Bring Winter Back!

Finally the winter patterns of the Indian Ocean are starting to light up again after a long break. As I wait for the sky to turn black and the winds to howl brining in the swell I can only reminisce on past adventures to keep me sane. It has been a long time between drinks and the tether of sanity is quickly wearing thin. Finding myself lying on my bed with my feet in the air strapped to my tow board pretending and imagining the feeling of flying across an enormous lump of ocean as everything goes quite, time slows down as you see the water draw off the reef, looking up as the wall of water starts to bend and warp across the shallow shelf. Aaahhh how I need some more heart in mouth moments soon.

June 2015- A few days I’ll never forget. Sitting by the computer staring at the biggest darkest blob on the weather maps. I knew we were in for something special. Hyped up to be the storm event of the decade (I think some even said century)… who knows they may have been right.

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Thursday night, the night before the first day. Getting everything ready, boards packed, jet ski fuelled up, spare pair of underpants and a heap of toilet roll. Friday morning finally arrived after a sleepless, restless night high tailing it in the dark to the boat ramp in Gracetown with the worst rap music blaring pumping us up. It’s giant! Coming over the hill as first light hits seeing giant lines rolling through smashing into the coast, it had to be at least 20-30 feet out there.

After a frantic hurry getting the ski in the water Jake (the turtle) Harman and I sped out as fast as we could. We arrive in the channel at Cows being the first ones out we see a few giant lumps unloading and hear the sound like that of a jet taking off. I couldn’t wait another second. The clean, glassy, sunny conditions couldn’t have been more perfect.

Spending the next 8 hours trading waves and getting flogged with a bunch of friends. My last wave of the day was by far the biggest. Sitting waiting calmly on the bubble, arms dead and weak and feeling slightly delirious the horizon turned black as the ocean rose up in front of me. I’m deep and right in the spot just slightly under it, swinging late with a few hard stroked, jumping to my feet. Looking down it looks like I’m standing on top of an apartment building looking down. All I can think is I have to make this! Hitting warp speed with the board chattering under me I make it to the bottom and assume survival stance as the wash hits me. I get blasted a second later, getting rag dolled around I was just happy to make it that far.

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Photo: Jamie Scott

Later that night we made the decision to head down the coast for the next few days of the swell, potentially leaving behind 30ft beats at Cows and hoping the gamble was going to be worth it after hearing The Right was going to be huge.

On the drive down we pull off into the bush to sleep the night, finding we had forgotten the tent resulted in another sleepless night, freezing cold and frost covered. Slipping into an icy wetsuit pre-dawn was not the nicest thing either. Frozen fingers, hand, toes and all the rest of it, eyes watering from the pain of the cold we eventually got into the line-up. It was next level ……. bomb after bomb exploding and people getting the biggest barrels I’ve ever seen. It was my turn to grab the rope. With a big set approaching the rope pulls tight and yanks me to my feet. From my view it doesn’t seem like that big of a wave but I could feel the water drawing like I had never felt before. It was sucking off the reef and I was slowly getting sucked up the face, just managing to hold on by the tips of my toes. Pulling off into the channel hearing the cheers I knew that it must have been a pretty good one. That one wave made the day frosty covered night all worth it.

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Photo: Tim Bonython

Before I knew it Chris Bryan was convincing us to head down to Cyclops for the last day of the swell. With another long drive ahead we got on the road. Time slowly ticking by as the kms passed, roos jumping in and out of the road dodging death, kind of like what we were doing. The sky turning bright orange as the sun rose we hit the beach not really knowing what to expect. High tide and big swell there was just about no beach to drive on with the waves hitting the dunes. Chris hooning off ahead with no trailer on his car he managed to make it without too much trouble.

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Trying to push our luck with the trailer we were starting to get bogged, the waves were just about lapping at the tyres. Usually no big deal but I had borrowed my step dads $80,000 car and I really don’t have that kind of money to pay him back if I lose it. The most stressful 30 minutes of my life so far, getting away with nothing but a minor heart attack we launched the skis and drove out to the islands to see a childhood dream come true.

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Approaching this dry rock slab with half the Indian Ocean folding over, it was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was like time stood still every time a wave started to break. It was probably a terrible idea but I had to get one, Turtle had never really towed anyone in before so that made it a little scary. Trying to coach Turtle driving whilst getting towed into the scariest wave ever even seen was not easy. A few unsuccessful ones went by before we finally nailed it. Dropping down I could see the barnacles in the reef staring at me in the face wanting to tear my skin off the bone and hearing the lip slamming into the dry rock only meters behind me sounded like I was inside a jet engine. I wanted nothing more than to be in the safety of the channel sitting on the ski watching rather than being on the wave. That was the one and only wave ridden that day, it was more than enough to get the heart going.

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Photo: Chris Bryan

Winding down with a counter meal and a pint at the Esperance pub reflecting on how crazy the last few days had been. Countless hours in the car, boxes on boxes of dirty servo hot chips and defiantly a family or 2 or roos that just escaped the impact of the bull bar. All we can do is wait and pray for another swell as big and adventurous as this one was.

Return to Nazaré

Leaving behind the sun scorched beaches of WA, where in summer time all I do is seem to turn bright pink from sun burn, to entering another winter. Another couple of months of sitting through wild woolly weather and hoping for just a couple days of giant perfection with a crisp off shore wind.

Flying over the stunning yet rugged coast of the Algarve’s into Lisbon, I was soon greeted with a big smile from Blakey who was kind enough to give me a lift up to Nazare. Screaming along the motorway at a million miles an hour across valleys and past big pine forests, finally arriving into the town of the big wave surfing Mecca.

My first glimpse of the waves this trip, a giant 50 wedge with someone flying down the face at an uncontrollable speed, somehow making it to the safety of the shoulder where the jets picks them up and whizzes back out. No chance I’m paddling out for this session, 50 foot with a howling cross shore wind. I’m feeling pretty jet lagged after a 25 hour flight and didn’t really feel like drowning on my first day so I sat it out and watched the tow guys go nuts for a few hours.

The next morning I was up the top of the cliff checking the waves at first light, it was still big but looking a bit rouge and wonky. Some giant peaks wedging up and slamming into each other. Slowly making my way down to the harbour to get ready and try hitch a ride out there. Unable to find a ride out there, I linked up with Tom Lowe, we did the long paddle from the village beach, around the cliff and into the line-up.

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Photo- Tim Bonython

I’d forgotten how crazy this place is. Watching giant lumps marching in from miles out, criss-crossing all over the place. Waves slamming into the cliff sounding like thunder. There is so much power in these waves which could easily tear your limbs from your body if you were unlucky enough to be in their midst at the wrong time.

The wind kicked up and was blowing a gale from the North, giant chops coming up the faces and a current that felt like a river running into the cliff. It was a nonstop fight against the current to not end up in the rocks. Eventually my wave came along. I took off and almost got airborne with the wind. I was just able to stick to the face when the next challenge fronted, the giant chops coming up the face. I was in full survival stance holding onto the bucking bull just making the wave. After that the current and wind continued to get stronger and more unmanageable, it was time to call it a day and paddle in.

Two days later it’s on again, the infamous giant wedges were doing their thing. Swell lines stacked to the horizon, refracting off the canyon creating some huge peaks. A long swell period made for a few nice lulls in the sets, I thought I may as well try punch through the shore break rather than paddle the couple km from the village. The shore break in Nazare has to be the gnarliest in the world, with 6-8 foot foamy close outs onto dry sand and 10 foot white wash rolling up the beach as well. It’s all about being patient and timing a break.

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Photo- Tim Bonython

Seeing my chance I make the dash down the sand and jump onto my board, paddling as hard as I can. Just 20 m off the sand I’m struck by a beast of white water pushing me right into the shore break death zone. Wave after wave on the head getting pulverised into the sand praying my board isn’t going to break. After a slight beating and half a ton of sand in my suit and mouth I’m released from the tight grip of the shore pound. I quickly paddle my heart out to make it out the back before getting sucked back into the vortex for a second time.

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Photo- Tim Bonython

It was a fun session a few 15-18ft peaks rolling through managing to snag a couple of good rides and a couple of bombs on the head. Two hours or so into the session there are some giant lumps heading our way which look like they might break miles out. Instinct tells you to start sprint paddling to the horizon. But you have to stand your ground and wait for them to come to you. It starts feathering and I’m in the spot. Just a little under it, with head down paddling hard, I feel it pick me up. I’m looking down the drop and feel like I’m on the edge of a 3 or 4 storey balcony. Just as I stand up I hit a bit of a chop. It throws me into the air but somehow I manage to stick it and make the drop, bottom turn up and head across the wall to kick out. Luckily there wasn’t another wave behind that could have sent me straight to the beach.  With a bit of luck on my side I made it back out without copping any on the head.

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Photo- Tim Bonython

The sun set with a bright orange hue illuminating the sky and the stars began to come out. A great end to another day and another fun couple of waves. With the forecast looking slight grim for the next few days its back to training and utility surfs until the next heart in throat moments on the next swell.

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Photo- Tim Bonython

Sponsored by 3Dfins, Thank you for your support.

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The Winter’s End

The winter is slowly coming to an end and the fierce Southern Ocean storms are becoming less and less consistent. However it’s not all over yet. A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to have Huey throw up a couple of big swells for us to roll the dice on down the south coast.

With excitement levels through the roof and froth literally pouring from our mouths, we packed the cars and skis. Ahead three hours of windy, hilly and treacherous roads.   Lined with tall pale Karri trees and countless suicidal roo’s. We made the almost mandatory stops in the small town of Manjimup to top up on snacks, caffeine and fuel.

The first of the swells was a pure carnage session. With the waves being from slightly the wrong direction there were a lot of closeouts, which made for an entertaining day watching from the channel. Not so much being the surfer. I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone get as punished as Jake Osman that day. It seemed every wave he got sent him straight to the depths of Davey Jones locker.

”It turned out to be a hairy session, even though it wasn’t a big day for this wave it handed me some of the most violent beatings I’ve had out there. We had surfed here a few weeks earlier, and I copped a couple of beatings that day as well, so I wasn’t sure what was going with me. I think I made one wave from around seven or eight. I was slightly tripping, you don’t know what’s going on when you’re out the back waiting, and you can tend to get in your head a bit with the long waits, I knew the swell was to south for it, but I kept convincing myself I would get one keeper.Screenshot 2017-10-04 19.04.44.png

Jake on a keeper. Pic Thridlink

The first real beating I got was at the start of the session, I remember seeing the swell coming in, and we were up, it was looking solid for the day’s conditions and looked like it was lining up nice. I remember letting go of the rope, I was sitting behind the peak and lining what I thought was going to be a good one, time slows down and your mind starts processing things a lot quicker, but things turned south quick when I saw the peak I was about to backdoor not open up and instead turn into whitewash. It was bizarre, all of sudden I was heading straight into 10-feet of whitewash. So, I hit the eject button and tried to pierce through the bottom of the wave. I didn’t quite make it under though and felt myself become weightless; you know shits about to get real when you feel that. It’s a second of nothing before getting thrown into the thick of it. I just got ragged dolled through the whitewash. This one felt like I was thrown to the ground than laid into by a bunch of weak boys ha-ha bit of damage but nothing too serious”.

The next serious wipe-out I got was similar to previous one, everything was lining up nicely to be a good one and just as I was about to scoop up into the tube it decided to only barrel at the very top of the wave so I tried to re-adjust and draw a higher line but it was too late, I scooped to hard and ended up going to high and getting ejected off my board, I remember unintentionally landing feet first but then getting slung down and slapping the side of my head hard on the face of the wave followed by getting sucked over with wave and sent deep. I came up seeing white, dizzy, having a severe headache and disorientated. I should have pulled the pin then but I didn’t, I was slightly desperate to get at least one decent one, I wasn’t even sure there were any up for grabs, but I was stubborn to get one.

We go and pick up my board and almost get another instantly, it was a deep-tow on a south swell, which meant I had no chance from the beginning, I make a late decision to try and carve and go back left, I wasn’t keen on copping another close out. I then realized I wasn’t going to be able to get away from the left either, so I decided to try eject and see if I could pin drop my way to safety. But as I jumped and looked down I could see my board directly beneath me; I just remember thinking “of fucking course, my board is directly underneath me.” I landed on the board on my arse and rode it for about two seconds before the wave sucked me back into its mouth, up the face to the top, and I just dropped from the lip down again, shitting the whole time the board was going to smack me. I hit the bottom of the wave with the lip and got sent deep. I popped back up and decided it was time to throw in the towel”. (Jake Osman)  Screenshot 2017-10-04 19.04.29.png

Jake in for a bum ride. Pic Thridlink

When Sillsy jumped on the rope for his first wave my poor judgment led to him being far too deep on a horrible south peak with nowhere to go. What appeared to be the entire Southern Ocean came down on him. He was gone… I spent what felt like minutes anxiously searching the white water for any sign of him.

Eventually he popped up, looking like a ninja turtle with his life vest inflated. Coughing up blood I could hear him mumbling ”I can’t hear anything both my ears feel like they have blown”. His garbled voice effectively summing up the entire session, carnage. Screenshot 2017-10-04 19.04.13.png

Sillsy with impending doom. Pic Thridlink

A few days later and it’s on again but conditions seem to be slightly better. We arrive at the backpackers late that night to hear Henry blew a bearing on his trailer half way down.

There was no way they were going to miss out because of a bearing blow out. Not if Jake had anything to say about it. He drove two hours back up the road with an empty trailer and picked up the stranded ski. The next early morning, I’m first into the ocean and there’s a couple of mental bombs coming through. While I wait for the other guys to get here I think ‘I may as well try paddle some on my boog’ problem is. Although I’m enthusiastic and in most cases able to get myself over the ledge. I’m not great at bodyboarding. I managed make one sick one before the other guys turn up.

As they arrive we spread out in the line up, its my turn, its a bomb and boys are watching. I have to go! Paddling and kicking as hard as I can I think I’m in the spot… Nope, I’m just in the lip.

Everything slows down as I feel weightless for a few long seconds.

BAM, its like I’ve just been hit by a truck, flippers flying off, leash snaps and I’m being rattled into oblivion.

Pretty much just the standard wipeout . Except this time I feel like there’s hot knife being plunged into my knee. That’s me done, so I just sit and watch the rest of the day. Everyone is getting absolutely shacked with perfect 10-12ft waves and a clean offshore.

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Somehow making one on the BodyBoard. Pic Thridlink

For the 3rd time in two weeks we strike gold with another swell lined up to be looking good. This journey sees Jake broken down on the side of the road. It’s now Henry’s turn to repay the favour and come rescue Jake and his ski. First up it’s another freezing ride out across the inlet with the a cold blasting wind making your eyes water and hands go numb.

Finally we arrived in the channel and see a couple of bombs exploding, spitting their guts out onto us as we sit in the channel.

The pain in my knee was excruciating from my escapades paddling a sponge. However unable to stop myself in these awesome conditions we traded waves all morning and with only a few guys at one of the heaviest slabs in the world, I’m not sure it can get any better.Screenshot 2017-10-04 19.19.24.png

Me lining one up on the bung knee. Pic Slatter

”That Monday session was my favourite session ever at The Right. Even when we got to Tracy’s there was a nice buzz around the place, everyone rocking up with their ski’s and a bit of general chatter about what the waves were going to be doing the next day. I had a nice little red wine to calm the nerves and a pretty nice sleep which is pretty rare for when I’m gonna surf The Right the next day. We got up at 5ish and started doing a breathing/stretching session before getting suited up, as soon as we got out of the room Tim was interviewing us for his Insta and we were all laughing and talking shit, it was super nice to be there and not be taking it too seriously. When we got out there, it was pretty inconsistent but after we watched Rudi get a couple then the boys got out there. I drove for Trent (Slatter) for about 3 hours and by the end of that I was desperate to get a wave and try my new tow board for the first time. My best wave I thought I was gonna be too deep, but wanted to go anyway just in case, Jake saw that I was still holding the rope and gave me an extra boost right when I needed it which gave me so much speed coming into it. I basically just angled my board down a little because the wave was sucking pretty hard, then I just stood there and got the biggest barrel of my life. It almost looks fake when you’re watching it suck up in front of you, it’s incredible. I came off at the end but didn’t get too smashed, just a quick couple of backflips.. haha. It was the perfect day where everyone got what they wanted out of it and we were absolutely buzzing when we came in, and for a good few days after.” (Tim Nathan) Screenshot 2017-10-04 19.19.08.png

Tim in the honey hole. Pic Slatter

A few days later and limping around, I went to get my knee checked out – A crack on the head of the fibula!!!! Ha ahhh, probably shouldn’t have surfed on it but what it was worth it. Now for a couple of weeks of unbearable rest and no waves. I hope I don’t miss out on too many good days.

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On the seahorse. Pic Slatter