The Nomadic Life - East OZ and Hawaii Begins...

Author: Jonathan Oliff

2nd January 2008

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Nomad - [noh-mad] - a member of a people or tribe that has no permanent abode but moves about from place to place.

East Coast, Australia

Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef

Arriving on the east coast of any continent is settling for me, this mostly because all my directional bearings are derived from where the ocean is. I'm more lost than usual without it and being directionless leaves me out of my comfort zone. So when we step into the sweltering dampness that is Cairns airport I'm reminded of Durban's summertime and this helps subdue my usual anxiousness about the unknown surroundings. We're greeted by one of Kim's old friends and when I complain about the heat she reminds me that it is only spring. I cringe to think of the stickiness that summer would carry. But, we will only be here for a week and I will never have to torture myself in this holiday community that resembles a beach city without the instant cooling satisfaction of salt water over sand. The beach is a half hour bus ride away and in summer swimming is dangerous due to "Stingers", some box jellyfish and other smaller but more deadly oceanic pests.

Walking on the Oceanside of Cairns there is a long muddy stretch of land before you can see the ocean. This is the scar left by the uprooting of Mangrove swamps that lay for thousands, maybe millions of years before the government decided to rape it for a view of the ocean, no matter how distant and unattractive. This view is in direct opposition to the florescent visions that lured us here to discover the Great Barrier Reef. One morning we board a boat and travel nervously toward the horizon, hoping to be greeted by the colourful reef fish that paint the brochures. On the boat ride we are welcomed by whales and then dolphins, even a single seemingly lost sea snake crosses our path. When we enter the crystal water we are bomb-barded with a flurry of colours and shapes. The reef is really shallow, sometimes waist deep and highly sensitive, so that we are warned that is a criminal offense to touch it.

Brisbane and the Goldie

After Cairns we head south, migrating sparrows, to the harbour city Brisbane. This is where I will work, tiling floors with a sometimes volatile red haired Aussie chap. In Brisbane we commune with fellow Durbanite Chris Green in a large wooden house. This is the first thing I've noticed about the architecture of the ‘First World' countries that I have set foot in; their housing is often completed in wood, not much is done in concrete or brick. This seems a little odd to me but then I'm reminded of the wages on labour, an hour pay in Aus can be the equivalent of a day wage in S.A. So we work overseas, we travel and search for waves. The nearest waves are those of the Gold Coast, places I've seen in videos, like Straddi and D-Bar. I was pretty surprised to find the paddle to Stradbrook Island was across a harbour mouth, a vast gap where large tiger sharks have been spotted following surfers as they make paddle across to safety. Unfortunately my paddle was the most exciting part of my day as the waves were pretty bleak, but the basic setup reminded me of Richards Bay and I could see that there was huge potential.

Much to my distaste we were largely unlucky with waves on the East Coast. This was probably because of the season, it was heading into summer. We could tell from the increase in temperature, as well as the escalation in the number of flies bothering your face during the day. Sean Tickner quickly named the flies ‘Australia's national bird' on his arrival and this caught on with all the Saffa's as we watched the World Cup Final in the early hours of the morning. We celebrated the glorious victory with a surf in New South Wales, this time we were graced with fun wedgy peaks at an ‘off the tracks' spot called Fingle Head. Our rugby victory was long lived as the flags posted on our car made South Africans living on the East Coast come out hooting and waving. It is pretty bizarre how people who you have never met can feel like family just because of the unified love of their homeland.


Noosa Heads was our next stop, where we had been hooked up with some awesome accommodation by Kim's grandparents. We stayed in a luxury unit that was a short bus ride from the ocean and the awesome point breaks that Noosa is so famous for. I was also stoked to find the river passed fifty metres from our door and I could cast a line in anytime I wished. With my fishing partner Chris Green abandoned in Brisbane I coaxed Kim into joining me. Kim and her sister Alex were really quick learners and despite their immediate regret every time they saw a hooked fish up close, they enjoyed the alternate activity. One of the highlights in Noosa was the arrival of our boards from Nomad owner Shane in Melbourne. Some sick warm clothes arrived just in time to accompany me to my next stop, where it would be winter.

Oahu, Hawaii - the 808 State

Getting started

As we fly over the island of Oahu it is moments before dawn, therefore it is light enough to make the outline of the dark rock and the moon lights up the ocean. The lights of the city are blazing, transforming the shape below into a hunk of molten lava that meets and then disappears beneath the ocean. As we land I am reminded of how quickly the light of the sun seems to deliver itself and its warmth over the island. We are joined by Rylin Richardson on his first trip to "The Rock"; grabbing our luggage and hitching a lift with the backpackers van to the North Shore. Unfortunately we will be staying our first five nights at the backpackers, this is until a place that is cheap but still close enough to cycle to Pipe in the morning is found. I have to reiterate that the backpackers is an unfortunate place to stay as for most of our stay there were maggots on the floor of one of the communal bathrooms, whilst the other smellier toilet and shower carried globules of blood on the floor for our entire stay. One of our only salvations in this dilapidated wooden cavity was a refreshingly funny Capetonian couple who we bunked with. Andrei Giovanni and Lori had been on the island for about ten days and were as excited for waves as we found ourselves.


This is one of the best ice-creams I have ever tasted, its creamy flavour is not only a luxury to the scrapping South African, but it also has to be earned Andrei and Rylin were eager to secure their Haagen-Dazs; this is accomplished by scooping a six foot barrel at Pipeline. This is no easy task as crowds and reef often work against any new-comers. The wave breaks like nothing I've seen before and the setup takes a bit of getting used to. Whenever I arrive with someone who has never seen this wave I'm reminded of the first time I laid eyes on it. I remember watching from the beach as some lunatic, who seemed to be sitting deeper than everyone else, put in a rail on a second reef beast. This loon with a white gaf helmet pulled into the biggest barrel I had ever seen and then, quite spontaneously decided to launch a roll through the opening tunnel. If you haven't guessed yet, the rider was Al Taylor and he had been travelling to Hawaii since before I started bodyboarding. He is known out at Pipe; even the local surfers recognise and respect Al.

When we arrived on the North Shore we're told that the reefs are carrying too much sand, this means that the first time we enter the water at Pipe it is breaking like an average beach break. These average conditions are still entertaining and we're all just really amped to surf. After a few days, a solid swell rears its ugly head, smashing the sandy rocks. Rylin and I hit Pipe in the dark a day after the large messy violence has done its worst. Our plan works as we are greeted with a reef that has been shaved, sand discarded and barrels gaping. Rylin and I trade off bombs; Rylin earns his Haagen within the first half hour. After this we are joined by a grinning Tamega and an equally happy Paulo Barcellos, they're stoked that there are waves and that only two other boogers are out there with them and we're stoked to be sharing Banzai with two former world champs. This continued for another half hour, by then the crowd had woken and were joining the line up. No longer holding position, but happy with our early morning pits, we retire for lunch. Our surf later that afternoon seems unholy and unfair as we find it almost impossible to find a descent wave, the crowd, as intense as it gets is only frustrating.

Relieve frustration by getting smashed.

Keiki is usually really fun at the beginning of the season as there is sand covering the razor sharp reef, but there is always a chance of getting unlucky and finding a sand-less patch. Unfortunately one large north swell will usually strip Keiki naked, displaying the repulsive rocks that dictate there will be no more barrels there for a while. Luckily this season the sand has been stripped and then replaced and the fun close-out has been readily available to quench our thirst for powerful barrels.
Waimea is a different story altogether and is very hard to come by at its best. We manage to scoop into some four footers for one afternoon, but otherwise the ‘Bay' keeps us keen, waiting for a day full of paddling and long ‘washing machine-like' hold downs. We wait for a day when the images captured will make the Cockwell's, the Theil's and the rest of the older crew drool as they remember how they used to charge it.


This fine malt liquor is another reason the old squad will be jealous anytime they hear a Saffa is on the rock. Ryan Watkins and Jason Boddy are the business when it comes to getting pitted all day and then charging the ‘Mickey's Challenge'. The ‘Boddman' still holds the seemingly unreachable record of five and a half forty ounces in one sitting, but the average Saffa should not disillusion himself with such tasks. The challenge for any new comer is three green bottles of beer on the wall, this left Tickner and myself dazed and confused for a day and a half when we accomplished the feat. One forty ounce is about one point two litres of a beer twice as potent as any SAB brew we are brought up on.

I remember hearing how Brett Lingley spent a long day in the surf and then decided to take the challenge the same night. After a hard day of barrels Brett, who towers easily over six feet, disposed of the three beers with ease and managed to disappear from everyone's view, lost on the North Shore for the night. The story then tells of how Brett woke up, exposed to the elements and anyone walking on Keiki beach, he then had to make a naked dash for his bungalow.

This season is a little different as the Mickey's challenge was enforced on us through boredom, lack of swell and a power failure that swamped half the island. Jared Schafer and Rylin man up for the challenge, unfortunately Rylin passes out after two bottles. Jarred completes the task and makes me believe for about an hour that Boddy's record is reachable, that is until I returned from the store to find an excessively quiet studio, well, the silence is found between Rylin's moans as he drapes over the dustbin and Jared's violent barking vomits. Both Mickey's victims spend their nights fearing waking from their self induced comas only to transfer their dinners into the toilets bowls.

Flat Days

The last three weeks have been rainy, rain is usually brought by Kona winds, which are onshore and in addition to the terrible winds there has been a drastic lack of swell. This led to possibly the worst ever Stand-up Pipe Masters competition, with waves averaging two feet as well as a horribly wrong swell direction.
Luckily we have another month left to seek out those Pacific Ocean barrels and January is normally the best time for bodyboarders to launch their attempts at stardom.

We're here, North Shore – "Haolewood"

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MichelleDanielsMichelle Daniels
3rd January 2008 21:50
Oops--Oh yeah, good luck and all the best to you guys! :)
MichelleDanielsMichelle Daniels
3rd January 2008 21:48
Sweet Oros! Love to read the nomadic experiences. So envious, yet amped for you. Great read--thanks for the update!

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