Nov 1 was a bit of a write-off day...lots of driving down the coast. Alison and I got our name on the rental agreement so we can also drive a bit. We passed through Rockhampton...the beef capital of Australia. They had four statues (massive ones, mind you) of cows. On the single road we were on. We got to Gladstone and searched for a campsite in vain. Gladstone is one of those little towns where your dreams go to die. We also could not find any place open for supper and wound up begging some Subway employees to stay open long enough to make us a sandwich. We ate bagged salad on the side of the road then made it to a drive-and-revive. One thing about Australia is they hate it when you fall asleep at the wheel. They actually have some pretty clever signage to keep you awake (trivia and the like) but, failing that, they put a large number of free areas that usually have a BBQ and a bathroom ("They were all gross" -Alison) and allow you to pitch a tent for no longer than 20 hours to get some rest. Most of the nights we spent along the road were at driver reviver stations because we are all super poor. I have to give a shout-out to Katie Reid for supplying me with a perfect Brisbane to Cairns
On Nov 2, we made it to Agnes Water, which is where we decided to do our surfing lesson. Now, if you've ever seen the critically-acclaimed film "Surf Ninjas" () which just so happens to star a young Robert Schneider in his first second billed acting role, you'll know that I learned from an early age that surfing is all about being kwantsu, dancing to Beach Boys music, and beating the hell out of Leslie Nielsen. Needless to say, surfing is about all of those things and more, and considering I watched this film at least 80 times as a child, I was well-prepared for a day of catching waves. But let's back up a bit...
I finally drove today...very different and I fully expect to drive into oncoming traffic upon my return to Canada because I have gotten fairly used to driving on the left-hand side. We chose Agnes Water because the surf lessons are incredibly cheap (17 dollars for three hours). We arrived with a bit of time to spare so we ate some delicious donuts and BLTs to properly fuel us to go shred some water.
Every instructor at the Reef 2 Beach Surf School looked like they could be related to The Dude from The Big Lebowski (Alison: "Or from Surf's Up!"). We spent only 20 minutes learning the basics of safety in the sand (Ian was physically uncomfortable at this point, as he simply wanted to run into the ocean and immediately get surfing). When we hit the water...well...
If you know me very well, or read my last entry, you'll know that I am a horrible swimmer. Horrible as in, three lifeguards have failed to teach me how to swim. This all stems from an unfortunate episode during my first swim lesson when I accidentally "pantsed" a fellow student, causing him to run screaming out of the pool. Naturally I was yelled at by the instructor, and ever since then swimming has not been my forte. Also, water gets in your ears, so that is pretty lame too. But since arriving in Australia...I am a fish. You cannot drag me out of the water. So when we finally got to head into the water o start the real surfing, Ian and I stayed in for the entire three hours. This proved to be a mistake later, but we'll get to that in due time...
Perhaps the hardest thing about surfing, apart from trying to not look to awesome and cool which can inspire jealousy in others, is actually positioning yourself for a satisfactory wave. Swimming out there was not tremendously difficult, as the waves were fairly small. But timing the proper wave...very tough. Unless you're a pro who can basically ride any wave, you have to time it so that the wave is just about ready to break by the time it hits you. This means that a lot of the time, you're simply sitting there waiting for he perfect wave to hit you. But when it does....magical. That feeling when you time it perfectly, stand up, and ride it all the way to shore...nothing could be better. Standing up is actually fairly easy...when you're a natural talent like myself. I believe I stood up on about my third wave (first to stand up in the class thankyouverymuch). Alison was arguably the most consistent, she was killing it on the surfboard. Ian had gone before and was a tenacious surfer, as his picture will attest (we bought professional photos as proof that we don't actually suck), and Ceanna did awesome too. As I mentioned, only Ian and myself stayed out the whole three hours...this proved to be a mistake. We were despeartely trying to catch a "party wave", which is when you and a buddy or group of people simultaneously catch the same wave and ride it together, fist-bumping and merri-making all the way to shore. We eventually did catch a few, but at a cost.
For those males out there who have surfed for several hours straight...you know of what I speak. The male nether regions are not designed to constantly be slamming onto and off of a fiberglass board, whilst also having to undergo the constant chafing of your swimsuit as you walk through the water alongside your board. Let me just say that I have never in my life felt nut burn like I did after that first day of surfing. Ian and I had to walk back bow-legged to ensure our respective sacks would get the rest they needed. My apologies for forgoing a censory warning about the previous story. By the end of our sessions, eyes were burning, nuts were burning, knees and chest were sore, ribs bruised, pride...intact.
With our newly found surf knowledge, we hit the road after a quick lunch hoping to cover a fair bit of ground through Bundaberg on the way to Brisbane again. We stayed at another driver reviver at apple creek. I proceeded to almost get into a fight with an Australian man who was driving way too fast in the camping area, where young kids were playing near the road. He cruised [past doing 80, I flashed him with my light, he honked, I flashed again, he pulled a hard U turn, came back to yell at me, I explained why he was a moron, he proceeded to exclaim "I've lived here all my life, mate!", Ian de-escalated the situation. I can think of about three friends who would have handled that situation differently, most of which involve fisticuffs. But after meeting a Canadian who had his ear bitten off by an angry Aussie, I decided to play it safe.
Author's note: My chafed groin region cooled off later that night. For those that were worried.
Aboriginal settlers arrived on the continent from Southeast Asia about 40,000 years before the first Europeans began exploration in the 17th century. No formal territorial claims were made until 1770, when Capt. James COOK took possession in the name...more history