Archive for the ‘Crescent Head’ Category

Paddling It In

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Waking up the next day every muscle in my arms and back ached. All the pointy edges on the front of my body (of which there are many) were especially sore from all the jumping onto the surf board I had done the day before. My hip bones were especially achey, which is odd because I didn’t realize I could have achey hip bones. The edges of the palms of my hand were also irritated from rubbing against the surf board. I wanted to sleep all day. I had absolutely no desire to get back into my wetsuit which was still damp and cold from the day before, and go back out into the water, and yet that is what I forced myself to do. After breakfast we all headed back out to Big Hill. Thankfully this time around the waves were a bit smaller and the rip was not pulling quite as hard. After about 45 minutes of toughing it out and catching a few waves I threw in the towel. I was so worn out from the day before and I did not have the energy to fight the waves for a full two hours. There were a bunch of people that were feeling the same way, and so about halfway through the two hours over half the group had called it quits and were hanging out on the beach. It felt heavenly to lay down in the sand and let the sun dry and warm my poor sore self. Once the lesson was over we loaded up the surf boards and headed back to camp for lunch and to pack up for the drive back to Sydney.

The five hour drive back into the city was fairly quiet as everyone pretty much passed out. I tried to sleep but the seats on the bus didnt recline and I don’t do well sleeping in a sitting position so I just put on my ipod and enjoyed the scenery as it passed by. Since most of the drive was through the countryside every so often we passed a sign that looked like this

Koala crossing!

I thought these were too cool. I am so used to deer crossing signs that these completely caught my brain off guard. After we saw the first one it became my goal to try and spot a koala, but sadly I did not. Apparently they are very hard to spot and generally shy away from areas where there is noise, i.e. near a major road. O well. Once we got back to Sydney it was dark and raining slightly. We were dropped off at the Wake Up Hostel where we had been picked up, and the guy who had been driving the bus who was also one of the surf instructors from the weekend asked us if we would want to get a free drink in the hostel bar compliments of Mojo. What kind of question is that? Of course we would! Free is my favorite price! A few people had to leave to get home, but most of us ended up sitting in the bar underneath the hostel sipping our free drinks, and they even brought up two huge platters of french fries and some pizzas, all compliments of Mojo. After chatting, stuffing my face, and hanging out for a bit I said my goodbyes and walked the 20 minutes back to my apartment. Once there I put away my things, showered and went promptly to bed. I needed another weekend to recover from that weekend.

Mojo Rules!

Mojo surf crew, again, my apologies for the watermark. I am the third person from the left with sunglasses on.

Surf’s Up

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

My first full day at surf camp started bright and early. I was not too keen to be roused from bed because at some point in the middle of the night temperatures had dropped below the comfortable low of 75 that I had been operating at, and it had woken me up and sent me scrambling for more blankets and extra articles of clothing. I woke up to a bright but brisk morning and a dull ache in my back and shoulders from being tightly curled in the fetal position all night under two blankets and my beach towel.

Breakfast was a relatively uneventful affair, cereal, fruit, toast, and some hot tea and then we all gathered around one of the surf instructors so that basic surfing technique and ocean etiquette could be explained to us.

Mojo rules

We also went over the Mojo camp rules, highlights of which include “no anonymous weed smoking share what you got!”, “No shit music”, and “No nudity before 11 am”. Yeah I don’t think we’re at girl scout camp anymore Toto. We were then each given a wet suit and told to gather our things and head down to the beach. The beach we were at was stunning. Much like most of the beaches here there were rocky outcroppings and hills surrounding it, but this beach was much bigger than the small cove like beaches in Sydney and because we were so far out of the city it was very secluded and there was not a commercial establishment to be found. The first day we didn’t see another living soul on the beach. The weather was absolutely stunning the whole weekend, staying in the 80s with cloudless sunny days and cooler evenings.

Empty but beautiful beach as far as you can see

Crescent Head Coastline

Once we were on the beach we were shown proper technique for getting up onto the surf board and how to balance oneself once there. I thought we would get a chance to practice this before going into the water, but after having it demonstrated for us we were given surfboards and sent out into the waves. There were two surf instructors that went into the water with us to help instruct and make sure nobody drifted too far out as Australian rip tides take some getting used to. Everybody just started trying to surf, and if anyone struggled one of the instructors came over to help, usually by picking out a wave for you and then holding the back of your board to stabilize it while you tried to stand up. While balancing on the board takes some practice, I think the hardest part is picking the right wave and getting the timing right so that you can actually ride it in.

I was able to stand up a few times with the help of one of the instructors and then got the hang of it and was able to do it on my own as well. While all this is going on there is a mojo employee standing in the surf taking pictures of everyone with a long lens camera, and you can purchase these pictures at the end of the trip. I did this, but they have yet to be emailed to me, even though we were promised we would have them by monday morning after our weekend. So here are some pictures of me surfing, I was going to wait until I got the pictures sent to me, but its taking forever and patience has never been a strong suit of mine so here are the copies off the website. Pardon the water marks.

Surfin!

Getting a little help from an instructor

Getting there

And I'm up!

Our first lesson was two hours long, and we had it on the north shore of the beach. After two hours were up we packed up and headed back to camp for lunch. While two hours may not seem like a long time, when you are surfing it really is. Playing in the ocean normally is exhausting, but when you are surfing you are constantly being pushed to the shore and then having to fight your way back out past where the waves are breaking. If you are just swimming, this is difficult but not that bad, but when you have an incredibly buoyant object tethered to your foot this process becomes far more difficult. Even if you manage to duck under a wave, the surf board is still on top of the water, and the wave is going to push it towards the shore and pull you along with it. Getting back out past the waves after you have ridden a wave in is the hardest part, and you are constantly doing this. Not only are you fighting the waves coming at you, but you are also fighting against the rip current which is pulling you towards the rocks, and you are doing this with a surf board and while wearing a wet suit which holds water and makes you heavier. By the time two hours of this is up I was exhausted and ready for some food.

After a hearty lunch and about an hour of lounging around and resting we all headed back down to the beach for our second two hour lesson of the day. For this lesson we moved from the north shore to Big Hill, a different section of the beach where the waves were much bigger.

I got fairly decent at standing up

While this was fun, it also meant that getting out past the waves each time was more difficult to do, and since we were already tired from our first lesson this meant that I wasn’t able to stay out in the water for the full two hours. The most important lesson I was ever taught about dealing with the ocean is if you start feeling tired, get out. While I felt bad not taking full advantage of the time we had to surf, I also remembered this and decided my safety was more important.  After this lesson we went back to camp to dry off, shower and have dinner. Dinner was fantastic. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of food on this trip, but I was pleasanlty surprised. For dinner that night we had cheesey potatoes, salad, grilled steaks, and a three bean cold salad. I was the only vegetarian in the group, and for me they fixed a special plate with two huge vegetable kabobs that had been grilled, and a really good vegetarian hamburger pattie.

After dinner everyone got out the alcohol they had bought on the way to camp and headed out to a spot in the woods near the beach where a campfire had been started. I was asked to come along, but I had no intentions of doing this. I was EXHAUSTED. Due to my religious application of sunscreen every 2 hours I had avoided a sunburn, but my face was still freckled, and I was sore and absolutely drained. After dinner I brushed my teeth and crawled into bed. IT WAS 8:30 WHEN I WENT TO BED. In the world of me this is unheard of. The only time I am in bed this early is usually when I haven’t woken up yet (true story- its happened). I have no recollection of everyone coming back to the room around 3 am, turning on lights, changing, and generally being quite noisy. I was even told that some guy snored so bad that it woke up half the room and people started throwing things at him. I have no memory of any of this. Thats how tired I was. No wonder surfers are always so tried, its a HELL of a workout.

Surf boards

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Spur the Moment Surf Weekend

Monday, April 11th, 2011

After my plans to go to Tasmania fell through I decided that this would be a good weekend to go surfing. There are many companies that run weekend getaways but Mojo Surf is one of the major ones, and since they give a discount for Study Australia students I decided I would go with them. My roommate Courtney had done a surf weekend a few weeks back, and a bunch of people in Glebe had done them as well, so in talking to them I kinda knew what to expect. This being said, almost everyone else had gone on the weekend with a group of kids from our program whereas I had opted to go by myself. I made this decision Wednesday afternoon, and since the trip would leave Friday afternoon this was fairly last minute.

It had been a productive Wednesday and after a three hour block of classes I had decided to take a stroll through the study abroad fair that was going on just for kicks and giggles. I stopped by the America table to listen in on some of the conversations being had there. When I walked up there was an Australian girl who was frantically questioning the girl working the booth about what her life and classes would be like in the states. She was asking what the grading would be like, how her classes would be structured, how hard things would be compared to her Australian classes. I asked her what university she was going to. Her reply? Arizona State. It took ever ounce of self control I could muster not to blurt out that all she needed to be successful at Arizona state was a pulse, and I’m not even sure thats 100% mandatory. I really wanted to tell her that she would be better off brining a set of shot glasses with her instead of any school supplies, but somehow I found the strength to walk away. She’ll figure it out soon enough. At least she won’t be too bogged down with studying while she is “studying” abroad. They should call the Arizona State program “get liver cancer abroad.”

I had to stop by work to touch base with my boss who had been out the day before on a project he wanted me to get started on. That only took a few minutes, but since I was in the office with a landline telephone at my disposal I decided I would put in a call to Mojo Surf. I had called them in the morning, but the person who authorizes the Study Australia discount had not been around, so I had been told to call back later. When I did, my intention was really just to ask questions about the camp and then to book online later. The woman on the phone seemed to think that I had called to book my trip and kept asking me for my credit card number after every question I asked. I finally relented and just gave it to her, theres no time like the present right?

The rest of the week went by uneventfully and by Friday afternoon I was excited for my weekend getaway. I met the Mojo bus at the Wake Up Hostel, which is only about a 20 minute walk from my apartement. My name was checked off of a list and I boarded the bus along with 18 others for the six hour drive north to Crescent Head.

Mojo bus!

We made three stops on the way there. The first was at a truck stop just outside of the city to get some dinner and it was there that I got talking to two girls that were from Mexico. They were very sweet and giggly and were speaking to each other fluently in Spanish. I assumed they had come to Australia together, but I found out that they knew one another from a summer camp they had attended when they were 12, and hadn’t been friends then. Then they both turned up in Australia at the same university and upon figuring out that they knew each other had been traveling around together together. One girl from from Cuernavaca and the other was from Mexico City. We had a nice chat about Mexico and they were impressed that I knew so much about the country. The last stop we made before arriving at Crescent Head was at a bottle shop (basically an ABC store) and the bus driver told us to load up on all the alcohol and cigarettes we would need for a weekend. The whole time I had basically been envisioning that this trip would be kinda like girl scout camp but with surfing instead of hiking and with boys, but this announcement shattered that vision. It still weirds me out that I am old enough to drink. Every time we go out to a club and I get asked for my ID my heart jumps, it has taken some getting used to.

I got off the bus when we arrived at the bottle shop, but I had no real intention of buying anything. I was with a bunch of people I didn’t know and I didn’t think I would want to drink with them, plus I didn’t need to spend the money. A bunch of people on the bus invested in boxed wine, which provides you with the most amount of alcohol for your dollar. Boxed wine was actually invented in Australia by a man named Thomas Angove, a winemaker from Renmark, South Australia and his design was patented in 1965. The original design consisted of a polyethelene bladder that could hold one gallon of liquid placed inside a corrugated cardboard box. This design required that the customer cut off the corner of the bag, pour out the serving of wine and then reseal the bag with a special peg. In 1967 Charles Henry Malpas of Penfolds Wines, another Australian wine company, improved on this design by patenting a plastic air-tight tap that was welded to a metallised bladder making storage more convenient. This was all going on around the same time that America was preoccupied with putting a man on the moon. Clearly Australia had their priorities in order. I mean what have we ever gained from a man being on the moon? Thats right, nothing. But boxed wine? The cheap gift that comes in a box and keeps on giving.

Once we arrived at camp we were shown to our accommodations, which consisted of a large dorm style room with bunk beds. The rooms were co-ed which was weird. I know I’m an “adult” and I shouldn’t feel weird about such things, but it still strikes me as abnormal when I am sleeping in the same room as some boy I don’t know who is the next bed over. It was already past midnight by the time we arrived at camp, and since we would be getting up around seven the next morning we were told that it would be in our best interest to get to bed soon. Before doing this a few of us decided to head down to the beach to check it out. From the camp to the beach was about a five minute walk through a narrow path through the woods. Once we got to the shore and looked up into the sky we were met with more stars than I have ever seen in my life. I swear I could see galaxies and planets. It was completely breathtaking. I was blinking furiously trying to take it all in, thinking my eyes were deceiving me. The stars on the Australian flag represent the southern cross, which is a constellation that can only be seen in the southern hemisphere. On this parituclar night I was able to see it clear as day.

The Southern Cross. This image is from a google search but my image of the sky that night looked very similar to this, it was incredible.

The group of us that had ventured out onto the beach stayed there and talked for a good half hour. There was a group of of five or so girls and guys from England who were working in Sydney for a few years, a brother and a sister who were traveling for a year from Sweeden and had just arrived in Australia the day before via Vietnam. There were also the two girls from Mexico and a girl from Canada. We were quite an international bunch. After 45 minutes or so chatting on the beach under the stars we all turned in for the night.