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Trip: Surfing Misadventures
Thursday August 30 2012 04:48:29 AM
Date: from Aug 30, 2012 to Aug 30, 2012
Surf trip description:
Before there was the Internet and swell tracking, there was "Cyclone Watch". January to March is prime cyclone season in Queensland, Australia. They spin down from the Tropics pushing big swells and lighting up, first, the Coral Coast then the Sunshine Coast and finally the Gold Coast. All week we had listened to the weather forecasts and planned our adventure to surf remote North Stradbroke Island!
Actually North Stradbroke Island, the second largest sand island in the world is only 30km southeast, across Moreton Bay, from the capital city of Brisbane. Before 1896 the island was part of "the" Stradbroke Island itself, however that year a massive storm surge separated it from South Stradbroke Island, forming a channel called Jumpinpin. (The island is about 38km long and 11km wide.)
The permanent population of the island is quite small, but the number of people on the island swells significantly during the holiday season. There is no bridge to the island and the only access is by vehicular or passenger ferries leaving from Cleveland. The island is still quite pristine to this day and is part of a national ecological reserve.
There are three townships on the island. Dunwich is the largest and has most of the island's services, including a school, medical center, local museum and a marine research station. Point Lookout on the surf side of the island, has an old lighthouse built in 1932. (Nearby Cylinder Beach was so named because it was used as a landing point for gas cylinders for the lighthouse.) The third is Amity Point much smaller and a popular fishing spot. Flinders Beach is a small settlement of mostly holiday houses located on the main beach between Amity and Point Lookout.
The only public house on the island is at Point Lookout. Affectionately know by the locals as the "Straddie Pub". It was closed in January 2006 for re-development, but has since reopened under the grandiose aspersion of the Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel.
The Island itself is mostly sandy and low lying with scraggy scrub, grass trees and swamplands, such as Eighteen Mile Swamp behind Flinders Beach. Other features of the island include Adder Rock between Amity and Point Lookout and, on the southern tip of the island is Swan Bay and an area of very large sand dunes.
The island has numerous freshwater lakes, including Black Snake Lagoon, wonder why? (Early explorers were know to have put ashore in search for fresh water.) Apart from some local cattle, chickens, wild pigs, brumbies, wallabies, a few Abo's and maybe a Dingo or two, that's it! They say the horses and pigs swam ashore from the numerous shipwrecks in the area, and with no natural predators, thrived. In fact some of the pigs are of Asian decent and it is suspected that a Chinese Junk may have ran aground. We knew little about it except there were wild pigs, lots of sharks and a place called Cylinder Beach. We could just see those perfect Endless Summer waves rolling in!
We had mapped out a two pronged attack. Some of us would take the car ferry in Warren Markwell's FJ Holden panel van, loaded up with out boards and gear, including my trusty Lee-Enfield .303 rifle, in case we ran into some wild boars. The rest would sail across in his brothers Trimaran. (He was just back from Vietnam and bought it with proceeds from the black market in Saigon.)
Oh what a loverly war ....
In white, Warren Markwell, myself and Warren's younger brother.
The night was still and sticky. Warren, myself and his brother put out to sea about 8 o'clock Friday night, under power of an anemic Evinrude outboard motor, planning to hook up with the others in the morning.
As we glided across the smooth water, the bow left a trail of phosphoresce in the bright moonlight. You could run your fingers in the water and make patterns. Around midnight, after a couple of bottles of Bundaberg Rum, we were all drunk. We had no radio, let alone radar, just an Auto Club map and a compass. In fact, I doubt if there were even any life jackets. The tiller was lashed to a compass bearing and we all passed out!
I slept in one of the forward bunks by the bow and was rudely awakened by being knocked onto the floor. We had run aground on a sandbar! We staggered out on the deck and were amazed to see, in the dawn's early light; we were less than 100 yards from the wharf. If we had not ran aground we would have crashed headlong into the concrete pylons.
Still it was the best bit of dead reckoning I have ever seen! You don't look a gift horse in the mouth and you don't question a miracle. Looking back I guess it may have been an omen of things to come. (How a surfing misadventure turned into pure magic.)
Warren and I swam ashore to meet the ferry while his brother waited for high tide to float off the bar and sail home. As we sat on the wharf I read a sign from the Moreton Shire Council and the Queensland Agricultural Commission "All of our livestock have been checked for parasites and tuberculosis" remind me not to eat meat or drink milk!
Shortly afterward the ferry arrived, we jumped into the truck and drove off, on what was little more than on a sandy track through salt water gums and mulga, up the coast to Point Lookout and the mysterious Cylinder Beach.
We arrived at a deserted strip of beach running up in the distance to a rocky headland and the lighthouse. Surf was mostly a chest high, sand bottom beach break. Now Moreton Bay is not only home to the locally world famous, Moreton Bay Bug, an ugly but tasty prehistoric living fossil (a cross between a crab and a lobster) but also a breeding ground for Grey Nurse sharks!
We surfed all day in the crystal clear, warm water, with a building swell, although the shape was not all that great. I could smell the southerly change change and the brewing storm, plus you had the feeling that just out there, where the water turned dark green ... unblinking eyes were watching you!
We "picnicked" on the beach, feasting on fresh bread, real butter, ham, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, washed down by cold beer. As the sun went down some clouds blew in and we turned in to our sleeping bags early, my trusty .303 by my side. When it gets dark on an island in the middle of the ocean, with clouds covering the moon and stars, its gets pitch black, you can not see your hand in front of your face!
The beach was a long, open, narrow strip of, soft pure white sand and shell fragments, with thick, green vegetation, creeping down to the naked sand. It ran into into a small cove with a rocky headland and an the old spooky lighthouse.
Sometime in the middle of the night we were awoken to thunder, OH NO, the cyclone is here! But no, not from the sky but from the sand! It was the thunder of hooves from a mob of wild horses galloping down the beach ... stampede! Holy shit we are going to get trampled to death, everyone jumped up yelling, Fuck Off, Fuck Off! I grabbed the .303, chambered a round and yelled to Warren, "If any of them come this way I am going to blow them away!". Good thing I did not open fire, the Lee-Enfield is quite a cannon with a big kick and a range of up to 3,500 yards, plus it makes so much noise "BOOM - CRACK" you can hear it for miles!
"A Brumby is a free-roaming feral horse of Australia and are found in many areas around the country. Brumbies are the descendants of escaped or lost horses, dating back in some cases to those belonging to the nation's early European settlers. These horses included the "Capers" that arrived from South Africa, Timor Ponies from Indonesia, British pony breeds, various British draught horse breeds and a significant number of Thoroughbreds and Arabians."
After that we moved our sleeping bags into the grass, to hell with the snakes, and spent an uneasy night. Then the cyclone really did hit, blinding rain and gale force winds. We huddled in the panel van, packed like sardines, while it shook rattled and rolled in 90 MPH plus winds!
By mid morning the rain and wind eased up into a steady downpour and we checked out the surf. Huge narly peaks with a massive rip, breaking half a mile out to sea, tons of white water and piles of salt foam on the shore. OK unrideable ... and now we were stuck on the bloody island, no ferry in those conditions!
We were forced to rent a room in the Hotel hoping the storm would abate. Five guys in one room with two beds, drinking beer and rum, telling axe murderer stories and playing charades; then the power went off!
Next morning the rain had stopped and the sun was shining, so we got the hell out of Dodge. The trip back on the ferry was a little edgy; the millpond we had crossed the other night was now "Victory at Sea"! We were heading into a stiff southerly and the spray from the bow, in the cross chop, blew over the deck and I got soaked.
We decided, as there was still a lot of swell running, to head up the Sunshine Coast to Noosa Heads and chase the waves. Noosa Heads is located at the northern end of Alexandria Bay, producing a rocky headland that extends to the northeast. It is a prime surfing location as southeasterly breezes sweep around the tip of the Noosa National Park and blow offshore.
Noosa has several world class, right hand, point breaks; First Point, Johnson's Cove, Tea Tree Bay, National's and Granite Bay. A National Park encloses the bays and coves along it's seaside fringe south to Sunshine beach. The Park covers an area of about 477 hectares and has a maze of walking trails throughout it. The walking trails wind their way through Pandanus and Banksia. Noosa which means "place of shade" has rainforest's, heathland and cliffs that open out to spectacular views of the coves and ocean. The region is also populated by a colony of Koala's in the canopy of high gum trees.
We were greeted by corduroy lines of swell marched from the horizon and wrapped around the headland! We piled out of the truck, grabbed out boards and ran around the shady trail to the point. National's was shoulder to head high and going off!
You took off on a steep wall, with your head tilted and eyes squinting, to keep getting temporary blinded by the stinging, salt water spray pouring off the wave in front and up the face of the wave. Crouch through the herringbone wind chop on the face, with the lip feathering way out in front of you. Slap, slap, stay low and fast as the wave barrels across the low tide cobble stones.
At this time I was riding a black and white stripe 8'6" Morey Nose rider with "Slipcheck" sprayed on the nose (the sandpaper surface tore the hell out of your bare skin). The "in style" for surfing this type of wave was the Paul Staunch, cheater five, grab the rail and stretch one foot out to the nose.
Today you would come hard off the bottom, snap back off the lip, then repeat, to your own tempo, overpowering the wave. Back in the day you flowed to the rhythm of the wave, which is why a lot of short board surf movies all look the same. Sometimes the perfect wave on the perfect day is not some adrenal pumping, threaten your life monster, but a perfect small wave you literally dance on.
As the sun started to get low in the sky and the wind dropped to nothing, we started to walk back to Nationals to check it out for a second session, but as we got to Johnson's Cove, which only breaks once in a blue moon, we were stunned! It was glassy, waist high cylinders, peeling off the point across the sand bottom in bath water. Perfect waves with perfect shape, in perfect conditions, in a picture postcard, tropical rain forest.
You took off on the point, faded back into the curl, snap turned off the top, walking as the board came around, trimmed high, then cross stepped up to the nose, then just stayed there for almost a hundred yards, steering with your knees. Imagine perfect First Point Malibu or The Cove at Rincon with 85F water no rocks and no one out! If you got sick of nose riding, you took off late, sideways, grabbed a rail and got covered up with paper thin green translucency. We surfed till it was too dark to see!
So after a surfing misadventure where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, we somehow stumbled into something you dream about, forever!
Modified: Thursday August 30 2012 04:48:29 AM