I made the trek by air from the East Coast to the West. The West is a much more rugged and intense part of Australia. Western Australia is what I would imagine the East to have been like back in the days when England sent the convicts here as punishment ...untouched and enchanted. This was notably the first surf trip I have done in a long time that hasn't involved competing for the extent of my stay and it was a very different vibe to travel on.
I traveled with Kiwi Wini Paul and Californian Bo Stanley down to our friend Claire Bevilacqua's house. Her house is approximately three hours down the coast from Perth in Western Australia at a place called Yallingup. Also staying at Bevo's beach house was two pro English surfers Matt and Jayce and two of Claire's school friends Renee and Chiara.
Staying with Claire is always an amazing, refreshing and positively exhausting experience. You know you are going to be surfing and frothing out more than you ever have, eating better than you would ever dream of and feeling simply on top of life all together. Bevo also likes to dance as do the rest of us. Consequently, the Yallingup escape frequently morphed into a dance club (which we named Club Bevo) with all the neighbors in the small community joining in. It was a great way to pump each other up before our marathon surf sessions, or to wind down from the heavy slabs and powerful Indian Ocean swells we had conquered that day.
We surfed so many different spots on this trip and were blessed with amazing swell everyday. I didn't surf a wave much smaller than 4 feet the whole time which was such a great relief from the East Coast wave drought I had experienced before I left.
With all the different local secret spots that are here, we regularly had to take the 4WD tracks. I enjoyed more than anything lying in the back of the camper van the English boys had borrowed and flying down the 4WD track to my favorite spot (I will leave it unnamed to protect it from exposure). The red earth track was scattered with limestone protruding from the ground and old tree branches exposed by erosion. My body would bounce around the back of the van, almost touching the roof on every bump. I couldn't wipe the grin from my face.
I saw so much of the Australian landscape and wildlife. The colors, simple yet so effective. Red earth to green vegetation to the blue ocean, each complimenting the other. These are the colors of Australia but are often overshadowed in the East by over-development.
My throat was always dry from the red dirt we were churning up in our race to the ocean's shore. Every time we met the ocean at the cliff of my favorite secret spot, it never disappointed. Pumping A-frame lineups that stretched across the reef would be waiting to greet us. There were never many other people around either, usually more dolphins than anything.
By the time I could change into my surf suit or get my boards ready, my feet would be red and black with earth, my skin already sizzling and my brow sweating. I could never get down the trail quick enough into the water, but at the same time had be careful not to take my toes off on the hidden limestone daggers.
Snakes, lizards, spiders and birds scattered our trails every session. Ants the size of my small finger would also dance upon the hot earth and try to catch your toes on the way down, always seeming angry when you passed and eager to chase. Thank God for my thick-skinned feet.
"Garrigarrang" I learned was the Aboriginal word for the sea. I adopted it. Though our experience with members of the Indigenous community later on in our trip left much to be desired, it did enlighten me to the real racial struggles we face to work together. I still admire the spirit of Aboriginals but realize both parties have a long way to go in understanding each other.
For the 14 days we all spent at Bevo's house, we embraced our rugged surfing lifestyle. We stayed in the water all day and dealt with crispy hair and sunburned skin. Even sea ulcers and sore muscles couldn't keep us from the long paddle back to the lineup after each amazing wave.
Every night we would prepare a massive and extremely healthy feast and froth out about the days adventures, waves and pleasures. Then, with the help of the local vineyard's world famous red and white wines, we would all fall into comas of exhaustion only to dream of the next day's Western Adventures.
I cannot wait to make the trek back over to the West and settle into the rugged and raw surfing lifestyle that exists there. I'm looking forward to once again being mentored by the true Westerner herself Claire and to score secluded, powerful, pumping slabs of Indian Ocean.
If I can draw only one conclusion from my travels to this part of Australia, I will simply say, "The West is the best!"