Surfing and Byron Bay

Another week, another set of changes.

I left Sydney behind, moving onto Spot X, near Woolgoolga (no I did not have a stroke – that’s the name). And it looks a little like this:

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Pure Paradise this. After 10 hours in the night, where you’re on a coach with little comfort nor warmth, arriving and seeing this for the first time was absolute bliss.

Spot X was nothing more than this stretch of sand, and a surf camp that consisted of a handful of holiday huts and cabins. To say the atmosphere was relaxed would be an understatement.

Life here goes slow, feels like the world only exists in the forever moments between dawn and dusk. The sun glides gently across the ocean, the nearby town is sleepy and barely active, and the surfers make their way to the waves to wash away the days.

There’s a life here very different to Sydney, or any place for that matter. The energy of everyone here sits somewhere between “mildly agitated sloth” and “concerned turtle”. It’s exquisite.

The sea meanwhile sets the rhythm, either creating crashing waves or a gentle, methodical wash, ranging from high green waves or monstrous white wash ones that wipe out all but the best surfers there.

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The place exists for surfing, learning to surf, and watching people surf.

I honestly could retire here in the future.

Surfing is not bad either.

Yes I surfed. And I have pictures to prove it…eventually. They’re stuck in limbo with the camp itself and I hope to put up images of me falling in the water like its an episode of Total Wipe-out.

So the main reason I was at this private patch of sand and sea was to attempt to surf. I’ve always had a desire to try some shit like this, but back in the UK I was too concerned with giving any effort to doing it, especially in the “sunny” waves of Swansea Bay.

I have no excuses now not to try it so I did.

And I tell you what, it was a pretty damn fun experience. It somehow manages to be laid back as well as pretty intensive on you. You wade out, board alongside you (lest you be smacked square in the nose by the thing on the next wave) and hope to catch a wave.

You see a wave, and you paddle. You paddle for your life. Looking over your shoulder as the big green wave bastard starts to build to a crescendo and froth and foam. When it touches your toes you start to paddle harder, the momentum of the entire ocean seemingly lifting you up and your board. Somehow you haven’t been tossed so you prepare to pop up, grabbing the rails (sides) and hoping you can get upright without starfishing (falling) like a motherfucker and wiping out.

And when you do, suddenly you’re hands are out, you’re riding a wave and looking cool as anything you will ever do….for about 4 seconds, when inevitably you hit land or, far more likely, lose your balance and spectacularly flail into the water like you were allergic to air.

In case it isn’t apparent, that entire process is fun as fuck, and I would heartily recommend giving it a try. Don’t worry about looking like a twat – as one instructor said, the moment you carry a surfboard down the beach you’re already up there (yes even the nerdy welsh idiot felt cool doing it.)

Alas, I had to move on, and check out a quiet, very eastern part of Australia – Byron Bay. It looked a little like this:

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By the beach is the town itself, a tiny speck of civilisation in a seemingly endless forest landscape. The place was slow, felt like everyone there was operating on a different timezone. It felt wonderfully chilled out and relaxed. Surf shops and smoothie bars were the order of the day, and every place felt local and belonged there. This wasn’t a chain restaurant kind of place.

By far the best part of it though was the conservation area around the light house – an absolutely picturesque area that also consisted of the most eastern point of Australia (which I can now claim I have done):

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Out here this was the best place to view humpback whales migrating along the coast. I managed to view some (far too far out for my measly S5 camera to capture), jumping out and making a decent splash out into the distance.

The hike around the lighthouse is quite considerable, taking the better part of the afternoon to accomplish and swinging by former aboriginal foraging grounds. The area had been restored via conservation groups, trying to preserve the land in the same manner as the natives did previously (before western imperialist asshats like us went and nicked their shit. Progress!). In between those areas, people surfed. It’s like the main past time of everyone under the age of 40 here.

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If Woolgoolga and Spot X was paradise, Byron would be awfully close. I spent the better part of a day just staring out over the bay from the lighthouse point, just watching the day go by. It was probably the most refreshing experience I’ve had in a while, and let me relax after the intense efforts of falling in the water at the surf camp.

I didn’t sample the night life much beyond one particular “club”, which in this place consists of a bar someone dropped a smoke machine in once after a gig. Suffice to say, I didn’t get the best sample to really review a night in Byron, but judging by the others in the hostel its a pretty good night.

There’s also a shipwreck on the beach, which I unfortunately didn’t manage to get a decent shot of, but I love the fact its just there. Chilling as part of the town itself.

The town is a weird cross breed of hippy culture and surfer culture. It’s the only real way to describe it, and at night hippies (and I do mean straight up, dreadlocks and flowery dress hippies) played “music” (to them it was probably Mozart, to my ears more akin to a bear being skinned by a blind taxidermist) right outside surf shops as surfers walked past.

So, a curious place. But one where you got at a pace you feel like, and no one is in any real rush to encourage you.

My time ran out here, and next I made my way up the coast, towards Surfer’s Paradise…and I’ll need a separate post to rant about that.

Till next time!

 

 

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