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Fools Rush In

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After nearly a week of consistent rain with fleeting reprieves it looks like the sunshine is finally ready to reemerge. It is our final day in Cooly before trekking to Brisbane for a few days to catch some concerts (Lenny Kravitz, The Cranberries, and Wolfmother one night followed by Xavier Rudd the next) and pick up our great buddy Ted so he can spend several weeks with us. We are nearing our halfway point in Australia as we recently purchased one way tickets to Cambodia in July. Ted’s arrival marks the launch of a steady stream of visitors over the next months which will undoubtedly hasten the passage of time. We pass the day by packing, reading and playing in the front yard (Kirra Beach) where Nug snaps a few pics of me surfing. To put a feather in the cap of the day we hike to the top of Kirra Hill with some wine to catch the sunset and enjoy the first rain free evening in days. At the top I suggest we sit on the steep grassy knoll overlooking Coolangatta. “It will be to damp,” Nug responds. I spy a bench in the middle of the grassy area and bolt across the greenery while needling Nug to follow. Halfway to the seat the soggy grass comes to life. It feels as if a rug is being rudely swiped from beneath me to the left and I am suddenly airborne. My feet start churning like the road runner cartoon and both hands strain to roll up imaginary windows. My plight is hopeless. My flailing arms fling sheets of wine into my face. I wince at the burning of wine in my eyes a split second before my entire freshly showered frame Pete Rose slides into the sludge. I look up at Nug with pitiful eyes and am met with the most uncontrollable, disturbing laughter I have ever encountered. I fully expect her to choke on her own chortles. After no less than a minute the witch cackles die down and with tears in her eyes she works out a half-hearted, “Are you hurt?” All I can muster is a pathetic, “Does my pride count?” as I lower my face back into the muck.

Surfer's Paradise

Front Yard Barrel

Budgie Smugglers

Kirra Hill Sunset

Nug and the Sea Eagle

Nug and the Sea Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Surfing is the Best Sport

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The last few days have found us sauntering down to Snapper Rocks to watch the Quiksilver Pro.  This is the first event of the 2012 ASP WCT (World Championship Tour) and features the best surfers in the world along with a large multinational crowd and media circus.  There is no cost to attend and free stuff seems to pop up everywhere.  Sitting atop the hill with Nug and watching the action go down led me to an epiphany…Surfing is the best sport and here are 6 extremely biased reasons why.

  1. Setting– Surfing involves soaking up sun and floating in the ocean.  It directly utilizes the power of nature.  Quite often I find myself in beautiful locales with blue skies, white sand beaches, palm trees and azure water.
  2. The uniform– Typically, it is done in a pair of boardshorts or a bikini (I despise cold water).  It is comfortable to be half naked and it’s always agreeable to observe the fairer sex frolicking around in next to nothing whether in the water or on the beach.  Let’s be honest…I love snowboarding too but I would much rather see Nug in her bikini than concealed in snowboarding gear.
  3. Travel– Surfing is one of the main reasons I started to travel.  “It might be better if we drive a bit further,” is a phrase that I have uttered a thousand times.  The chase helped me develop an appreciation of the world beyond my local bubble and frequently shoved me out of my comfort zone.  Whether it is a drive one hour down the coast or hopping a plane to the other side of the world, surfing has expanded my horizons to be open to different places, cultures and people.
  4. It’s acceptable to pee yourself– Nowhere else (since I was 2) have I had the freedom to freely pee as I do when surfing.  If the water is cold and I am in a wetsuit it’s even better!  The pros certainly go for it in contests as well.  What would happen if Tom Brady did that on the field?!
  5. Transcends boundaries – My dad is in his 6th decade of life and loves to surf.  Even my wife enjoys it when the waves are small and the water is clear.  On any given day people from 3 years old to 80 or more are enjoying the ocean and the sunshine.  All over the world people enjoy the sport simultaneously on the “same field”.  It offers a common bond that connects generations and cultures.  No other sport builds bridges as successfully between such wide ranges of people.
  6. Accessibility of top professionals– Surfing is one of the few sports where I can regularly participate alongside the world’s best.  Any kook has the chance to split a peak with Kelly Slater (I know from experience) and still have a great time.  How much fun would it be if Kobe Bryant marched into my pickup basketball game and how pitiful would my crossover dribble look to him?  At the contest the pros walk through the spectators to and from their heats and actually talk with fans and sign autographs along the way.

Julian Wilson

Kelly Slater

Taj Burrow


Mr. Zinc

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The alarm droned at 5am and I wanted to hit snooze but I had sabotaged myself the night before by positioning it across the room.  I was up so I made some coffee and hopped in the “Smelter” for the 5 minute ride to Duranbah.  The tide was low and the waves did not look very appealing in the pre-dawn light.  There were only 10 guys out and the sun had just started to peak above the horizon.  “It’s better than watching T.V.  I’ll give it a float,” I convinced myself.  The water was transparent and little fish darted around below me as I paddled out.  The waves were more fun than I had anticipated.  I was letting the caffeine set in when a little shoulder high nugget rolled in.  At this point the next 10 seconds seemed to go in slow motion.  I saw a guy on a mal (Australian for funshape board) paddling for the peak.  He was a bit far back and had an awful lot of zinc sunscreen on his face for 545 a.m.  I watched as he stood up…or I should say attempted to…since the nose of his board pearled instantly.  As this happened, he threw his hands straight up, his eyes turned to saucers, and he opened his mouth wide to let out a shriek.  I instantly spun around and dug as hard as I could for the wave.  As I stood up I looked back to see Mr. Zinc’s scream stifled as he face planted into the clear water.  I could barely contain my laughter as I dropped into the 4 foot double up and hooked a bottom turn right into the belly of the “beast” (I’m using the term liberally here.).  The wave stood at attention on the sandbar and then inhaled me.  I could see the sun peering through the translucent lip and for a second I assumed the wave was going to swallow me whole and deposit me on the sandbar with Mr. Zinc.  Instead, it spit me out into the daylight like a sip of rancid milk.  I was so stoked that I started fist pumping the air like a kook!  I looked over and saw a 10 year old kid laughing.  I’m not sure if he was laughing at my awkward contortions or Mr. Zinc but there is a good chance that it was a bit of both.

250

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It was January 1st and I was feeling pathetic after a night of staying up late and inflicting harm on my unfortunate liver.  No one wanted to do anything and I couldn’t bear to ring in the New Year on the couch watching TV.  After begging and pleading, I was able to get Ted to go for a float with me.  The influential line was that my New Year’s resolution was to reach 250 surf sessions for the year.  I normally pass on resolutions.  My last…which at this point I was seriously reconsidering…was to avoid alcohol for the month of January.  That was several years ago and I realized how irritating drinkers are when you are not one of them.  Anyways, I threw out the 250 session resolution as a Hail Mary to get Ted to get off of his couch and it worked.  I didn’t really consider the goal feasible at first.  That day the Jacksonville water was cold and clear and the waves were small, but I was grateful to get outside.  As the year wore on, I became more determined with the 250 goal.  Did the resolution make me a better person?  No.  Did it help anyone?  No.  Was it greedy and self-serving?  Absolutely.  Numerous times I said (usually in a whiny voice), “But Nug, I’ll never accomplish my New Year’s Resolution if I don’t surf today!”  Surprisingly, this plea worked repeatedly.  On December 17th I paddled out at the Wreck in Byron Bay for my 250th session on a tiny day that resembled that 1st session of the year except for the fact that it was about 90 degrees…errr 34 Celsius outside.  After the float I skipped back to the campervan with a huge smile on my face and said, “Nug, I hit my goal.  That was session 250!”  She looked at me and said, “Thank God!  Now we can finally stop this wild goose chase for waves!”  I nervously laughed to myself and responded, “Sorry baby, the chase never ends.”  Of course I may have just thought that instead of actually saying it.

The Raglan Kook

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The sun is just starting to peak out from behind the hills.  The water is much colder than I had anticipated.  My wetsuit is a few years old and cold water finds every available seam.  I don’t care because the water is emerald New Zealand green and I am enjoying the board that I shaped back home (with help from Mike at Flyline surfboards.)  Head hight waves are peeling cleanly down the point consistently with a crisp offshore breeze.  It is a beautiful morning and after 2 hours I run back to Solscape to get Nug, eat some breakfast, and pack our things.  I want to get another float in before continuing south so we head back down to Manu Bay.  The waves have turned to poo with an onshore breeze and are fat with the tide.  I am on a mission though so I run up the point and clamor over the rocks to the keyhole to jump off into the lineup to join the 10 or so surfers.  I am still pruny from my first session.  As I leap into the water I feel a tug on my foot.  The combo of barnacle encrusted rock and soggy skin led to me leaving a bit of my epidermis behind.  “Well that hurts but it’s not the end of the world I think.”  After 10 minutes or so a set comes through and everyone starts paddling for the outside.  The girl next to me lets out a shriek and turns straight around to paddle in.  “WTF was that I’m thinking as continue heading to the outside.”  Then I see it but only for a brief moment…a fin 2 feet high is in the wave and heading straight at all of us.  Shit!!!  I pull all my limbs away from the water as if it is boiling.  The fin disappears beneath the surface.  The Japanese guy next to me with dreads down to his belly button looks over at me, “Bruhhh, you see that shark.  It musta been 8 feet minimum.”  He has a painfully forced Kiwi accent.  I look at my back foot and see a crimson river headed down my ankle and calf until it diffuses into the water.  “Why am I such a kook!  How could I blow that jump into the water?!?!”  Now I have really done it!  It is a long couple of minutes (It may have been seconds but it felt like hours!)  as I wait for a wave to catch in and as my over active mind sees something in the water- everywhere I look.  The lineup clears out pretty quickly with the close encounter before l finally get one in.  We are sitting in the parking lot watching the waves, cleaning my foot and looking for signs of this creature when we see the fin again.  It starts jumping and sure enough it is every bit of 8 feet.  However, it is an orca or killer whale (Shamu) rather than a shark.  Either way I was happy to be back at the top of the food chain.

Video from that session and after.