Traveling on your own can be one of the most interesting, lonely and exhilarating times of your life. You are completely open to anything and anyone and you never know what, or who, is around the next corner.
After half a year of traveling solo down the east coast of Australia and surfing all of my tick-list waves, I booked a one-way flight to Perth on the other side of the country. I had some family friends over there who very kindly put me up for a while as I was totally penniless. Within days, I scored a job in a gold factory. Well, it was more of a factory full of boxes of dust that needed moving. They had been sifted by the excursion company and been certified that they didn’t have a trace of gold in them.
I was happy as Larry to be earning some money at last, and even happier to discover that the guy I was working with, Andrew Stone, was a very keen surfer who lived in Dunsborough, about three hours south of Perth. After trading a few stories that day, he invited me to spend the forthcoming weekend, which happened to be my birthday, down at his house with his wife and two daughters. I eagerly agreed to his generous offer as I barely knew a soul in WA. That Friday, we drove down to meet his family.
The Stoneys (as everyone calls them) have to be one of the loveliest, most generous families on this planet, and we remain very good friends to this day despite now living on different sides of the world. On arrival, they treated me as one of their own, and Andrew offered to take me out for a surf in the morning to the world-famous Three Bears. It’s a serious wave, so named for its three breaks: Papa, Mommas and Babies. Trust me, there is nothing childishish about Baby Bears. In the first five minutes of being in the water, I was scared shitless by a large black fin gliding right past me that turned out to be a hefty size dolphin. My heart was already racing and I hadn’t yet caught a wave.
After watching the Western Australians do what they do best for a while and witnessing a plethora of colours as the offshore wind capped off the spray of the waves, I decided it was about time I had a go at these terrifying yet seductive waves. I saw that no one was taking off on the first wave of a set that was coming through and paddled my hardest towards the breaking lip. To this day, it is still one of the largest and fasted waves I have ever ridden, and although I doubt I made it look pretty, I was pumped when I kicked out safely at the end. I was so pumped that as I turned ’round full of beans and paddled back for more, I completely failed a duckdive and my wave’s big brother crashed on top of me. The pressure of the wave forced my board up under the water and cracked me in the center of my nose. Dazed and confused, I rose to the surface to see a teenage boy with a look of horror on his face. “Mate, you’re bleeding, get out of the water!” Three Bears is renowned for its abundance of Great Whites, and I needed no encouragement to paddle as fast as possible to the shore, blood dripping from my nose and the Jaws theme song on repeat in my head.
I’ve never been so grateful to reach land in my life, and humbly walked up the beach to where Andrew’s wife and daughters had been sitting watching. I expected a little bit of sympathy at the very least, but being Australians their response was, “Awww wipe it off and get back in there ya bloody Pomme!”
Not wanting to lose face, I contemplated the thought of getting back into the sharky water with a bloody nose. As luck would have it, I saw Andrew walking back up the beach as well. It turned out someone had dropped in on him and their board had cracked him on the head.
We both decided to call it a day, and as we walked back up toward the carpark, he turned to me and said “See John, that’s why I never normally take women to the beach with me. They’re bad luck.” Wiping the blood from my nose and looking at a large bruise developing on his temple, I began to wonder if his superstition was justified.