THE COAST

Tracks - - BITSA -

I’m sit­ting be­side a camp­fire with my mate Benno. On the ta­ble, an open map is sprawled be­tween break­fast bowls and empty beer bot­tles. We’re por­ing the pages with grubby fingers, scan­ning a few thou­sand k’s of coast­line that is, even now in this age of satel­lites and Google Maps, rel­a­tively un­known and un­surfed.

South Aus­tralia is one of the fi­nal fron­tiers of surf travel; it’s a long trip from West Oz, but ex­plor­ing this area is go­ing to in­volve a few weeks sleep­ing rough, get­ting on each other’s nerves, lots of beer and tinned food, and truth be told, in­hal­ing each other’s farts.

Along the way, there’s a good chance we’ll en­counter world-class waves with no­body out but a cou­ple of white point­ers. Benno glances up from his beer with a wild glint in his eye. “South Oz ey. When are we go­ing?”

Day 1 - The Al­most Coast’

The car is stocked with mie goreng, muesli and beer. Seven boards are strapped to the roof. My dog Jezza jumps in and as­sumes the po­si­tion of World War I fighter ace, feel­ing the air on her face, the smell of ad­ven­ture fill­ing her finely tuned nostrils.

Benno rus­tles open a packet of corn chips and lets rip with a nox­ious blast of anal gas. “Or­ganic,” he says. I’m un­sure if he’s talk­ing about the chips or his fart. The mod­ern road trip is still a prim­i­tive ex­er­cise.

Lo­cals call the stretch be­tween Walpole and Bre­mer Bay the “Al­most Coast”. Gneiss rock and gran­ite plunge sharply into the South­ern Ocean. It’s often spec­tac­u­larly in­hos­pitable, but ev­ery cor­ner, ev­ery head­land, ev­ery gap be­tween an­cient mono­lithic walls is just a cos­mic roll of the dice from be­ing a 21st cen­tury surfer’s per­fect play­ground.

A steep track leads us down to a se­cluded beach. Windswept wedges re­bound off a rocky cor­ner, break­ing a few feet from the sand. It’s av­er­age, but we dive in any­way to rinse away the frus­tra­tion. Night­fall, and we’ve found a shel­tered spot to camp. Benno re­alises he’s THERE IS A WHOLE LOT OF NOTH­ING IN THESE PARTS. PHOTO: TOM DE SOUZA OP­PO­SITE: A LONELY RIGHT IN AN ARID LAND BEGS YOU TO JUMP THE BARB WIRE FENCE. PHOTO: RESPONDEK. for­got­ten to pack a pil­low and doona. The ad­ja­cent South­ern Ocean is the only thing sep­a­rat­ing us from Antarc­tica, and we can feel it. Benno, fully clothed in a foetal po­si­tion, curses him­self to sleep.

Day 4 - On a Road to Nowhere’

The blurry dis­tance un­rav­els be­tween dot­ted white lines. Our droop­ing eye­lids are pinned open by ad­ven­ture and to­bacco smoke, and The Talk­ing Heads are blast­ing from the speak­ers, muf­fling the monotony of the road. “We’re on a road to nowhere. We don’t know where it goeeeeees.”

Benno turns into a Na­tional Park, mum­bling about a wave he’s heard of. It’s dark, and we’re hope­lessly lost. The smell of rot­ting sea­weed sti­fles the air, and as­sum­ing we’re close to the ocean, we set up camp. A vi­cious swarm of mos­qui­toes at­tack ev­ery inch of ex­posed skin. Dirty and frus­trated, I drift off to sleep, won­der­ing if our self-in­dul­gent quest across the coun­try is serv­ing any pur­pose. It’s been four days and nearly a thou­sand k’s, and all I have to show for it is a bunch of mosquito bites.

Bright light bleaches my dreams. I scrape the sleep from my eyes and stum­ble from my swag. Immaculate four foot lines bowl around a gran­ite cor­ner, tub­ing from the take-off and ta­per­ing all the way to the beach. A glossy off­shore sug­gests this will be an all-day af­fair. Am I still dream­ing?

Benno and I trade tubes, daring each other deeper be­neath the step on the suck rock. We’re joined by Chin, a lo­cal surfer, but the only has­sle is from the sea lions.

“Peo­ple spend big bucks trav­el­ling around the world look­ing for this,” Chin says. “Who would’ve thought it’s in our own backyard?”

Day 6 - Edge of the Dust Bowl’

The surf is three foot and fun, the wa­ter warm and the sky blue. Benno has gone in and I’ve got the line-up to my­self. Sud­denly, a mon­strous grey shadow launches only me­tres away. I sprint pad­dle to the rocks and clam­ber

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