I had been away for a while, working, and could feel the need strongly within me. The need to get away, to get wet, to get a dose of salt-water medicine. It seems I have swapped sails for wheels and in so doing swapped the modes of transport but not the need to escape, to explore, to discover. We are pretty blessed here in W.A., we have some out of that way, wild places to the North, where the desert meets the sea and the power of the southern ocean swells offload themselves against reefs, cliffs and beaches. Being a bit further North is also great when the cold is creeping into the southern parts of the country too. This will be my first winter in a while and delaying it for as long as possible sounds like a good idea to me. So that was where I would head, North to the desert. Somewhere I had yet to explore, where the reputation of the waves gives that feeling of butterflies in the belly and where wide-open spaces give one a place to think, and to breathe.
With the van packed full of all the food and water necessary to keep you going in a remote area, and with a brand new board as a little treat to myself, I fired Moby (my van) up and headed North. The driving in W.A. is easy, long, straight, flat, roads and can be almost hypnotizing in its emptiness, miles of it. Felt good to be out of the city and for long stretches I would turn off the music, roll down the window and just feel the wind blow noisily past and watch as the miles of road disappear in front of me. From Perth to the Bluff is about 1400 km, a ridiculously long drive in any other place, besides W.A. The first stop on the journey would be Kalbarri, A small town on the half way mark with its own world-class waves, and locals that know it, and surf it, better than any blow ins that happen through town. The swell hadn’t quite hit yet and it was still bumpy and messy, but I got out and got a few on the new board, and on the head, a reminder of the power of the swell that hits here on the west coast. When it’s big and firing, these are waves of consequence and will quickly remind you of that.
With an early start the following day it was still late afternoon before I turned into the long dusty road that takes you up to the camp. Not having been there before, the road seemed to go on forever, as it does in an unexplored place, always teasing that around the next little corner would be the end, but no, on and on it went. Around 4’o clock I finally turned into the little dusty track that leads to the coast and came around the last corner to see the namesake of this place, lit up red in the setting sun and towering over the blue, undulating carpet stretched out below it, Red Bluff. It stands watch over this little bay, a sentry, imposing and strong, but also serenely beautiful in its ruggedness, contrasted by the fine sand and blue water below. Little campsites dot the beach and cliffs and goats scurry along the skinny paths leading up and over the cliffs. As you enter you are also assigned the three hundred and thirty three flies that will share your camp with you and though it’s seldom know fact, Australian flies are some of the friendliest in the world. Loving to see what’s up your nose and on your face. More than one person has given himself a belting to the face in a vain attempt to dissuade a friendly fly.
I knew some crew that were up here and caught up with them that afternoon and was soon set up in the van and sitting around the fire chatting. Unfortunately it was their last night there though, but it always amazes me how small the community is here; you always know someone, or some one who knows some one. Guess the whole worlds like that really. Next morning it was up and out for and early surf. All night I could hear the waves crashing against the shore and the anticipation and nerves I get when I surf somewhere new played out in my dreams. In the early morning dark I got my things ready, a quick bite to eat and a coffee before the walk down to the point, in a spot I’d never been to before and with no idea what was in store. The others had slept in so there was nothing but the cliffs, the sand and me, as I made my way along. It was a bit overcast, but about halfway down the track I was stopped by one of the most amazing sights. The sun, just peeking its face out between the dunes to the east and the grey clouds above, that deep dark red center, radiating out in a thousand different shades of color on the birth of a new day, spilling its light onto the cliffs behind me and lighting them in a deep, red, soft light. The quality of the light here is amazing, the warmth seems to fill you from the feet up as it seeps into the cracks and shadows of the rocks around. God I wish I had my camera. It was a moment to stop and take a mental snapshot. One that is burned into your mind forever, a moment filled with soft warm, light and tinged with the anticipation of something new, a new day, a new wave, a new moment. I smiled and breathed deeply, and soon after threw myself into the ocean.
It was not long before the first wave came along. They were not overly big this day, around 3-4 feet, about head high, and I turned and began to paddle, matching its energy and fighting the butterflies. Down I dropped, turning to see the wall of water stand up before me, and very shortly after that, come crashing down upon me. A good wake up, and a salt water rinsing. After making my way back out, a bit more conscious of where I sat relation to the waves, my second wave rose from the blue and approached. Again the butterflies and I paddled hard for it, there were less of them this time though, maybe I spat up a few underwater the first time? Making the drop and turning I drew myself up the face to get some speed, and almost in slow motion the wave started throwing out in front of me, the lip pitching forward, me tucking down just slightly, water engulfing me on all sides, the sound around me changing, nothing but the light at the end of the tunnel pulling me forward, and finally back out into full light and contrasting quiet. It was all so easy, that wave, one of the easiest, most open barrels I have ever pulled into. The butterflies were gone, a smile smeared fully across my face, and a flurry of water behind me as I headed straight back out for the next one. The wave here is amazing. It breaks right in front of the cliffs and peels away into a wide-open bay. The reverberation from the cliffs of the crashing water makes it all seem loud, and powerful, and you’d be wrong to underestimate the amount of water movement here. I got a few barrels on that, and the following days, some deeper that would give you this amazing sight of the keyhole at the end getting smaller and smaller as you raced along, before shutting down on you and thoroughly rinsing and washing you along the reef, and other that you would manage to just get inside of but didn’t have that long, deep view to them. Truly an amazing wave.
Its funny, but my surfing has changed. Its more fun now, I am not great by any means, but man do I have fun. I think, as I've gotten older I've shed some of the anxieties and apprehension, not just of the surf, but also of trying to “look” the part. I simply enjoy it. Playing in the ocean, for me, is where I feel at home, it is where I can let go. Wish I had clued on to this years ago, fave fun, play and enjoy, how the hell did I forget that?? Here I was on the edge of the desert, living in my van, time to think, write, read and surf and loving it. Most of the crew had left, but I was not alone, I ended sharing the camp with a family from Margaret River, Owen and Jess and their three kids, and was awesome to see the trip that they were on and how they were sharing it with the kids. The first day they moved in I was sitting in the van writing after a long day of surf when I looked up to see all the kids and Jess standing there with a big bowl of soup for me. Awesome the people you meet. Oh, and the soup was amazing.
The weather out there was not exactly what I was expecting though. We had a few days of rain, some sun and lots of wind. The rain was actually kind of nice, gave it that cozy feeling in the van and cooled everything down. The wind when it blew however was intense and cold, and would sneak its way into any little cracks or opening in the van and deliver a chill and a fine coating of sand. There were a few days where it was blowing twenty knots, straight off the desert and would whip up the sand in and around camp and the temperature would just plummet at night and into the early morning. It may have been the desert, but pulling on a wet wetsuit at six in the morning wasn’t the most pleasant. These were just the many faces of the desert though. The time out there for me was good. It gave me time to think and process the happenings of the last couple months. Returning to Australia, meeting people I had not seen in a long time, putting into practice things I had learnt along the way and realizing what it is I want to attract in my life and the direction I wish to travel. For me it is this time, to sit, reflect and connect with the very basic and simple things in life and nature that allow me the time and space to think and feel, and some world-class waves certainly help as well.
I could have spent longer out there, I met people who were camped out there for months, spending the entire season working on the nearby stations and watching, waiting and surfing the swell that would be marching its way up the coast. After a week though it was time to return, I had things I needed to do back in Perth and in going with the balance of life, had to give them their time as well. Doesn’t take long to pack up the van and the swell had dropped anyways, which made it easier. After a quick brekky and some goodbyes to the amazing crew and my three hundred winged and buzzing friends, I started the van for the return drive to Perth. Its always different heading back, it seems shorter, maybe as you know the way, but it also means filing away the trip in the memory and the drive back is filled more with a type of serenity than anticipation, sometimes anyways. I retraced my steps of the journey up and after a night in Kalbarri continued on my way south. I passed a couple of hitchhikers on the way down and thought of stopping but didn’t for some reason, though I felt I should have, but when I pulled over for a drink a bit further down the road and they happened to be dropped off by their previous lift exactly there I took my gut feeling and they joined me for the lift down to Perth. Good to have company and to help out some other travelers.
Arriving back to my parents place that afternoon was a good feeling. I was tired from the drive and content with my time. Wasn’t long before the kettle was boiling and I was sitting with mom and sharing stories of my trip and having a much-needed chat about life, the fact that I can come home to that is a true blessing in itself. With the need for Vitamin Sea seen to and images of amazing sunrises and long, green waves burned into my memory it was time to devote myself to other things. I had an intensive yoga workshop planned for the next couple weeks and have decided to go out and get my own room down near a little town called Fremantle, and would probably have to fit some work somewhere in there too. So many times we fly to foreign lands and far off places looking for things, when sometimes they are not that far away. Exploring your back yard can lead you to some amazing places. West Australia holds so much treasure I have yet to experience, I am so very grateful for the opportunities I have had to explore, discover and learn. I wait and see what the future holds, and I'm excited.