All Photos by Alex Ormerod
Thinking of getting away this winter? Not fancying one of those ‘UK & Ireland’ surf trips the mags are always trying to sell you, you know, the ones that cost loads and involve drizzly greyness? Why not try Australia? Thousands of 19th century cockney criminals did, and loved it!
The East Coast of Australia
The eastern half of the world’s largest island offers a surfer everything he can dream of and the odd nightmare scenario as well. This is a coast that is the equivalent of the distance between Paris to Equatorial Guinea, just populated by every type of wave, every class of deadly animal and every subclass of surfer known to man. If you surf, a visit to Australia’s East Coast should be mandatory. After all, its only 24 hours on plane away, what are you waiting for?
Well it’s not called the East Coast of Australia for nothing. Just like the Great Sandy Desert, which is quite big and sandy, or Western Australia, which is the western half of Oz, the East Coast of Australia is, uhm, on the East Coast of Australia. Now technically this stretches from Australia’s northernmost point at the tip of Cape York to Wilson’s Promontory, Australia’s southern most point in Victoria. This is roughly 3700 kilometres, as the crow flies, or over 5500 clicks if you were to drive it in a battered Holden Ute. In surfing terms though, we can ignore the 1500 kilometres of coast blocked by The Great Barrier Reef (a big reef that acts a barrier) and separate the East Coast into 5 distinct surfing sections; Queensland (Fraser Island to Snapper) The New South Wales north coast (Duranbah to Crescent Head), The Mid Coast (Crescent Head to Newcastle), The Central Coast (Newcastle to Sydney) and the South Coast (everything south of Sydney). Got it? Good, you’ll be tested later.
If you were to do a road trip, and you do want to do a road trip, you’d give yourself from April to December to cover the South Coast to Mid Coast stretch. That way you’d score the prime autumn and winter waves on the reefs and slabs down south and around Sydney, before setting yourself up for the summer cyclone season up on the famous points of the North Coast and Gold Coast. The water varies from a minimum of 14 degrees in the south in winter to a bath like 23 degrees at Noosa all year round. Of course when of the infamous East Coast Lows, a low pressure system just below cyclone intensity, sets up 1000 miles off the coast, the whole kit and caboodle, the whole nine yards, the whole 5000 kilometres of coast will light up, providing a kaleidoscope of wave permutations that exists no where else on the planet.
The south coast features monolithic men, with slow accents, physical jobs and the ability to thread tubes of epic proportions. It’s most famous exports include Phil MacDonald and Robbie Page. Sydney surfers are faster and more furious, demarcated by those in the south (Bra Boys and Cronulla chargers) and in the north, with Narrabeen the hub and featuring extremes of personality from Simon Anderson to Tom Carroll to Ozzie Wright. Newcastle has MR and Matt Hoy and that says everything why you should visit that great surf town. On the NSW north coast, things slow down, the pot gets cheaper and stronger, the water warmer, the surfer’s styles get smoother and cleaner. Think Dan Ross and Rasta and Morning of the Earth. Queensland surfers are funny, lazy and arrogant, their superiority coming from getting five second tubes in boardshorts since the age of 5 and gangbanging loose girls since the age of 12. From MP, to Rabbit to Jack Freestone, those cats have never given a flying fuck (to borrow an Australian expression) and never will.
For the variety, for the spice. For 15 foot bombies off Ulladulla, for the three foot zippers with dolphins in aquamarine waters at Boomerang. For dollar drink nights with girls in bikinis on the Gold Coast. For the camping in the bush and feeding goannas and kangaroos your left over barbecued sausage. For Aussies that call you a cunt and mean it in a way that you are now their best mate. For one of the world’s best surfing road trips. For the chance to improve your surfing in a place where surfing isn’t just a sport, but something that is interwoven into the very fabric of the way of life. What more do you need? Just go to the East Coast of Australia and surf and party your cock smoking arses off.
The Englishmen Captain Cook was the first European to set sight on the East Coast of Australia, only 40,000 years after the Aborigines had made it their home. Duke Kahanamoku was the first to man to surf the joint, the first Aussie was a woman, a lass called Isabel Latham whom the Duke took tandem surfing. The east coast has provided more than 20 ASP World Titles and was the scene of the shortboard revolution in the late ‘60s. It also has some ridiculous place names such as Mollymook, Wollongong, Woolgoolga, Delicate Nobby, Mooball, Rooty Hill and Wonglepong. The Great Barrier Reef has 2900 reefs and 900 islands, and only 0.05 per cent of its surfing potential has been explored. There has been 485 recored shark attacks on the east coast since 1799, with 149 (or 30 per cent) fatal.
It’s hard to get away from the Aussie surfer stereotype when their main traits are so obviously on display. It’s not just the crowds that are factor on the East Coast, but the crowd is usually of such a high standard of surfing and that they tend to be fairly territorial.
On the flip side to that is that they can also be ridiculously friendly, to the point of over familiarity. Beer is obviously the main social lubricant and should be consumed to excess if you wish to engage in any type male bonding. Swearing is used as punctuation, rather than as an expletive, and not always meant to cause offense, but merely to pad out a sentence. Of course a “Go and get fucked, you fucking cunt,” can be read as a warning rather than a friendly hello. The term “aggro” is used to explain the particularly aggressive male types of which sadly, there are too many. Lastly though humour is the main trait by which you are judged. If you can both make others laugh and be ready to laugh at yourself, then to borrow another term, “You’ll be right mate.”
Not sure if the broad stereotype of Aussie women being more easily bedded than most is backed by statistics, but like their male counterparts they are known for having a good time. Approachable and affable, the Aussie sheilas tend to tell it how it is, or alternatively, how it should be. There’s also more and more girls in the lineup, a thing that can only but help the aggro hierarchy. Any chat up lines in the water though should be best avoided. They’ll either snake you in the process, or there’s a very good chance that their father, brother or uncle (or all three) is in the lineup and whose advances will be about as welcome as a goanna in a wetsuit.
– Words by Ben Mondy
– Alex Ormerod is one of Australia’s most suave and sophisticated surf photographers, and the sexiest Gold Coaster since Trudy Todd. To enjoy more of his work, looky here