Thursday, October 12, 2006

Spot X and Surf Camp

On Sunday we left Barrington Tops and headed to Spot X and the surf camp run by Mojo Surf. I've never been surfing before but that wasn't going to stop me giving it a go.

Before we got to surf camp we stopped in a little surf museum run by surf legend Scott Dillon. Scott was there and greeted us. While the museum itself was only of interest to those who knew one end of a surf board from another, which I don't, Scott looked like a fascinating character. I believe someone said he was 78 and had just had a hip replaced but he looked like he would be heading out for a surf at any time. Beer in hand Scott gave us a short little talk about surfing and then moved onto his next favourite subject, the ladies. Scott would appear to be the Australian version of Hugh Hefner and I have to suspect that his recently replaced hip may have been injured in the bedroom instead of on the surf board. Some of the girls in the group were happy to pose with him for some photographs and Scott was more than happy to let them.

Before leaving Scott warned us that today was not a good day to learn surfing and conditions at surf camp would be pretty bad, years of surfing seem to have given this man an insight into surf weather that means he doesn't even have to see the ocean to know what the waves are like.

We arrived in Spot X and dumped our bags in the dorms. Then it was out and into the wet suits. A quick lesson and explanation of the basics of surfing, the boards were issued, and we were off down the beach where Allie, our surf instructor, tried to teach us the basics of paddling the board and standing up. There is really no way to teach surfing on land so after 20 minutes it was time to take the plunge, literally. Boards at our sides like pros of many years experience we strode confidently towards the surf. 20 seconds later we were desperately trying to hold onto our boards as the waves pounded into us and surf boards did that they do and took off on the waves. Scott was right, the conditions sucked for learning.

We would struggle out to waste deep water, wait for a calm moment and hop onto our boards before the next wave hit us. Paddle! Paddle! Paddle! Feel the wave catch the board, 4 more paddles. Foot up. Push up off the board, then up onto to your feet and SPLASH, head first into the waves. Surfing requires a level of balance and courage that you never quite understand until you try it yourself.

Still after an hour of this most of us were standing, at least for a few seconds. Unfortunately just as I was beginning to see the light I took a tumble from the board in shallow water and landed hard on my ass twisting my back. Steady informed me that back injuries are quite common in surfing so with only 20 minutes left in the lesson anyway I called it a day and hoped my back would be OK in the morning. Someone then spotted whales off shore jumping out of the water. Even the instructors stopped to stare, Allie telling us that she had never seen whales jumping like that off this beach. I'm told it was a great sight but I had left my glasses and contacts up at the dorms so all I could see were black shapes on the horizon.

That night we sat around drinking, had a quiz and food and at 10pm headed down to the beach to continue drinking. Unfortunately the wind had picked up and the beach was too cold and sand was everywhere so most people headed to bed once again at around 11pm. Myself and a couple of others sat up for another hour or so drinking and discussing the trip so far. It's amazing how friendly people can become after just two days.

The next morning when the others headed for surfing I was still nursing a stiff back so I opted to take the chance to grab some photographs down on the beach with the others surfing (I know some people are waiting for the surf photos, I think they will be up tomorrow at the current rate of upload). The conditions were easier that day and now most people could stand for several seconds at a time. Surf awards have to go to Motti, Jean, and Hilda who were by now surfing like pros.

That afternoon we headed up to Byron Bay, the official destination of the previous two days of travel. We now had our first departure from the bus. One girl, Zona from England, had somehow managed to mess up her booking and get stuck in Surf Camp for two more days as another girl was scheduled to join the bus there. Some felt sorry for her as she watched her new friends drive away, some felt envious as they would have loved to be stuck in Surf Camp. She caught up with us yesterday in Byron and she seems to have survived the experience so no harm done.

Surfing is never going to be one of my hobbies and I certainly wont be buying a board but I do think I will try it again. I don't know if I'll do it in Ireland, too cold, but maybe I'll give it a shot somewhere else in Australia before I head home.

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