As I sat in my car looking at Google Maps, I had no idea what to do next. I just dropped Hailey off in Sydney and now I had the freedom to do anything that I wanted. I knew that I did not want to be in a city, but it was getting too late to drive, so I decided to head toward Manly/Freshwater, the birthplace of Australian surfing. Apparently the first Australian wave was ridden in Freshwater. I decided that it has been far enough outside of the city and worth checking out. I quickly found a parking spot in a nice neighbourhood and explored the area, which was very touristy, but also an upper class neighbourhood.
After a nice night’s sleep, I saw that there was a swell building and I headed to the beach. It was strong offshore winds, chest high, and raining. But, I finally got some waves! The water was surprisingly warm and it felt incredibly good to be back in the ocean. After an hour and a half in the water, my arms started to wear out. I guess the 3.5 months with very little surf dwindled my muscles to almost nothing. Even though the waves were surfable, I knew that there were better breaks to find. Unfortunately the winds and rain weren’t conducive to surf, so I waited until the next day to explore.
I drove to a few towns north to stop at all the beaches looking for good waves. I stopped at Collaroy and found a perfect little right hand wave coming off of a rock bath. All the beaches seem to provide a safe swimming area away from the waves and sharks, usually made with rocks. The surf was more of a Longboard wave, but there were a few short boarders out and it looked like fun. By surfing the inside, I was able to catch a few good waves and slowly I was starting to feel more comfortable on the board again. Oh, how I missed surfing!
The beach park had some showers and grills, so I decided to hang around for a couple days and surf the fun break while there were waves. On the second day in Collaroy, the rain came back and I ended spending most of the day trying to stay dry. Around dinner time I made my way back to the beach park and was surprised to see a backpacker van parked with a wetsuit drying and a guy cooking. I introduced myself and instantly became friends with the two guys. Jasper was a surfer from the Netherlands and Ben was a mountaineer from northern Spain. Even though they were sleeping in the van, they had connections at the local work hostel and I was invited into the warmth for a few drinks.
I wasn’t particularly surprised by the hostel life, but I am amazed at how many people love it. Apparently people come to these work hostels to work occasional jobs, such as construction and cleaning, while spending a majority of the money that they make on the hostel, drugs, and alcohol. Every night is a social gathering of the inhabitants, most have been there for more than 2 months, drinking a mix of coca cola and cheap wine or “goon” (boxed wine). It’s definitely one way to experience Australia and I do admit that it is a great social scene.
Jasper and Ben put their van for sale online and in less than a day were able to sell it for almost two times the price that they bought it for. They sold it with all the camping gear, a surfboard, and a few other things, but there was a little something that I really wanted to get my hands on before they passed it on. Apparently someone saw them parked at a surf break and decided to give them a residence park pass for the Northern Beach of Sydney. This pass allows for unrestricted access and free parking to tons of great beaches and surf spots. I asked if I could snag it and they were kind enough to gift it to me.
Now I didn’t have to worry about parking at the beach! Because of that one little sticker, I now felt like I might just stay in the Northern Beaches for the next 3 weeks until my flight to Bali. But the waves were a little crowded and it was still basically in the city. I find the Northern Beaches to have a strong resemblance to San Diego’s North County. I will give it another couple days to feel out the area before making a decision. The freedom to do whatever I feel really started to take effect.
It is amazing how a great experience can easily persuade someone into a decision or action. In my case, it all came down to a wave. I was having some really fun sessions at Collaroy but it was a baby break. As I started to get back into shape and the swell started to drop, I was loosing my passion for the wave. I decided to explore the surrounding breaks to see what I could find. The first two spots were chaotic, windy, and crowded. On the third stop, I found an interesting looking beach break. With my park pass, I was able to park right up to the break and watch. Even though I was technically still in the city, somehow I felt a hundred miles away. I could see buildings in most directions, but the beach and a nice lagoon separated the parking lot from everything else.
At first glance the wave looked fast, hollow and sketchy, but I started to notice people catching some great rides. After watching for close to an hour, I decided to paddle out. There was a nice channel (a place where the waves weren’t breaking) to paddle out in. The first wave that I caught stoked me beyond words. The drop into the wave was quick and just the right level of sketchy. The whole ride was fast, clean and best of all, long.
Things just kept getting better for the rest of the session. I was catching plenty of fun waves and the crowd quickly diminished. In the end, there were only 3 other guys out with plenty of fun waves for everyone. Then to top it all off there was one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have seen in a long time. I am used to the sun setting over the water, but here, it was over the land side. The perfect combination of clouds and colours is indescribable. Even how the sun turned the waves orange and the perfect rainbows in the spray of the waves were breathtaking. As I sat there watching the sunset I decided to spend the next 2-3 weeks at that break.
Would it be a good choice? Well, I guess when you have the freedom to decide, your journey is a constant surprise, like this one!