Posted: Mark, Feb 06
Australia is everything the magazines make it seem - and more.
I’ve surfed the east coast many times, and without hesitation
I would say to every surfer to make it a priority to go there
once in your life. Places like Bells Beach, Coogee and Woolomai
will last in your memory for years, and the Aussie dollar stays
pretty weak by our standards, so you can live very well if you
are going to Oz with sterling.
Australian surf culture is second to none, and that has its challenges
for the lily-white-legged Irish surfer overseas. Shark fear is
real, although ‘tough’ surfers laugh it off. A surfer
mate living in Oz can't get over the fear and still hasn’t
got a surf there after months of living close to some of the best
spots on earth. It’s a miniscule percentage of people who
will ever even see a shark in the water, but they’re there,
especially in Western and Southern Australia, and its not until
you swim out at a place like Bells Beach or Philip Island in Victoria
that a fear can grip you for no apparent reason.
Australians are so damn good at surfing too, so if you’re
just kicking off, you can feel cumbersome and out of it when you
swim out alongside the locals. I really recommend you kick off
the conversation – there’ll not have been too many
Irish surfers over at their breaks - and if you’re friendly
and open, they’ll recognise that immediately. Also, consider
taking surfing lessons. I took them in Queensland, and it was
the best thing I ever did. You’ll learn so much more, and
if you get to know your instructor, you might even be lucky enough
to be asked by them to go to other local places.
Flying to Oz is getting cheaper all the time, and allow for a
few days each way to deal with the jet lag. Trailfinders are reasonable,
and every time I’ve travelled with them it works out at
about £700 return from Belfast, and they always deal with
the good airlines. If you don’t like the thought of long
haul, think about the option of not going via places like Dubai,
and going straight from London to Singapore in one flight, and
then on to Oz in one last hop. It’s easier on the system
that way. Check your boards at every juncture. All my dings on
long haul have been on the damn last leg from London back to Ireland.
Think about buying a board (or a few even) to bring home from
Oz. I do it most every time and it makes sense for a few reasons:
~ As above, most
Aussie long hauls flights often don’t charge for boards,
especially if you’re generally travelling light. Be civil
at check-in and plead poverty if they talk about charging.
~ Aussie boards
are second to none. So many of the new boards we get here are
flimsy and ding really easily. Aussie makes like McTavish are
properly crafted, and even with all the hassle of bringing them
back here, still work out at about half the UK price. They last
for ages too.
~ Keep your receipt[s],
as you can often claim back the tax (GST) on big items like surf
boards before you fly out of Oz. Allow time for the GST form filling
at the airport too. I once got a wee cheque through the post that
way a few weeks after I came home. Nice.
~ Buy spares out
there. Its harder to get specific fins (esp longboard ones) over
here. Buy a few spare sets for your board when you are in Oz.
Surf shops: thousands
Breaks: all levels
with hundreds of beach, point and reef breaks.
Gear: vast differences
depending on which part. Victoria can get pretty cold. Queensland
and the Northern Territory waters are humid and hot most of the
Anything to add? If you've surfed overseas and would like to contribute
us an email.