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Feeling slightly melancholy, three hours into a fifteen-hour road trip
and with a nauseatingly bad hangover, I was reflecting on the events
over the previous 48 hours. It started on our arrival in Perth,
Western Australia, with airline officials gleefully informing us that
our sails had been misdirected and if we were lucky, would take at
least two days to get to Perth. James Dinnis from Taranaki, James
Court, Woo Norris and Gary McCorry from Wellington set about killing
time in Perth. While Mark Sherlock and James Thomas, also from
Wellington, had their gear and quickly headed off into the desert.
Perth is a fantastic city set around the broad sheltered waterways of
the Swan River and the long surf beaches of the Indian Ocean. It is
also an incredibly easy city to get around due to its oversized
motorway system and polite motorists. We cruised around visiting
windsurf shops, beaches, old mates, and subways. Our wanderings
eventually leading us to a "little place Dinnis knew about" for a quick
drink. The quick drink turned into a 5am ripsnorter at a "booze barn"
full of extremely drunk, scantily clad university students. Dinnis'
resourcefulness and 'bush knowledge' were already proving to be a
valuable asset on this trip.
Back in the car, with all our gear and twelve hours of mind numbing
driving later, we were nearing our destination. Driving in the
Australian outback is really daunting. The highways are so dead
straight you have a constant feeling of de-ja-vu; the roadsides are
littered with the decomposing carcasses of dead kangaroos. The land is
so flat and featureless that if you wandered ten metres off the road
and spun around ten times, chances are you would never find your way
back. However, with its endless red soil and wild flowers the place is
After another two hours on a bumpy dirt road we had reached our mecca,
one of the best, if not the best wave-sailing location on the planet,
and it was perfect! Well, actually it was half-mast and a little lumpy,
but after 15 hours in the saddle it was heaven sent. A sperm whale and
its calf even gave us a couple of massive backslaps out the back while
The wave is a freak of nature barrelling almost continuously for about
300 metres over a shallow live coral reef. As we quickly found out
even at three-four foot (half mast) the wave is not to be trifled with. The
wave is probably twice as wide as it is high, severely punishing any
wrong move or lapse in concentration, although it does have some easier
sections. After some good slappings and one broken mast later the boys
had adjusted their style to the more conservative side, at least until
we tuned into the place.
The first eight days were a haze. We were on the program: sleeping,
eating, surfing, windsurfing, then drinking beers, duty free spirits
and talking shit before passing out. Or in Woo's case pacing the
bedroom, patrolling for snakes, goannas and spiders in between having
nightmares about shark attacks and stonefish.
Every day brought half-mast waves fanned by thermal cross-shores sometimes up to 35 knots in
the afternoon. The boys started to tune in to the wave. Norris,
McCorry and Dinnis were charging, busting multiple down-the-line aerials and dominating the critical section, even drawing comment
from the critical locals. Comparisons were hard not to make; we were
carving more bottom turns a day than we would get all year in
Wellington. Taranaki wave sailing guru Dinnis, considered the
wave surpasses Pungarehu in quality and heaviness. Speed was the
critical factor and the more the better. Thomas, a competent
sailor but a newcomer to down the line conditions caught on quickly and,
at times, was getting deeper and more critical than anyone else,
despite some terrible maulings.
Then things changed...