Surfaris Update #1


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October 23rd 2006
Published: October 23rd 2006
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The Sandwich SystemThe Sandwich SystemThe Sandwich System

Don't drop the ingredients! Watch out, corner left!
The next few updates are going to be me recanting my adventures on Surfaris. Probably won't be very interesting for the general crowd but I want to write as much as possible for my own memories, and for those great people I met on Surfaris to enjoy.

It all started on Monday morning when we got up really early and, as quietly as possible, packed up our gear and prepared to check out of home-away-from-home: Billabong Gardens. However, the office wasn't open yet at 7:00am, even though we were assured the night before that it would be, so we were forced to leave without the return of our $20 each key deposit. I left them a firmly worded note outline our expectations to have that money returned to us upon our arrival back in Sydney... we'll see how it goes. Secretely, I'm actually reviewing Billabong Gardens for a hostel info site, so if they aren't nice to us it's going to hurt them in the long run!!!

Frustrated and annoyed, we set out to the train station to catch a ride in to town. The weather had seriously turned from the heatwave the Sydney had been experiencing earlier and
Breakfast at Point PlomerBreakfast at Point PlomerBreakfast at Point Plomer

Dave, Anthony, and Patrick fuel up.
this morning it was rainy and cool. After having to ask a few people for directions we finally found the big, beaming, yellow "SURFARIS" bus with "Captain Good Vibes" on the front, beconing us forward. A friendly guy with curly hair and white Oakleys (matching Derek's black ones) greeted us with (insert sweet Aussie accent) "you look like 3 people ready to do some surfing!" "Sure are!" I responded. We dumped our stuff in the "boot" of the bus and loaded on. Actually, when I say "we" I actually mean "I." See, Derek and Mark decided for some reason to go ultra light and only bring like 2 shirts and some toiletries. They left the rest of their stuff in Sydney with my mom. It was a decision they would soon regreat I brought essentially everything I had. Always be prepared, right? A good scout takes what she needs for camping!! My mom also convinced me to bring some seemingly totally unnecessary fleece pants with me. It was a decision I would soon appreciate!

On the ol' Captain Good Vibes we journed for about 6 hours to our first camping spot: Point Plomer. On the bus ride, we quickly
Jess2 Does the DishesJess2 Does the DishesJess2 Does the Dishes

Another good system! But why is Jess2 all alone at the washing up party? Single's Night?
realized that we were going to have a lot of fun with curly-haired Oakley guy (aka Pat). Our other instructor was named Rosco, and he took care of most of the driving for this leg of the journey. Pat was overflowing with enthusiasm right from the get go about the adventure we were embarking on, which was of course my appreciated by me! It's tiring sometimes being the one always overflowing with enthusiasm =). Derek, Mark and I quickly made friends with an awesome guy from London, Dave. He was super funny and we had a lot of fun talking about travel tales. We watched a surf video called the Seedling, which was sadly unappreciated by us a this point (that would later change) before stopping to load up on some food supplies, booze, and "lollies." Lollies refers to all sweets down here. Surfaris provided us with all the food we needed for the wekk (mmmm delicous Surfaris food) but we were on our own for extras. Once we got back on the bus Pat informed us that the "Jessica" we had waited 20 minutes for in Sydney had contacted his boss at 10am and informed him that "she had
More Washing UpMore Washing UpMore Washing Up

Another angle. Check out our bus. Yea Captain Good Vibes!
had a big night last night and had missed the bus." Hmmm.... Jessica, Jessica, Jessica. What were you thinking? She was to catch a separate bus to Kelsey and Pat would pick her up at 9:30 that night.

OK, so back on the road it was time to learn the first of many systems that would help things run smoothly on Surfaris. This one was the "making sandwhiches on the moving bus while team building and getting to know others" system. It involved 2 people balancing a cutting board on their knees and creating a sandwhich while 2 other people balanced a big platform full of containers of sandwhich ingredients on their knees. The ingredient people would pass requested items to the sandwhich makers until the sandwhich makers had a delicous creation completed, at which point all platforms were passed back one row and the process continued. With Pat ever-vigilant to ensure we realized the dire reprucussions of dropping ingredients, we managed to all create and consume 1,2, or 3 sandwhiches with only minor incident. It was no easy task, either, because Captain Good Vibes is one SERIOUSLY bumpy bus! Luckily, when it was time for me to make
Animal House!Animal House!Animal House!

Here it is--Animal House! Original home of Animal House Productions. When our company's shares reach a billion dollars we'll buy back the property where it all started (Google reference)
my sandwhich we hit traffic from a rollover accident and the bus was stopped, which made things a lot easier.

Finalllllly we turned off the main highway, drove for awhile on a dirt road, and arrived at our camping location. Upon disembarking from the bus we realized how cold it was! Derek and Mark were starting to have second thoughts about not bringing any pants... Luckily, Pat and Rosco were able to swing it so that we stayed in a couple of cottages for the first night instead of tents. Derek, Mark, Dave, and I, along with two South Africans Anthony and William (apologies if names are spelled wrong!) stayed in one cabin together. The now-infamous "Party Jess" would sleep on the couch when she arrived. In the other cabin, the three Swedes Patrick, Sarah, and Hannah set up as well as Keira from Ireland, Lukas from Germany, and Ruelant from the Netherlands. Little did we know, the other cabin contained such luxuries as a TV, microwave, shower, etc while ours was referred to as the "Animal House" due to the many resident friends we had. That's OK, the Animal House was the place to be! We met such friends as the moth who continually flew in my face at night, MJ the frog that loudly sung "Thriller" outside our window, a few cockroach buddies, and many many large ants. Good, good times.

Once having claimed our beds, it was time to change in to our bathing suits, put on our shorty wetsuits (Pat called them "wetties"), unload the surfboards from the top of the bus, and walk the short distance to the beach to have our first real surf lesson. Yeah!!!!! It was hear that Pat taught us the golden rule of learning how to surf: Practise paddling. Well, basically, practise practise, practise, and that the best surfers in the world are the best paddlers in the world (which didn't take us long to believe, once we got out there ourselves). We were shown the proper way to stand up on our board, how to Eskimo role to avoid wave pummeling (a technique I didn't often chose to excerise), and that need to "Use EA to avoid the ER!" Hahahahaha. Ohhh classic Pat. He was telling us that we need to watch out for each other and use evasive action to avoid any collisions, or else risk getting hurt. During all of this, Rosco was filming the procedings. He would continue to film the whole week in order to create a DVD which we would watch at the end of the week. Lots of work for him, but we really appreciated it!

Alright, after all the talking it was time to head out. It was late afternoon at this point (maybe 4pm?) and super cold. We paddled out into the ocean and somehow I was chosen with Mark to be the first to paddle some more and try to catch our first wave. We weren't supposed to stand up yet, just catch one. Seemed easy enough, and in fact I did catch a wave, but BOY was that paddling exhausting! Once we reached the beach we walked back upshore (the wind and currents pushed us quickly down the beach) and repeated the procedings. Then we were supposed to stand up. Yah..... that didn't really happen. I cannot convey how utterly exhausted and zapped of strength my arms were and how incredibly frozen we were. I don't just mean we were cold. Like, I was walking on numb lumps of flesh which felt like balls of sand but were actually my feet, and Derek was so cold he felt nauseous and was concerned he was going to throw up! So, after less then 2 hours we dragged ourselves back to camp and desperately tried to regain our normal core temperature. It was at this point the boys were REALLY regretting not bringing some warmer clothes. I almost convinced Derek to wear Mom's tiny fleece pants--he tried them on and everything--that's how bad the situation was. In the end, though, with the help of dry clothes and an Animal House that was sheltered from the wind, we regained feeling in all parts of our body.

At this point we gathered around the cook shelter, where Rosco and Pat had busily prepared us all the fixings for some much appreciated burritos. This was no easy task, due to the intense winds that kept blowing the propane burners out. But they were resourceful and all was good in the end. We had a tasty meal, introduced ourselves and our home country, and learned system #2: The Washing Up Party! That's right, when you were done your meal you were invited to a happenin' area where a party (aka dishwashing) was occuring. Rock on! These parties became so loved, that when we were eating dinner at a restaurant in Byron Bay on Friday evening, Derek very nearly got up to go take his plate to the washing up party. Apparantly, he was slightly concerned because there was a bunch of sauce left on his plate and it would make the washing up water dirty... hehehehehe. After dinner we gathered around a massive bonfire for a bit (I'm pretty sure they actually just lit one of the cabins on fire. I could see a door and an upholstered chair and everything). We chatted for a bit about our dread of surfing day #2 after we all had such a rough go at our first attempt, but eventually the toxic smoke inhilation became too much and we trickled off to bed.... at 9:30. Hey, surfing is hard work!

Derek, Dave, Mark, and I were in a room together with 4 bunkbeds. It was here that we first met our friend MJ, the frog. Dave's MJ comments were so funny that I laughed hysterically and uncontrollably for probably 20minutes, all the while being egged on by Derek's "wait for it...." comment. Apparantly he knows me WAY to well and knows that it takes me multiple laugh outbursts before I finally settle down. This was good, though, because it meant that we were still awake when Party Jess arrived. We sort of yelled "hello!" then drifted off to sleep, ready for a big rest before an early start the next day.

Day #2! We woke up at... I dunno... 7:30 or something and pulled on our warmest clothes to head to the cooking area for breakfast. We wanted to eat early because Pat was going to do yoga with us before we had our surf lesson at 9am. Oh, wait, Pat never DID yoga with us!!! Don't think we won't forget that, Pat. We got up early for you! Oh well, it turned out to be OK because it was during this meal that I was introduced to a glorioius, glorious substance called "Milo." Derek think it tastes like Ovaltine but I think it's entirely different. It's supposed to be an energy drink, but I don't know about that. At any rate, it's amazing. So hot, and Milo-y, and delicous. Mmmm Milo. I also had some amazing granola which was full of oats and dried fruit and peanuts and other tasty things. I ate that granola every morning for a tasty surfing start. Yum! During breakfast we got to know Party Jess. At this point, we determined I would be known as Jess1 and she would be known as Jess2. We would answer to these names for the rest of the week (Jess2 would also answer to Party Jess, of course). Turns out Jess2 had been out at the bar until 4 in the morning doing shots and stuff, and didn't actually get back to her room until 6am, when she passed out. Tsk, tsk, Jess. Hehehehe. Poor Jess2. We gave her such a heard time. Turns out she is actually and AMAZING person and we had so much fun with her. She's an associate producer of science and engineering shows on the UK Discovery Channel, including Junkyard Wars! (they call it Scrapheap Challenge over there). Derek and I are hopefully going to meet up with her again when we go to London in January. I can't way. I miss Jess2 already!

After breakfast we took a nice walk around the point to another beach, where Pat explained to us a lot about surfing conditions, including how the most important aspect of surfing conditions are the wind, tide, and swell. He explained how offshore wind or no wind is better than onshore wind, and he pointed out how rip tides work and how surfers us them to their advantage to get out from shore into the good waves, much like how a snowboarder uses a chairlift to get to the top of the run. I learned so much about rips, which was really great because they'd always just been scary things of death to me, before. I didn't know anything about them other than the KILL!!! AHHHH!!!! Now I feel a lot more confident, though.

Once checking out the conditions we went back to the beach we'd been surfing at the night before, suited up, and had another lesson to refresh the basics we'd learned the previous day. Then, the paddling began again. I was a bit better this time, but overall still weak and terrible. Some of you know that I've been a bit sick for the last month and actually lost 18 pounds... most of which I think was muscle mass!! So my arms weren't doing too well with the paddling. I still had fun, though. Oh! And I forgot that at the beginning of this day Pat said, "Jess1, you're with me!" I didn't know what he meant, but it turns out he litterally meant to go on his surfboard with him. He was using a giant 12 foot tandem surfboard, and I lay at the front and attempted to paddle while he lay at the back and REALLY paddled. We went through some huge waves (huge to me at the time) and I nearly fell off multiple times. In the end, though, we got into position, caught a good wave, and we both stood up. It was nice because I was able to hold his hand for stability. The ride was pretty long, for my first time being up on a board. I'd just like to point out, though, that on the DVD you can clearly see that it's Pat who falls off first and drags me down, not the other way around. =) It was a great way to start my day because it gave me a taste of what it was like to surf for real and built up my confidence to get out into the heavier surf. After a couple of unsuccessful hours we headed up to lunch to change into warmer clothes. It was freezing this day, too, but at least I could feel my feet at all times and Derek was in no danger of losing his breakfast.

Speaking of losing his breakfast, Swedish Patrick had been really sick the night before and wasn't surfing with us this day. Poor Patrick. He had a hard time shaking his illness the whole week.

Once in dry clothes (but still with freezing wet hair--burrr!) The animal house crew came out to help with lunch prep. Team Canada (aka Mark, Derek, and I) were given the task of grabbing some fire wood and making a fire. No prob! Scout to the rescue! After a confrontation between Mark and I regarding teepee vs. log cabin style (CLEARLY log cabin is superior) the end result was that I was in charge of fire creation. I did it with one match, too! Well, we used a lighter but it was insanely windy, so I was quite proud of my accomplishment. Didn't even need an accelerant-just wood products only.

Over lunch, we somehow decided to get a small crew to put on a pantimime of the "History of Australian Surfing" as narrated by Pat. I really have no idea how we came up with this idea, but we did, and the rest is history. Derek, Mark, Jess2, Dave, and I volunteered to be in the cast. Maybe Ruelent, too.... I can't remember if he volunteered or if we dragged him in because we needed more people. Anyways, Pat began to tell us this history of Australian surfing and the wheels started turning regarding how we could express it as a pantimime. With Pat's overwhelming enthusiasm, it wasn't hard to get really in to it. Soon we were designing elaborate scenes, complete with costumes and props. Eventually, we took a time out from planning to pile into the Captain Good Vibes for a short jaunt to the back beach to see if the conditions would be better there since the wind was coming from the north and was onshore where we had been surfing before ("the waves were shit," as the Aussies so elegantly put it). Well, the waves at back beach were better, but scary!!! They were really powerful and flanked by two powerful rips, not to mention a fierce wind that was ever present. Lukas the German was rediculously keen to get out there (no fear of the ocean in this guy) so we decided to wait for the tide to get a bit hire and come back in a bit. I still wasn't very warm and those waves looked terrifying, so I was definitely unsure if I was happy about this prospect, but I thought I'd wait and see how things turned out. Oh! And on the way there I saw a kangaroo right beside the road in a little clearing! Yea for Aussie wildlife! The first of much I would see on this trip.

Once back at camp, Rosco invited us to stay on the bus to watch a documentary that he and his girlfriend had made on a recent trip to Chile. The topic was the use of Love to combat poverty, drugs, and the sex trade by social workers in the slums of Chile. It was really well done and really interesting. Rosco is amazingly talented. Some of the songs in the movie were actually recorded by him. In fact, we later found out that he has a CD, which I bought and am anxiously awaiting being able to put on my iPod. He sings sweet, laid back "life is good" type music with kind of a blues-y folk feel. All original tracks, too. Good on ya, mate! (Rosco always said that, and made you feel so special every time. Derek and I were just talking about that this morning).

OK, so after the documentary we did a secret dress rehearsal for the pantomime. Derek was playing "the Duke," a legendary Hawaiian royal who brought surfing to Australia after winning a swimming challege against Ian Thorpe-stye Aussie swimming legend, Andrew "Boy" Charleton (played by Mark). I played Isabel Latham, who was the girl that the Duke took on his tandem board during the first Australian surfing exhabition which started it all. I also had a number of other roles, including being one of the Duke's girls who massaged and stroked him (come on, he was royalty!). Hehehe. It's all on DVD--ask to see it when I get back. We realized that the History of Australian Surfing was much too rich to tackle in one night, so we broke it up into 2 Acts. The Act 1, with the Duke, would be done this evening. Buuuuuut, before that we had to go surfing again! So we suited up, loaded the surfboards, and headed to back beach again to through ourselves into the violent surf. It ended up not being too bad. The waves were great for beginners because they were really strong so it was easy to catch them without much paddling, and lots of people stood up during this session. It was here the Mark's pro-ness began to emerge. He was totally prime at surfing. I was still pretty scared at this point. I was getting beaten down by the surf, the strong rip was always pulling me sideways, and the wind made it so I couldn't even carry my board without help. It wasn't my most successful session, but it was OK. I came close to standing up, but I don't think I ever actually did (can't quite remember, though). If I did stand up it certainly wasn't glamourous.

We loaded everything back on the bus, came back to camp, changed, and started to prepare dinner. Anthony and I chopped up a load of veggies to be used in a delcious Pad Tai (sp?) creation a la Rosco. Mmm it was so good. But it was all in the even veggie chopping, right Anthony? Then, after dinner, it was time for.... ACT 1!!!!

We had all our props gathered, but it was dark by this time so had to light our stage by "torch" (flashlight and headlamp). To some animated, enthusiastic Pat-style naration the history of Australian surfing was played out. We enlisted the help of the Team Sweden girls for certain parts, too. Ohhhh it was so good. And SO funny. And even funnier because there were more people in the cast than in the audience (there were ony 13 of us on this trip, which was actually a really nice size). Things went pretty smoothly, and I think it shows in the DVD. Such memorable moments included Derek whipping and choking the "horses" (Dave and Jess2), the Duke commanding the girls to "take my board to the beach... Bitches!," and me being commanded to "open your legs so the Duke to get in!" No further comment.

After Act 1, all members of Animal House Productions were extermely proud and couldn't wait to get started on Act 2, which would be preformed 2 nights from then on Thursday. Pat assured us that the Australian Surfing Pantimime would become a new standard activity for Surfaris. We'll see if that holds true =) Proud of ourselves, we headed off to bed. This time, Dave slept on the couch and Jess2 had the bunkbed because Dave was teasing Jess that there were coackroaches in the couch, then when they lifted the cushions it turned out there acually was! Hahahaha. That's what you get for being mean, Dave!

OK, I've spent way too long on the computer. I'll continue with day 3 tomorrow.

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23rd October 2006

Impressed
Jess, it sounds like you and the guys are having just an awesome experience. I had forgotton about this blog, but was reminded when I received an email from Derek. I came home from studying and was going to go to bed, but half an hour later I have just finished reading your blogs...your blogs which are INCREDIBLE!!! I became completely immersed in your stories, felt as if I was living them. Jess, what you are doing (by keeping such accurate, detailed summaries) is awesome, it will be something you will treasure forever, definitely a great idea, and be sure to keep it up (because I am still living vicariously through you guys). Wish I was with you guys, and hey, don't let the bed bugs bite k! Take care, Gray

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