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