Australia 2008 – Contest Craziness

I showed up in Coolangatta, Australia on Febuary 22nd. After a rocky two months at home, intermittently happily soaking in the feel of familiar sand through 2mm thick rubber booties, and wishing I was anywhere else, I finally found myself off the plane and onto my next adventure; five weeks (minimum) in Australia!

Internet cafe self-portrait

The first 12 days were reserved for work. Ok, so I know my job is pretty good. Being the super surf fan that I am, I enjoyed every minute spent on the hard packed sand lining the Gold Coast’s premiere surf spot, Snapper Rocks. The absolute best male and female surfers on the planet were battling for ratings points at the opening event of the 2008 season. World Champs lost to 15 year old wildcards and the greatest surfer of all time, right in front of my eyes. All day long for 8 days I sat there entranced by the action, debating my opinion of the judges’ scoring with random spectators, photographers, and friends. I was enthralled and entertained. I even got to interview friends and heroes about their performances (the work part), and my fantasy surfer team outperformed all 29 other teams in the “Let it Ride” clubhouse populated by Body Glove employees and friends. The connection to the contest was strong and enjoyed.

Of course, I did also get to enjoy my own surfing (the day job). Unfortunately however, the Gold Coast is incredibly crowded. Everybody surfs and most surf really well. Combine a talented and thick local crowd with the assorted ripping media, team support, up-and-comers, and random hangers-on connected with the ASP World Tour of surfing and you have a recipe for the most frustrating sessions of all time.

Coffee coffee coffee!

I made it a habit to wake up at 4:30am, drink coffee and psyche up to music, then run out the door with an apple, pear, or nectarine in hand to eat while walking the two blocks to Snapper every morning. Against the backdrop of a slowly lightening dawn, I would quickly decide whether or not Snapper looked big enough to be fun, and then either paddle out or continue the run up the hill overlooking the beachbreak peaks of Duranbah. In the water by the 5:15am I enjoyed at most 20 minutes of un-checked wave feasting, worriedly glancing back towards the beach to see a steady stream of others running towards my crumbling sanctuary. By 6:00am it was over and I started looking to get a good wave in, which would often take another half hour to achieve.

My apartment on the Gold Coast

I went to bed early most nights in order to be sure to be up around 4. I did go out to celebrate Sophia Mulanovich winning the Roxy Pro.

Sophia and her boyfriend Scott, playing the pokies

I also went on a silly surf mission with the girls on a contest lay day. 4 of us crammed ourselves and our boards into a small car and did a nearly 2 hour loop, checking a few surf spots and ending up back at the house for red wine and Poisson Cru.

Surf check mission with the girls

My friend Amandine from France who is still nursing a bad knee from an injury in Hawaii in November is an incredible cook. She makes the best crepes ever, as well as the Tahitian version of Ceviche (raw tuna cooked in lime juice with coconut milk) which literally translates to “raw fish” from the French “poisson cru”.

Amandine, making dinner

On a contest off day, I went for a run and discovered these rocks. Perfect for climbing and jumping across

When the contest finally finished on the second to last day of the waiting period, I was incredibly excited. My cute comfortable apartment rental was over and with nearly two weeks until the waiting period for the second WCT event begins, I decided to rent a campervan and trip around solo for a while. A friend suggested that rather than do circles somewhere nearby it might be a good idea just to drive down to Melbourne (near the CT event), a 24 hour drive. While it is all about the journey, it is also nice to have some destination in mind. After seeing numerous comically painted vans throughout Australia on previous visits I knew exactly where I would get mine.

Wicked Vans always have some sort of interesting paint job!

I stashed my boardbag and luggage where Amandine was staying and caught a bus to a train to Brisbane to the Wicked Camper Van rental depot.

On a train

12 days, one-way to Melbourne please. Thanks very much!

My wicked van!

Stoked to be out of the circus atmosphere of Coolangatta, I showed up at Sarah and Rebecca’s house in Ballina for a couple nights relaxing with friends.

The next morning Sarah, Bec, Amandine, Marina and I piled into the car to go check out the local surf options. I had just finished a strong cup of coffee and compared to the crowds of Coolangatta, everywhere we checked looked epic. I was pointing and hooting at every green clean empty peak.

When we pulled up to this spot, called Angels, there was no way I was getting back in the car to go check somewhere else.

My favorite type of waves in the world – uncrowded, peaky, hollow beachbreak with friends!

Still injured, Amandine volunteered to swim out with the waterhousing and try to snap some pics. This self-portrait says it all. Gorgeous smile!

Amandine actually scored some sick pics. Check out Rebecca Woods, ripping!

Me, cutting it back in front of a friend

We came across another friend in the water, Jaime Wheatley

This is a relatively new addition to the group. Super cool Brazilian, Marina.

Marina rips too!

Sarah Beardmore is the glue that holds the group together. The social motivator, she is friends with everyone on tour and is always entertaining.

I think she was annoyed that I kept ending up in a better spot when the good lefts came in, so she moved down the beach and then couldn’t resist burning Marina. All in good fun!

I was on the inside paddling back out when Sarah went for this one. A split second after the photo was taken, she got lip launched and chucked out into the flats. It was the best thing I had seen all day, and I was losing it laughing underwater. She came up laughing as well, telling stories of how many flips she did underwater and bouncing off the sand. At that point, there was no place in the world I would have rather been than surfing with my friends.

Amandine, self portrait

I have heard of the mystical town of Nimbin for years. It was rumored to be the “Amsterdam of Australia”. My friends Jessi and Laurina even sent me a postcard from there a couple years ago that is still hanging on my fridge at home. It seems that every one of my friends has been there except me, so I insisted that we pay Nimbin a visit so I could finally see for myself.

The drive was long and beautiful. Green hills and valleys parted by a long smooth stretch of two-lane highway. We spent quite a while behind this vehicle and I was so stoked to see the young hippie couple driving it, cuddling in the front seat, as we passed them. Such a sweet car and couch combo.

Unfortunately, by the time we actually got to Nimbin, it was 5pm and most of the shops were quickly closing.

Marina and Sarah

I treasure my international group of friends. One Californian, one Brazilian, a British girl living in Australia, and a Frenchy that spends at least equal amounts of time in Tahiti. Independent, wandering women, looking for adventure and a few fun waves.

We passed the giant prawn of Endless Summer fame and Amandine hopped up on top of the car for a photo.

In this crowded, fast-paced world, it is soothing to see that solitude exists. The country side was sprinkled with the most appetizing farmhouses surrounded by open space.

More to come as I make my way down the coast…

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2 Responses to Australia 2008 – Contest Craziness

  1. Birdman says:

    wicked van adventures are the best!If you have time be sure to check out Wilson’s Promontory. Great drive through, amazing scenery and some good waves.

  2. pushingtide says:

    Hey I do the same thing, wake up aroudn 4am and try to get some fun ones in the dark before the masses pile out….but at least you are doing it at Snapper!!Cool water snaps!

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