Surfing in the Lucky Country
2 – 8 Feb 2015
Point Plomer – mid north coast NSW
Day 1 – We arrived late afternoon, set up the camper on a small rise with a view looking out beyond the beach and over the bay to the headlands of Big Hill and Crescent Head in the distance. From camp we could see the small swell wrapping cleanly round the point, almost too small even for me to catch and ride. Work had slipped away as the miles were driven. A wild wind swept the headland that opened to the rugged vista south.
Day 2 – Rain and buffeting wind overnight, morning cool, windy, tiny surf. We cycled along the back beach road to another headland and took in the shipwreck scene – crashing swells onto ragged rocks, wind blown spume. Hopefully the waves would improve as the tide goes out and it shallows across the reef flat off the point.
Surfing the north coast with time to spare and a lack of crowds in beautiful places where waves peel gently off a point – this has been a very long term dream. Having fallen in love with the ocean as I started surfing in my early teens I read Tracks magazines, watched Morning of the Earth and longed for the freedom and wherewithal to be able to live the dream. It occurs to me now that I have taken one path to be here. My family moved to UK for several years and on return I took up teaching and discovered other adventures eventually making a rewarding career in outdoor education. I sometimes got goose pimply close to this dream when I led surf trips up the coast for college students. We’d stay about 10 km north and surf from dawn till dusk. We even made it on safaris up to Byron Bay a couple of times. I surfed occasionally between times in amongst family coast trips and remained a beginner with an ancient wetsuit and a couple of boards that were never quite right. Then Kevin Rudd bought me a shiny new MacT malibu with a $900 government stimulus package in the GFC. A new wetsuit and I was away. Suddenly I felt like I could surf a little and progress to advanced beginner stage. I love small surfs where the green peels across and I can play up and down the face. On another trip with Cath we stopped here and I had the best surf of my life so here we are back again this time as the launch of my retirement from full time work. We’ve got the smart 4WD, best tough camper trailer money can buy and comfortable superannuation. We are set up on a rise with a view to the break.
Day 3 – I stepped awkwardly across slippery rocks into the shallows. The longboard and wash is hard to negotiate. After a set I paddled furiously across the reef hoping another big wave wouldn’t thump me backwards. The swell has picked up. I sat in the takeoff zone – too far wide and the waves would be too fat to catch, too far in the water wasn’t deep enough to quell the fear of being smashed. It’s a friendly scene. Small group. Plenty for everyone. A bigger one looms and I was in just the right spot. Paddle hard. Jump up. Down the face. Bottom turn then it walls up ahead. Green. Spray being blown gently back. The lip holding up just a little. Slice an arc to the top then slow backhand. Float across the slope. Feel the power of the swell. A few more slow dancing turns. Glorious. Then cut back across left and ride the break into the beach. Walk back out along the grassy track. Stoked.
Another path could have led me straight from school up the coast seeking an alternative lifestyle, searching for waves and meaning beyond the mainstream. A step straight off the pancake. Living simply, in touch with the ocean. Work, money. Maybe it got too hard to sustain or maybe I found a niche where it all worked out. For others the journey led back to the city when family and children struggled for better options. I didn’t take this path.
I could feel the crossroads right here. The real and imagined. So many others too that were let go or chanced away in multitudes of small and large choices. I feel tuned in to past possibilities, and maybe futures. Being here where one of my dreams becomes reality. A heightened sensibility at the end of one major stage of life with the opening up of another.
My brother, David, arrives in the evening. He’d taken a couple of precious days out of his long service leave between taking his family on an extended holiday and returning to work.
Day 4 – We went out early and David got the wave of the day. A good size. I watch him bottom turn then fly across the face which appears translucent as the early morning light shines through from behind. The lip curls over above his head. Past the fast section he plays with the fuller wave face and rides right into shore. He calls in at camp to down the rest of his earl grey before walking back out to the point for the next wave.
Later we sit together in the take-off zone. It’s been many years of work and immediate family and a million other commitments since we’ve spent time just being together.
Cycle along the beach at low tide to the other headland.
Day 5 – Cath makes more tentative beginner steps with the wave ski. She practices the basics then we both go out the back. I catch a nice wave and stand up. Up ahead Cath paddles in as well. It’s her first proper wave and we ride it in together hooting with her excitement. The surf drops. Snorkel the reef at the take-off area to investigate the rocks that are covered with kelp and growth. They sit just below the surface at low tide. No wonder the bigger waves rear up there. Cups of tea watching the surf ebb and build through the day. Fire, dinner overlooking the ocean, “Brothers” wine. It’s meant a lot to David going surfing up the coast with his brother – to me too. I feel totally spent physically at the end of the day, nothing at all left in the tank.
Day 6 – Another nice small surf and plenty of fun. Cath catches more waves on the ski. We visit Crescent Head and I marvel at the perfect landscape of the headland and beach. It’s one of Australia’s surfing reserves. There is a perfectly formed line of waves curving along the point with a good crowd of surfers even on this small day.
This is the first time I have surfed whenever I’ve liked and for as long as I wanted. I feel satiated now. Normally I can remember each good wave but they all now merge into a deeply happy feeling and sense of great satisfaction at being fit enough and skilful enough and strong enough to be able make the most of the high quality swell here. It’s a marvellous way to start retirement from full time work. It seems like a rare treasure of health, personal financial security and the astonishing chance of being born in the lucky country. What bliss. What luxury. Gratitude. Fire, stars, the full moon hung in a Norfolk Island pine silhouette.