Tag Archives: Surfing

A Weekend Away in Byron Bay

Bryon Bay is one of Australia’s best known beach side towns, and acclaimed for being a surfing hotspot. It is located in northern New South Wales (NSW) on Australia’s east coast, around a 3-hour drive from Brisbane airport. Though Bryon Bay is a haven for surfers, it also hosts excellent scuba diving sites and is home to a conservation park headland complete with the famous white lighthouse. During certain times of the year, humpback whale migrations can also be watched from viewpoints such as the Captain Cook Lookout, or aboard tour boats.

We spent a long weekend soaking up the sights and sounds of Bryon as well as exploring the surrounding hinterland and smaller, quirkier places hidden among the hills. Bryon is a beautiful town and has become even more popular thanks to the frequent cycle of backpackers and weekend visitors. However, this has caused huge traffic problems in the Central Business District. As Bryon Bay is a place famous for its natural beauty and its ability to keep mining and excessive development away, many people felt that such heavy traffic was contributing to its loss of identity, and a lot of effort has since been put into keeping the town pristine and still attracting its visitors. Continue reading

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Surfing In Hendaye: Why You Should Never Give Up

Surfing is a very unique sport, partly because of the importance of the elements whose unpredictability give surfing both its appeal and frustration. There are now very sophisticated forecasts available to help you predict everything from wave height and frequency, to wind speed and direction, and probably even seaweed per m³ of water, all up to two weeks into the future. However, despite all this technology nothing is, and probably will never be, certain. I have turned up to a near flat forecast in the North Sea to find fun sizeable waves that left me grinning from ear to ear. Likewise I have been escorted to promised six foot barrels in Indonesia, only to be washed around in a windy mess.

Since I moved to Pamplona I have been taking regular trips to the Basque coast with some fellow teachers at my school on the hunt for waves. This part of Europe offers endless spots running along the coastline ranging from town beaches such as San Sebastian and Biarritz, to little coves and secluded spots all with consistent waves and reachable within an hour of Pamplona.

From Pamplona you can reach the French sea town of Biarritz.

From Pamplona you can reach the French sea town of Biarritz. (Photographer: Emmanuel DYAN; Flickr)

Not long ago my friends and I were headed for Hendaye, a small town on the French-Spanish border with a long golden beach and uninterrupted views of the vast Atlantic Ocean. Looking at the forecast the night before, it was more than tempting to cancel my 7am alarm and wait until the following weekend. We were expecting medium-sized 3-4 foot waves and disastrous 30mph wind and rain. You don’t need to be an expert to realise that trying to catch waves in the ocean in these conditions probably isn’t a great thing to do.

However, we were all committed and at 7:30 the next morning I climbed into the car with my two friends and the journey began. As we crossed the border a heavy downpour of rain had begun to hammer down on the car. Along with a temperature drop as we descended the mountains to the town, the prospect of removing our warm clothes and fighting ourselves into wetsuits was a daunting thought, perfectly illustrated by my friend’s fearful face next to me.

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Going With the Ocean: An Interview With Erik the Surfer

As the interminable gap between the New Year and spring drags ever on, the idea of escaping to warmer climes gets ever more appealing. I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Erik Pettersson, who has swapped the freezing winter of his native Sweden for a surfing lifestyle on the coast of Australia. Erik is an inveterate traveller. When I first met him, he was using London as a base of operations to tour Europe. Now he’s ditched the daily grind to hit the waves.

“I’ve lived in two different places for pretty much my entire stay in Australia,” says Erik. “I spent 6 months or so in Byron Bay and a few more in Margaret River before heading back to Byron Bay.”

We’ve all heard of Byron Bay. With huge beaches, humpback whales, rain forest and even a volcano, the Bay is a wildly popular destination for surfers and backpackers. Margaret River is equally well known amongst the surfing community:

“It’s in Western Australia,” Erik elaborates. “It’s notorious for massive swells and gigantic Great Whites. Fun stuff!”

As it turns out, surfing is a pretty great way to spot sharks. Erik has seen a fair few during his stay.

“I’ve seen more than I would’ve liked to! Byron was pretty crazy for sharks. They came in at about the same time as all the whales. I was living about 30 seconds from the main break that I usually surfed, so I’d get up early and check the waves before heading out. One time there was just this huge shark busy taking up all the waves. He’d swim by, super visible, just hovering in the face of the wave. Another time, I was out in the line-up when a mate of mine caught a huge wave. He turned to paddle back to us at the end of it and there was a fin maybe a meter out of the water right behind him.”

“There are all these urban legends that go around about shark attacks. There’s one story about a guy who was walking his dog along the beach. He threw a ball out into the water for his dog to catch and a shark just snatched it out of the air. Attacks do happen, though. There was a point where we were hearing about a shark attack in Byron every couple of weeks. It got pretty scary.”

Despite the horror stories, experienced surfers and complete beginners alike still flock to Byron. Erik had never surfed before coming to Australia, but picked it up pretty quickly.

“Starting out was tough. Physically challenging, but incredibly fun. I always want to be the best at things, so I just went at it. I gave it 100%, just like everyone else out there. When I wasn’t surfing, I was talking about it. The community is really great, makes it easy to get hooked. The whole lifestyle tends to attract really great people, and everyone is super stoked to just be hanging out together, loving the same thing.”

It sounds like paradise. Is every day as good as that?

“Well, your average day starts off pretty early. You feel like a zombie after the day before, but you have to get up early because the winds are calmer in the mornings. The land is colder at night, and once it starts heating up the trade winds come in. Onshore winds and surfing don’t mix, so normally you’ll wake up your mates, go down to the beach and check what the ocean is doing. If the waves are good, you grab your board, put the wetsuit on (if you need one) and just go for it. You surf until you can’t move anymore, then you head back to eat a big, surf-family meal and go back to sleep. Then you get up at around lunchtime, check if it’s still pumping. If it’s good out, you get back to business, and when the sun’s down you crack open the beers and relax, knowing that tomorrow is going to be just as good.”

It’s easy to see why surfing draws in people from all walks of life. People come from all over the world to catch Australian waves, but is there one thing in particular that makes them fall in love with the surf?

“There’s definitely a feeling of being part of something bigger. Surfing gets you away from the rest of the world. It takes you out from work, from all the stress and pressure and puts you out in the middle of something vast, something that surrounds you and swallows you up. You’ve got no control over nature. You’re just this tiny speck on the ocean, trying to figure out what it’s going to do before it happens. It’s never the same, and it’s always hard to explain. You feel kind of helpless. It can be pretty overwhelming. When I hit Bali, I decided to paddle out one night to get over the fear. I set off all alone and just floated around in the dark. You’ve got to recognise that you can’t do anything about the ocean, you’ve just got to go with it.”

After his stay in Australia, Erik plans to head over to Portugal to see what the waves are like there.

“I’d never surfed before I moved to Australia, and now it’s my life.”

Featured Image: Shutterstock

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Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

There is rural beach town on the east coast of Sri Lanka which is slowly becoming a tourist hotspot in a country that is quickly becoming a must on every traveller’s list. Arugam Bay is a surfer’s paradise which isn’t just for surfers: you don’t need to be able to surf to enjoy what it has to offer, though you probably have to be a surfer to be able to enjoy the surf.

(surfspotsmap.com)

I first heard about Arugam (pronounced are-gum) Bay while in Sydney and a friend of a friend had just got back from trip to Sri Lanka, heard I was heading there and insisted that I had to go to this particular spot.

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Surfing in the Algarve

There’s nothing quite like surfing in the middle of the Atlantic ocean nestled by the breathtaking cliffs of the Algarve coast. As a child I wondered what it would feel like to fly; to be free and weightless, unencumbered by a mechanical device. The sensation associated with surfing can only be described as floating on air; feeling feather-light, being carried by a curling wave, becoming aware of your body again only when you come cascading back down.

portugal-5073(Surfing in Portugal is open to everyone from beginner to expert. Grab a board and ride a wave. bpstorybook.wordpress.com)

If I am completely honest, the first couple of days were a little less graceful than that. An unexpected forecast of heavy rain and chances of a storm (and nothing but a suitcase packed with summer clothes in anticipation for some Mediterranean sun) had dampened my excitement upon my arrival to Lagos in March. “With bad weather comes good waves,” my instructor assured me. But fear and doubt had already started settling in. Would I manage to survive the rough waves on my first attempt on a surfboard? Or would I get carried out to sea never to be seen again? My anxiety and irrational thoughts vanished after my first lesson, which consisted mainly of paddling as fast as I could to try and move at a quick enough speed to get carried by a wave. Although the waves seemed a little daunting at first, as if I was about to be swallowed by the ocean, my first surfing experience proved to be a great deal of fun. I can’t say that I caught any waves that day, but after hours of getting dragged around by my surfboard, which was attached to my ankle, there was no doubt that the waves had definitely caught me.

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