When I was a backpacker in Australia, learning to surf was a bullet point on my bucket list. Upon requesting my Sydney-based friends’ advice, I learned that the cheapest and best way to do so is at a surf camp. As a result, when we planned our holidays along the East Coast, Janneke and I booked our lessons at a place called Spot X, a surf camp on the Australian East Coast. I know! It sounds like a hideout for mutants, but instead of running into Professor X and other Marvel superheroes, I found myself surrounded by Northern Europeans and that was even more unnerving… If they had decided to partake in a pagan activity, who do you think they would have offered to Odin?
There are different Mojo Surf camps along the East Coast, but the travel agent recommended Spot X as it is the only surf camp in Australia nestled along the beach in a “secret location.” But how secret can a place be when it’s marked on the map? It doesn’t compute. It doesn’t compute. And why is she winking when she says “secret”? Mutant alert. Mutant alert.
Anyhow, I was exceedingly excited to meet a surfer so I could practice the surfing lingo that my friend Google had taught me. I had the perfect opportunity to do so on our first day there when someone from the staff gave us the grand tour of the place. He informed us of the activities available – such as rafting -, the rules, and so on. The tour guide was Canadian and he genuinely loved the surf camp. Accordingly, he had planned to stay for just a couple of days, but then he joined the 3-month surfing Academy, and then somehow he never felt like leaving. Ehem cult alert. Cult alert. Either way, I’m eternally grateful to him for not doing the shaka sign – hang loose – because that would have probably freaked me out. I’m guessing he was a “kook” himself because when I tried my surf slang with him, he wasn’t overly impressed. As I don’t give up easily on public embarrassment, I began to sing the Beach Boys’ song ‘Surf’s up’ because who doesn’t love the band? Canadians, apparently.
Breakfast there is similar to other hostels but with many more options, while lunch actually includes vegetables. How cool is that? Whenever I’m backpacking, I only get my greens intake from the lettuce on my burger. I make a greater effort, however, to get my 5 fruits a day as in Australia they serve fruity cocktails all day long. As to the rooms, they are comfortable and the door faces a green area. If you prefer, you can sleep in a teepee tent, that’s perfect for a cool, nature-lover hipster who is not afraid of snakes. We did find a huge taipan surrounding one of the teepees, but that just adds local colour to the surf camp… this one was yellow. Before all you animal lovers start trolling me, I can guarantee the snake was safely relocated in its natural habitat, right next to the surf camp.
As a group, we were gathered at an outdoor area equipped with showers, sunscreen, a table and a white board. First, you have to sign a waiver disclaiming that if you get injured or die during the lesson causing great grief to your relatives, Mojo Surf is in no way responsible for your lack of balance and, possibly, sense, etc. Discretionary clause: if you are old enough to kill your brain cells on goon, you sure are liable for your own death. Good night and good luck.
After signing the waiver, one instructor gave us some safety guidelines and taught us the best types of waves for surfing and the ones we should always avoid, like the infamous dumping waves. Once the theoretical lesson was finished, we took our surfboards and made our way to the beachfront.
Although watching Anthony Jeselnik’s show had somewhat decreased my fear of sharks, I couldn’t help but imagine their sharp teeth piercing through my skin I somehow managed to calm myself down when I realized that I wasn’t going in there on my own. There were plenty of other surfers to choose from before it found me. No, just kidding. The truth is that the odds are in our favour. You are probably more likely to come across a shark at a nightclub in Sydney than in the ocean. You’re welcome.
Our instructor was a beautiful Australian girl that should be cast in the show H2O: Just add water. She was incredibly patient and helpful, as the rest of the instructors, who always make sure that you get to stand up on the surfboard – while riding a wave, obviously. We were there for two days and I’m proud to say we both managed to stand up while riding a wave. If we managed to do it, then so will you, and your grandmother, and your neighbour’s cat.
The ambiance of the surf camp is also fun in general. In the evening, you can take a bus to a grocery store where you can shop for alcoholic drinks, bring them back to the surf camp and play games with other backpackers – or with yourself. We don’t judge. People also sit around a fire and share their travel stories. Not far from the surf camp you can get up close abd personal with adorable kangaroos.
Our plan was to master the art of surfing at the camp and then hire boards and surf on our own as we travelled up the coast. Therefore, we reserved surfboards in Byron Bay and Noosa.
Once you’ve managed to ride a wave, you believe yourself to be the king of the world – no, wait, that’s Titanic – Kelly Slater then. Same difference. That’s what we thought of ourselves when we rented two surfboards in Byron Bay. Now, I’m not discouraging you to surf by yourself – and, as previously discussed, we are very lame surfers – but I would like to advise you to take precautions. We all want to catch that wave but that wave might not like us back.
Despite Byron Bay’s gorgeous beaches, it wasn’t that easy for us to surf there because the waves were too high for us at the time, it was raining and windy, and the surfboards were the last ones anybody would choose. We did try our best, nonetheless, and failed miserably.
The surfboards and weather were much better in Noosa. After trying our luck a few times, I managed to stand up on the surfboard, but before I could say “duuude” I was upside down biting the sand. Right after being pitched over, some Aussie approached me to check whether I had survived the wipeout and found me spitting out chunks of seafloor. He told me I had tried to ride a dumping wave and it was a miracle I hadn’t broken my neck.
I think two days at a surf camp is not enough to learn, unless you have certain skills or are from Sweden. I think the best option is to rent a surfboard on the same day you had your lesson so you can practice. They also have a surf camp in Byron Bay, so you can have your lesson in the morning and then rent a surfboard, head to the beach and stalk Thor, I mean, Chris Hemsworth.
I loved surfing, or at least attempting to, but I would probably get new lessons before trying it again. Anyway, surf’s up, dude.