so long. Say no more.
Cricket had instilled the keep on going attitude, no matter if failure beckons. With that in mind, I went back for more the following year. It was a much better experience as I knew what to expect and scored many more waves though I was still sitting out the bigger days, but still seriously entertained by the amazing surfing by those that did. Ashram rating crept up to 9/10, but until the bigger surf fear was conquered, the Bliss state was still just a dream.
Two years later, back again. The bigger days and the way these waves had been surfed by others was pretty consistent in the thoughts. It was almost an oxymoron the fear of bigger days as 10 years earlier I had almost broken my neck in 2-3 ft very average waves at Cottesloe Beach in Perth, going backwards over the falls leading to multiple cracked vertebrae. This time was going to be it! As per usual it was pumping. Spent the first few days getting back up to speed with some seriously fun small to medium sessions. Sat out a couple of bigger swell pulses, spending much time talking to myself about this failure to have a red hot go.
Paddled out second last day of the trip on a bigger day, just to get the feel and at least get a front row seat to the entertainment by others. Half an hour later, a wide set came through and realised I was the only person in the vicinity to catch it. Someone hollered and called me in. No choice, I had to go, now or never. Paddling like crazy, repeating “don’t hesitate” and I didn’t. Sometimes, time is super slo mo. No explaining it, it just is. Smooth and effortless it was, takeoff, the sound of slicing through the water totally uninterrupted, seeing the wave walling up to pitch over, so easy into the bottom turn on a beautiful arc that can only be found in nature of waves, rail set, slightly ducked, all else dissipated from the World as I was enclosed in the bosom of the Green room, barelled I was for the first time in serious sized waves.
Came out and the sweetest and easiest cut back and into deeper water. The hair was almost dry! Ohhhhhhh! I wanted to scream in ecstasy and did, coming out more like a roar and grin wider than the face. I paddled back out and 15 minutes later did it all again. 15/10 on the Ashram scale was achieved. For the first time in 35 years of surfing, I finally felt like a surfer and had conquered my own personal Everest.
Waves surfed of that day have become my meditation. The mind is a complete replay reel. I can still see, smell and feel every ripple on that offshore wave face, the angle of the face, light sparkling off the bending wave face and those sexiest of curves carved. While writing this, the body is swaying and shifting as if I am on the board. It can be replayed in super slo-mo or normal speed. It has become the go to item when having issues getting to sleep. About midway through the third ‘mind-reel’ replay, I wake up the next morning!
Since then, a confident surfer I have become, with zero issues paddling out on bigger days. I am not a hellman like the big wave dudes though. Huge respect and awe of them. Geepers, I am 62 years old now. Double overhead is about it (6 feet maximum on surfer scale). Surfing form does not elude me like it it did in part time surfer younger days. Something about that big day surf impregnated itself on the DNA that transformed me. I am still a mainly down the line, with a few cut backs, maybe a floater chucked in and loving late takeoffs.
Now, landlocked in Kuala Lumpur, writing this with about six weeks left before the four months of the North East Monsoon season happens and lights up our East Coast, three hours drive away. Eight months out of the water. Yes, I will be rusty and a bit sore the first few times, but once sitting out beyond the breaking waves, drinking in natures sounds of surf breaking, watching the flow of swell lines, cloud and blue sky mix and jungle to the waters edge, Bliss state takes over and Ashram doors are open once again for all that want to take the drop and flow down the line of Natures rhythm gift to us all.
JUST GET OUT THERE!