Surf’s up


  • Airlie Beach – Agnes Water

Following the hideous overnight bus (buses will be the death of me, I swear!), we pulled in to Agnes Water at 6am. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I climbed aboard the Backpackers @ 1770 shuttle bus and drove the mammoth 300m to the hostel. It still baffles me why they actually bothered with a bus.

The guy showed us around the hostel, somewhat unenthusiastically, before we all crashed out like lights on the sofas as we couldn’t check in for a few hours. Literally every single one of us was zonked out. At 8.30am I decided I didn’t want to waste the day and set about booking a surf school. Agnes Water is, after all, the home of the Billabong founder and a known surf spot by the local Australians.

So, after some breakfast and a change of clothes, I took myself up to the Reef2Beach surf school, paid my $17 (yes really, that’s all it was) and joined the large class waiting for Brum, the surf school owner. There I met Luciana, an Argentinian girl who was working in Agnes Water but was yet to learn surfing. We buddied up before heading out on to the beach with our boards and rashies (rash vests to you and I).

The first hour was spent with the theory on the beach. You lie on the board, feet dangling off the end, look behind at the approaching wave and when it’s 5m behind you, you start to paddle. Or “PADDLE PADDLE PAAAAADDDDLLLEEEE” as the coaches would say! As the nose of the surfboard starts to dip and the tail rise, you press firmly with your arms and jump your legs up in one movement, to a “track” stance in a low squatted position. And from here, you can accelerate by pressing on your front foot or slow down by shifting weight to the back one.

We were out on the water for a further two hours. At first, I was pants, and couldn’t work out how to stand, or when I did, how to get my legs forward enough on the board so that I didn’t wipe out. By the end, I had successfully ridden 4 waves and unsuccessfully ridden 94 waves. Good day at the office I’d say.

What no one tells you about learning to surf is how completely knackering it is! Especially when you had a night bus the day before. When I got back to the hostel and had some lunch, I went about reading my book to chill out for a short while. But I soon found myself asleep and waking 3 hours later in the lounge area. I wasn’t the only one who had crashed that afternoon either.

I finally checked in and showered at 4pm and then booked a shuttle bus to the town of 1770 up the road. 1770 is the only place on Australia’s East Coast where you can watch the sun set over the water. A group from my room also joined me for the sunset and so, myself, Alice, Josh, James and Tom wondered to Captain Cook’s Monument (1770 was the first place he landed in Oz), the headland lookout, and then down on to the beach/rocks for the view. We kept the evening chilled with a few beers and a lot of typical English banter before wondering along the marina for pick-up. The sunset itself was stunning and well worth the $5 shuttle and evening out.

When I got back, I played a quick game of pool with James on the worlds smallest pool table, booked some onwards travel and called it a night at 10pm.

Although my stay in Agnes Water was short and sweet, I met some genuinely lovely people, learnt (kind of) to surf and chilled out, and I loved it! 24 hours was probably long enough, but I’d highly recommend getting in the surf whilst there.

So, 43 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and I’m slowly, but surely, getting over my irrational fear of the sea. That is until I get to Byron and Sydney where the shark sightings are frequent and the shark nets non-existent!

Gabby x


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