OFF THE LEASH

posted by / Magazine / July 11, 2003

“It’s like Hawaii,” breathed Pete Frieden. Well, not really, but Creepy Pete had a point.

We’d found ourselves in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. A chunk of Australian coast that it almost seemed had fallen clean off the continent, so untouched had it remained by the ruthless developers’ dollar. The water so incredibly clear it seemed to suck the blue sky’s light right into itself, reflecting off the soft white thick-grained sand in an eerie aquamarine glow. The dunes rolling back into lava-rock hills and ridges clad in long green plumes of grass and palm-frond. A gentle subtropical breeze flowing over the shifting curves of long lovely waves.

Paradise! Wasn’t long before we were to find that as in all such places, while every prospect may please the crap out of you, only one thing is vile — Man.

Originally I’d had the fairly simple idea of traveling somewhere quiet with some of the world’s more interesting super-pros, just to observe ‘em close-up. The way it panned out was, err, kinda different.

Damo had shown up first, with his splendid sharp as a tack girlfriend Charlotte, and Taylor with his video gear. They’d missed the evening before: Billy Morris, Frieden and I had been there a day, just to set things up a little. After we’d done a lengthy surf check (just a bit less than double overhead, but blustery onshore), Frieden had come back to our little rental house with a message. “Hey, just had a beer with some of the boys,” he said. “The locals. They wanna talk to you.”

There aren’t many local surfers in this lost chunk of Australia. This is a national park area, without the normal employment opportunities of the Aussie rural coast. Only a small number of families maintain landholdings, and nobody ever sells out or up. Thus the local boys have grown used to an extraordinarily privileged surfing existence: within easy range of one of the world’s great surf cultures, yet free of every surf culture’s greatest curse — crowds.

They were damn keen to make sure we didn’t change anything about that. “Look this isn’t Indo or Tahiti, it’s not that perfect,” said one of the boys, after we’d sat down and had a beer and they’d all vibed me a bit. “But I’ve had days when it’s good and I’ve been out there, just five or six of us, and I’ve looked around and laughed and thought, ‘This is IT!’ It’s too special to lose.”

I promised not to name the area or the little town in which we stayed, but could tell nobody believed me. The boys were struggling to restrain their hostility. We’d have to tread with care . . . Nick Carroll

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