Archive for September, 2013

DCIM100GOPROAfter a day off I have arranged another dawn raid with Chris to try and bag one more of the northern beaches before I leave Australia.

I am waiting outside his door on a Monday morning at 5.30 am with the engine running. the wheels are soon rolling northwards up to Long Reef which is at the north end of the same bay as Dee Why.

DCIM100GOPROSadly the waves have dropped considerably from the previous day which I had opted to utilise for trip administration as well as allowing myself some rest after surfing five different beaches and having gone sailing in the previous two days.

We have made the trip and there are at least waves so we paddle out anyway just after the sun comes up over the eastern horizon.

DCIM101GOPROIt is before 6 am and there are already at least fifty surfers in the water up and down the bay, but we find a little peak which isn’t too busy and make the most of the fun waves which are on offer.

It was an amusing session, but tinged with a bit of sadness because it is my last one with Chris, who you see here getting ready for a day in the office after we had got out. It has been great having a surf buddy in the water, and from here all the way back home I am likely to be going solo again, or at best surfing with strangers.e make his ferry into Sydney with ease and even have time for a McBreakfast before saying farewell.

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Hawthorn Win

Whilst in Melbourne earlier on my travels I was lucky enough to be taken to see Hawthorn play an AFL match against St Kilda, which they won comfortably as they have done many times this season. They finished top of the league so it is quite fitting that they won yesterday’s Grand Final here in Australia to crown them as champions for the season.

100,000 people watched the game played against Fremantle at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (known as the MCG) and I had decided to support them in the game because of my earlier involvement, but also because Hawthorne in Los Angeles is the area where The Beach Boys grew up

Hawthorn

The full time score was 77 -62 with the Hawks scoring ten goals to Fremantle’s eight.

I’m betting that William and Matthew will be very pleased with the result too.

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Newport BeachNewport beach is where Rossana and Adam’s legal practise is based. There is a beautiful beach there that Chris and I drove to after getting off the sailing boat, although the speed with which we tried to get there before the sun went down may well have ended with us being in front of a magistrate!

I wasn’t at all convinced we would be in time to make the rally driving worthwhile, but take my hat off to Chris who had convinced me otherwise.

WP_20130928_073I love a manic surf trip. It gets the blood pumping like it used to when I first started going to the beach in search of waves.

As you can see night was already well on its way as we pulled up in the car park. The waves were very small but consistently coming through so we didn’t think twice before getting into our wetsuits and running down the sand. I wouldn’t say this was an all time legendary surf trip but we did catch plenty of little rides each, with the bay to ourselves.

EmptyThat was apart from an inept young lad who was already on the water and decided he wanted to come and play with us, but just kept getting in our way. A few choice words after one incident saw him leave the water soon after.

We only caught a few more of the one foot crumbling waves before getting out ourselves. It was as dark as you see here in the car park, and I am willing to play shark bait only when the surf conditions are above certain thresholds. After drying off we caught up with Rachel and Stuart in the pub in Mosman for victory beers after a fantastic day.

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WP_20130928_009Chris has arranged to go sailing after his visit to the tax man on Saturday afternoon and is kind enough to ask me if I would like to join him on the boat.

We meet up with his wife Rachel and the owner of the boat called Stuart, before driving over to Pittwater, which is a huge inlet north of Sydney named after a former Prime Minister of the UK. 

WP_20130928_027The boat is a 28 foot Daydream called Jamboree and I am delighted to be invited on board because I have never been out on the sea under sail, and it is for that reason I am claiming this wave even if I wasn’t actually surfing here.

I actually think sailing is a natural progression for surfers, who still wish to enjoy playing with the ocean once the ravages of time do not necessarily allow them to paddle out into all the waves they once did.

WP_20130928_048It is a very windy day and after getting clear of all the other boats moored near by we set sail for Barrenjoey headland which is the far end of the peninsular past Palm Beach.

As we get close we notice that a small fire seems to have started on the headland, which reminds me of the Great Orme back in Llandudno. Due to its location on the headland it sadly can only have been started as a result of human negligence such as a tossed cigarette butt or glass bottle.

Alf StewartStraight away I am on to the emergency services to alarm them about the fire, because you should never assume that somebody else has rang, but the wind quickly gets hold of it and a bush fire is quickly engulfing all the tinder dry plants and trees there.

In no time at all all the area that you can see behind Alf Stewart, a grumpy local resident, is ablaze and there is really nothing the local fire fighting services can do other than try to save the historic lighthouse on the top of the headland.

Helicopter FirefighterTo try and save the buildings a squadron of helicopters flies over the blaze dropping water from buckets they have filled. We couldn’t work out why they didn’t use sea water adjacent to the headland but can only assume it was to protect the animal and plants there. However this just meant that whilst they flew off to a freshwater reservoir or something similar, the blaze went unchecked for huge stretches of time, and anything there would have been burnt to a crisp anyway.

Watching all of this was exciting enough, but to add to the script for today we were joined on the water in our grandstand view of proceedings by a pod of dolphins swimming around the boat. Annoyingly though I still have no pictures to demonstrate another close call with these animals! They kept disappearing.

WP_20130928_067Once the fire was under control we set sail back for the mooring near Church Point and you can see Admiral Simmons here displaying fine mastery of the row boat to ferry everybody else back to shore.

As first sailing experiences go it was an amazing afternoon and sadly I suspect will be hard to match up to on any subsequent voyages. Once on dry land Chris persuades me that there is still a chance for another wave even if there is barely any light left in the day.

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DCIM103GOPROAfter a day of rest Chris convinces me to make another early start in search of waves on saturday morning. We pick up another ex-pat surfer Ben who I enjoyed many waves with back in the UK and set of on a wave safari.

Ben, Chris and I check out a number of different breaks that I haven’t seen before but decide to opt for the waves at Dee Why. You can see all three of us in the line up here.

DCIM101GOPROI had actually surfed here before, but staggeringly forgot to report that I had visited this break back in July. Only discovering that when I was about to report on returning there. It must have got lost in a previous backlog, so I am hoping there are not any more.

The surf is a bit all over the place but certainly the best we saw along the coast.

DCIM103GOPROIt doesn’t take me long until I have dropped into a few, and all the time in the water am enjoying the banter between Chris and Ben.

The waves are about head high and there are loads of people in the water, but I certainly manage to get my share of waves while we are here, including one fantastic right which I manage to slalom my way to the shore picking a workable line through the surfer soup. 

DCIM101GOPROWe are in the water for a few hours and having loads of fun, but as ever fatigue or another appointment means we have to get out.

Chris has a visit scheduled with the tax man here in Dee Why so we get out and enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat whilst enjoying the Australian wildlife walking along the sea front.

DCIM102GOPROI already knew it but this session confirms that you cant beat surfing with your friends.

My smile says why.

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home-and-awayFrom Manly I drive about half an hour north to Palm Beach, which is used as the location for Summer Bay in TV’s Home and Away soap opera. (A big shout going out to John Beattie at this point because I know he likes this beach.)

I have been up here a few times hoping to catch a wave or two, but it has always been flat or I was without a board at the start of the Australian leg of my adventures. As a result I am delighted to see the swell rolling in. There are also not too many people in the water because this beach is right at the end of a peninsular north of Sydney.

Palm Beach 1I have already surfed twice today and am a tad raw after being rubbed to pieces by my wetsuit.

I didn’t thrash about endlessly as a consequence. Instead trying to pick an easy way out and fun waves to ride back in on.

DCIM103GOPROI had a great chat with a local knee boarder who seemed to be having fun in the waves which were breaking quickly over another sand bar.

As you can see I also bagged my share, but didn’t last much more than an hour, because it was now just after midday and I was on my third session of the day!

After getting changed I chatted with a surfer from Jersey, who had been living in Australia for twelve years.However I didn’t hang around with her for long, leaving her to take on the waves with her pink board as I drove south super stoked with my bountiful morning of surf.

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Nth Steyne 1North Steyne beach at Manly is almost always busy. It is the northern beaches version of Bondi, which tourists flock to, but it is also popular with local surfers too.

The beach is about two miles long and after driving across the peninsular from the ferry terminal I discover that the ocean there is the most crowded I have seen anywhere during my time in Australia. It is only just past eight and hundreds of surfers have already paddled out.

DCIM101GOPROI can’t be bothered with scrapping for every wave in the crowds, but spot a little break in front of the beach volleyball courts which is going largely unridden.

I paddle out there and am quickly chatting with another guy in the water called Geoff, who I discover is an editor at The Australian newspaper.

DCIM101GOPROApart from dropping in on his waves as you see here, (my apologies Geoff) the two of us chat about great waves around the world and where my trip has taken me.

Amazingly we have a little peak to ourselves for a couple of hours until the children and surf schools start arriving in the water.

DCIM101GOPROGeoff and I bag lefts and rights for fun until things get too crowded. It was only a few feet but really clean and getting warmer all the time as the sun rose in the sky.

Whilst in the water he told me that I should have been here the day before when a solitary dolphin had appeared. It had been content to hang out in the line-up and rub up against legs dangling in the water. 

DCIM102GOPROI have had so many great dolphin encounters on this trip but no evidence for you to back up my claims, so am a bit gutted to have missed the experience. Especially because I had looked at the waves here the day before and there had not been anything showing when I had arrived. You never know what is around the corner though and I will have plenty more time to see marine life on my trip.

It is still only half past ten when I get out of the water from my second surf of the day. It would be criminal not to take more advantage of the swell which has arrived so I pack up and head north again.

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DCIM104GOPROAfter my night on the sofa Chris and I are up and have wheels rolling by half past five.

We head straight for the coast and after checking a couple of breaks decide to get in at Curl Curl where the swell is showing more than everywhere else.

There is a sand bar here and we have a nightmare getting through the waves which seem to be surging over the top of it. We both get a bit of a hammering on the way out as you can see! 

DCIM100GOPROWe both make it out back to the clean waves eventually but it is then a question of which wave you paddle for to avoid just getting hammered by a close out.

Chris cheers me in to one after half an hour and I drop into the head high wave in the early morning sun. The ride was my only one of the session and was little more than a huge drop and a bottom turn before getting clattered by the rest of the wave.

WP_20130926_015After it I can’t face another battle back out and we need to get Chris back to Manly by eight so that he can catch the last ferry into Sydney that will get him to work on time, so I call an end to my session there.

Chris isn’t far behind me and has time to rinse the salt off and get into his work clothes before the short drive south. We make the ferry with ease leaving me with the rest of the day to see how many more waves I can catch elsewhere.

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northern-beaches-mapThere are still loads of beaches which I haven’t surfed in and around Sydney.

I can’t let all of them slip through my fingers so go on a safari to all the northern Beaches to see what the waves are like.

Sadly in a similar fashion to most of my East Coast surf opportunities during my time in Australia there is just no swell about.

It has been like this for months and all the Aussie surfers I have met have been lamenting what a poor run they have been on.

I visited Manly, Collaroy, Warriewood, Newport and Palm Beach looking for even a hint of a ripple. There is no joy anywhere though.

4pines logoI decide to combat my frustration with beer and am met in Manly by my old flat mate in London. Chris has caught the ferry from Sydney and I bring him up to speed on all my adventures and waves since we last caught up.

I only have a couple of beers from the local 4 Pines brewery before we head nearer to home, but it clearly affects me more than I realise because I drive straight through a red light on the sea front road at North Steyne. Thankfully without maiming any of the people returning home from the sand.

I shall divert attention from this dubious driving by commenting on how good the beer has been here in Australia. Like the USA I wasn’t expecting great things but have been impressed everywhere by all the good work done by micro breweries and some of the bigger players in the market too.

CurryChris and I join his wife Rachel for a curry in the Mosman area of Sydney. I haven’t had one in ages and it will do me no harm to get into the spirit of Asia before I head off there in a few days time.

I am convinced to crash on their sofa at the end of the night, in order to facilitate a dawn raid surf session the following morning. Thankfully a swell is supposed to be arriving.

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Lily & Spyda 6I only have a week left in Australia and decide to have a few days off before preparing for the journey home. It is the last chance for me to to gorge myself on English speaking television before I return home, and I am joined on the sofa by Lily and Spyda whose company I have enjoyed so much whilst here. They follow my every move with interest too.

I do manage to get a few blog posts out of the way during this time, but I seem to be permanently in a state of backlog of late. Internet access has been an ever present problem since I started this trip and I can’t see that improving significantly in the last two months of my journey.

As a consequence I will make sure I catch up before I leave Australia, or at least in the first few days upon arriving in Japan where I am going next, or it might never happen.

Penny-blackI pack up all of my souvenirs since Tahiti and am amazed by the sheer quantity of stuff I have to send home.

I won’t tell you how much the postage cost but do find myself questioning whether it is worth the expense of sending things back to the UK.

I wonder if I should be putting the postage cost towards an investment such as a Penny Black. There probably would not be much difference between the two expenses!

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