“Get Those Roos Away From My Grapes!”

(Click the upper right hand corner for the complete slideshow-get f-ked!)

Put the word ‘cut’ and ‘punt’ or Mike Hunt together, and you get one of the most commonly used words in Australian slang. It kinda sets the tone for this story and trip. You see, although the country’s beautiful, and the people are the coolest, it’s also a place where surfers go to get down and dirty. It’s a destination where half the time’s spent getting filth tubes, and the other half is spent in the filthy pubs. ASP tour veteran and pub-dweller Todd Prestage agreed to take his old “sepbros”-Jun Jo, Jason Bennett, Jeremy Heit, and me-on a tour of his beloved homeland. Along the way, the “C-word” became the word that all things were measured by. In America, it’s probably the worst thing in the English language you can say. In Australia, it can be an endearing term like, “That c-t’s f-ked,” or an angry one like, “Get outta my way, c-t.” If you listen to Todd long enough, you’ll find out it has many meanings.

[IMAGE 1]

Our tour had originally been scheduled to start on the Gold Coast of Eastern Australia, but changed weeks before our departure. Heit, Jason, Presso, and I decided to make a week’s side trip to Margaret River on the Western Australian coast to attend the Salomon Masters-a six-star WQS eventually won by Joel Parkinson. After the fourteen-hour flight to Sydney, it was followed up by a four-hour flight to Perth and a four-hour drive to Margaret. Tired and disgusted from the airline “food,” one of the first things I wanted to do was see some “marsupial menaces,”-a.k.a. kangaroos (I’d probably been eating them on the plane). As evening descended on the drive to the contest, and the ‘roos started to come out, I had no idea the first one I’d see would be dead; an hour from town, we saw a dead ‘roo laying on the side of the road.

It’s safe to say that kangaroos are a menace. Not only do they breed like flies, but it’s hard for farmers to control the tons of ‘roos eating their crops. In the Margaret River vineyards, for instance, the ‘roos don’t eat grapes, they eat the foliage, which is just as damaging. Driving in places like Margaret, you can’t help but notice all the steel-bar structures on the front of all the cars, appropriately called “roo bars.” ‘Roos are nocturnal, so it’s not uncommon to have one cross your path and freeze in the headlights while driving on one of the millions of remote Australian roads-they’re littered with dead ‘roos.

It’s not a graveyard-in fact, Margaret River is one of the most beautiful and remote spots to have a contest on the face of the Earth. Perth, four hours away, is the closest thing to civilization, but for some reason or another, the contest literally triples the Margaret River population and transforms it into Party Town, Australia. There’re tons of people-young, old, younger females, and professional surfers. Ranging in ages from sixteen (the legal age of consent in Australia) to mid twenties, many of the young girls wore tight hip-hugger jeans and white belts-Britney Spears clones everywhere. They drive from all over Western Australia to see their favorite surfers up close and “personal”-it gets crazy.

In America, surfers aren’t considered real athletes-in Australia, they’re gods. Everybody follows surfing-if you watch the evening news, you can find out whether or not Occy will be competing in the contest this week or who lost out that day. Surf competition is the most important thing to Australians, and guys like Occy, Luke Egan, and Tom Carroll are heroes in the same way football, baseball, and basketball stars rule America.


In town, our hosts were an amalgamation of drunk locals who simply call themselves “Beer Fridge.” It’s like the Australian equivalent of Jackass but on a much smaller level-they’ll tell you they rule the world. They’re called Beer Fridge because a few of them work at the Prevelly Park beer fridge, mark, and campground near the contest site-it’s owned by “Mr. Big,” a.k.a. “Elvis Prevelly.” A few years ago, the boys began creating videos of the stupid stuff they do. The theme of the videos is Mr. Big’s effort to make millions through his control of the Beer Fridge. Their foes, the Rangas (redheaded locals like Ranga Dan and Barry Backo) and the Rummies (our friends from Oceanside, California who stay there every year), try to upset those plans through their drinking and tree-climbing invasions. There’re five videos including Driving Schoul, but better yet, there’s a CD with hits such as “Pig Hunter” and “Kill All The Rangas.” Although a couple of the boys are in another band, the real group is Beer Fridge, and they make talentless music (they don’t know how to play instruments). Thanks to Beer Fridge, the Rangas, and the Rummies-much of our week is remembered solely through photo documentation.

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Back in town, the campsites bustle with excitement, people blind themselves with adult beverages, and the surf goes nuts. In Margaret River, the town and adjoining areas are overrun with wineries and restaurants. It’s funny to watch the groups of surfers walk up to the yuppie-like wineries for wine tasting. That’s not the only drinking distraction. The Settler’s Tavern (the main pub) is the centerpiece of town and where you’ll find everyone in town damaging their bodies into the night-a definite deterrent to surfing in this wave utopia.

During late summer and fall in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s not uncommon for the Indian Ocean to brew up twenty-foot-plus swells. There’re too many spots to name of all varieties, including bombies (large outer reefbreaks), sandbars, and points. As for sharks, they’re definitely there, however, the sea life lower on the chain provides such abundant meals that hunger is never an issue-there may be shark sightings, but nobody gets eaten, so surfers don’t worry about it.
For the majority of our time there, it was either rainy or small-except for two days. During those days, The Box, a break directly across from the main break where the contest was held, decided to make an appearance-attracting a multitude of surfers and photographers who battled it out for the few photo opportunities the place provided. Although sizable, the peak allows one small chance for surfers to take off before the wave heaves over the shallow reef. Then, for about twenty yards, photographers try to get their boats in place for the best angle-it’s a big mess.

Presso, Jason, Heit, and I decided to use the valuable sun and surf to go to another, more remote break-as did ten other Aussies including Troy “Brooko” Brooks, Zane Harrison, and Anthony MacDonald. The nameless-break gamble was well worth it. The session became a barrel free-for-all with cavernous green-water tubes spitting out the gamblers like a piece of paper in a wind tunnel. A week of waiting paid off dramatically, and Bennett and Heit celebrated their session a little too hard that night.

After the contest ended, our crew traversed the country for our originally planned tour-from the southern Gold Coast to Presso’s house in Gerringong (two hours south of Sydney in New South Wales). Upon our arrival on the Goldie, we got the inevitable, “You really missed it”-and apparently we did. While the majority of Australia’s professional surfing world blew up their livers in Margaret’s, back in the Goldie the waves went nuts. The locals were claiming waves starting at Snapper Rocks and going all the way through Kirra-pretty much a mile-long pit of a wave. We really missed it.

Presso, our daytime guide, hooked us up with our Gold Coast nighttime hosts, who are also Australia’s other water-born heroes. They’re ironmen-not triathlete ironmen, but lifeguard ironmen. They compete in events combining swimming, running, and rowing-triathlon style, but for lifeguards. In Australia, Surf Lifesaving Clubs are a fixture in most coastal towns. Our hosts, Phil “Clayto” Clayton, Stephen “Club Kingy” King, and Trevor Hendy are past lifesaving champions. Hendy is known as the Michael Jordan of the sport because of his six world titles.
Whenever we went to the clubs with these guys, we’d get VIP treatment and announcements like, “Hey, Clayto and Kingy are here.” The nightlife goes berserk in Surfer’s Paradise. If you’ve ever seen photos from Burleigh Heads, it’s the huge concrete jungle on the other end of the bay-it’s like looking at New York from New Jersey. On any given night, all of the bars, casinos, and strip bars will be throbbing. The Vegas-like feel, the small streets, and malls create an exciting atmosphere with too many choices to comprehend. Add in the perfect weather, incredible surf, and beautiful women (literally everywhere), and you find yourself in heaven.

Our first night on the Gold Coast just so happened to be “ladies’ night”-you know, it looked like tons of ladies and no blokes. We were wrong. There were tons of insane women for the boys to choose from, but the famous Manpower stripper crew was performing. The club promoter somehow coerced Troy Brooks to be a judge of the model contest. Uncomfortable, but surrounded by ladies, Troy was claimed as the “number eight surfer in the world and bachelor of the year” as he judged dudes from all over the Gold Coast.

Brooko, a current young, top Australian, is classic. While on tour, he’s known to entertain his mates with riddles or magic tricks and is just an all-around funny guy. Brooko and Presso were in town to surf the WQS three-star Surf Cult Pro that was supposed to be held at Burleigh, but was moved to Duranbah for the early rounds. Duranbah’s a short beach, but while everywhere else was tiny, the beachbreak served up perfect little peaks. After shooting there, cheering Presso on, and getting some food, we would usually go back to the pad and watch footie (rugby) or Jerry Springer-that’s right, Jerry Springer. Many Australians believe Americans are just as they’re depicted on the Jerry Springer Show-really. Living in America for a number of years to further his surfing career, Todd understands the misconception perfectly. According to him, the same thing happens to Australians, because he feels the general American public is totally uneducated about what happens in Australia-they think it’s all like Crocodile Dundee. The 2000 Sydney Olympics, he said, went a long way in educating people about the real Australia.

As for rugby, anytime the Illawara Dragons of the National Rugby League (not the Australian Football League, which is “totally different,” according to Todd) play, Presso starts getting nervous. When a game’s on, all the Aussies get together, act like monkeys, and speak Australian slang none of us seppos could decipher. While we were there, a player from another league was suspended for biting another player on the testicles. Every week following all the matches, the naughty players have to attend judiciary tribunals. In a sport as nasty and tough as this, every week players are suspended at these tribunals. One of the most famous suspensions ever was given to a guy named John “Hopa” Hopoati. In the game, after a player is tackled, they wiggle around like fish on land as their tacklers get off them. “Hopa” used to put his finger where the sun doesn’t shine, until one time they finally caught it on tape-he was suspended for a year.

[IMAGE 3]

Rugby’s a heavy game with huge rivalries. Because of an annual match of the best players from Queensland and New South Wales, Queenslanders are known as cane toads (an ugly frog common to the state), and anyone from New South Wales is known as a cockroach. Presso eventually made the final of the Burleigh WQS, where the announcer kept making the point that he was the lone cockroach against three cane toads-Dean Morrison, Zane Harrison, and Jamie Thompson. Although P fixture in most coastal towns. Our hosts, Phil “Clayto” Clayton, Stephen “Club Kingy” King, and Trevor Hendy are past lifesaving champions. Hendy is known as the Michael Jordan of the sport because of his six world titles.
Whenever we went to the clubs with these guys, we’d get VIP treatment and announcements like, “Hey, Clayto and Kingy are here.” The nightlife goes berserk in Surfer’s Paradise. If you’ve ever seen photos from Burleigh Heads, it’s the huge concrete jungle on the other end of the bay-it’s like looking at New York from New Jersey. On any given night, all of the bars, casinos, and strip bars will be throbbing. The Vegas-like feel, the small streets, and malls create an exciting atmosphere with too many choices to comprehend. Add in the perfect weather, incredible surf, and beautiful women (literally everywhere), and you find yourself in heaven.

Our first night on the Gold Coast just so happened to be “ladies’ night”-you know, it looked like tons of ladies and no blokes. We were wrong. There were tons of insane women for the boys to choose from, but the famous Manpower stripper crew was performing. The club promoter somehow coerced Troy Brooks to be a judge of the model contest. Uncomfortable, but surrounded by ladies, Troy was claimed as the “number eight surfer in the world and bachelor of the year” as he judged dudes from all over the Gold Coast.

Brooko, a current young, top Australian, is classic. While on tour, he’s known to entertain his mates with riddles or magic tricks and is just an all-around funny guy. Brooko and Presso were in town to surf the WQS three-star Surf Cult Pro that was supposed to be held at Burleigh, but was moved to Duranbah for the early rounds. Duranbah’s a short beach, but while everywhere else was tiny, the beachbreak served up perfect little peaks. After shooting there, cheering Presso on, and getting some food, we would usually go back to the pad and watch footie (rugby) or Jerry Springer-that’s right, Jerry Springer. Many Australians believe Americans are just as they’re depicted on the Jerry Springer Show-really. Living in America for a number of years to further his surfing career, Todd understands the misconception perfectly. According to him, the same thing happens to Australians, because he feels the general American public is totally uneducated about what happens in Australia-they think it’s all like Crocodile Dundee. The 2000 Sydney Olympics, he said, went a long way in educating people about the real Australia.

As for rugby, anytime the Illawara Dragons of the National Rugby League (not the Australian Football League, which is “totally different,” according to Todd) play, Presso starts getting nervous. When a game’s on, all the Aussies get together, act like monkeys, and speak Australian slang none of us seppos could decipher. While we were there, a player from another league was suspended for biting another player on the testicles. Every week following all the matches, the naughty players have to attend judiciary tribunals. In a sport as nasty and tough as this, every week players are suspended at these tribunals. One of the most famous suspensions ever was given to a guy named John “Hopa” Hopoati. In the game, after a player is tackled, they wiggle around like fish on land as their tacklers get off them. “Hopa” used to put his finger where the sun doesn’t shine, until one time they finally caught it on tape-he was suspended for a year.

[IMAGE 3]

Rugby’s a heavy game with huge rivalries. Because of an annual match of the best players from Queensland and New South Wales, Queenslanders are known as cane toads (an ugly frog common to the state), and anyone from New South Wales is known as a cockroach. Presso eventually made the final of the Burleigh WQS, where the announcer kept making the point that he was the lone cockroach against three cane toads-Dean Morrison, Zane Harrison, and Jamie Thompson. Although Presso led the heat with five minutes left, Morrison (Presso’s second cousin through marriage) took a right, threw down an alley-oop and a small tube for a 9.4-the winning wave of the heat. That wave was on TV for the next week.

That night, a couple hours before dark, Trevor Hendy took us in his boat to a place called Stradie. Accessible by boat, it’s located across a waterway that separates the untouched Stradbroke area from the concrete jungle of Surfer’s Paradise. It’s a busy waterway with jet skis, fishing trawlers, recreational boats, and sharks-lots of sharks. Despite the speed of the boats, the prevalence of sharks, and the often crazy current, surfers still paddle the 250-yard distance-all for Stradie. It’s worth it. The break is usually bigger than everywhere else and consistently has perfect peaks. This session was the best of the trip, even though clouds began moving in.

A storm moved in that night, screwed up the contest, and made us change plans for the trip. The weather was to clear up, and the waves were supposed to get bigger, so we extended our Goldie stay. We tried to shoot at Lennox Heads (about two hours south) even though it was cloudy-it was also perfect. I was trying to get some water shots but found myself battling a nasty little current like salmon trying to spawn upstream. The points in this area, especially Kirra, are known for river-like currents and the long walks back up the point.

Presso’s dad Russ happened to be traveling and surfing the coast at the same time we were. His scouting reports helped us make the call to leave the Goldie and make a move for Angourie. A couple hours south of the Goldie (or the length of two of Jun’s shakas on the map), we came up on a fishing town just above Angourie, called Iluka. The town is so small we thought we were gonna see the Dukes Of Hazzard pull up in a Holden-Australia’s main muscle-car brand. As we drove through town, everyone took second glances at the minivan with four surfboard coffins stacked on the roof-the population had just doubled.

Iluka is on the north end of a sharky inlet, and Angourie is on the south. These types of inlets are found all along the East Coast. In a nearby town called Ballina, there’d been two attacks in the past few years. The day we arrived, a diver was eaten in South Australia. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that Stradie, Ballina, Iluka, and Port Macquarie all have the same sharky setup. On one side is a long inaccessible jetty with a rebounding (off the jetty) wave that creates a peak, inside the inlet is a small beach with a tiny shorebreak, and on the other side is another jetty and some kind of point-at every spot people paddled across to the inaccessible side to get the good wave.

After staying in Iluka for a night, we moved on to Port Macquarie-a much larger, nicer town. After one day there, we moved on in order to avoid the weather, as the rain was supposed to show up the next morning.

Instead of building a shack at Forster (pronounced “Foster”) and camping, we decided to rent a house on the beach so Jun could cook us up spaghetti dinners, and we could get the sun for photographs whenever it popped out. Forster is about two hours north of Sydney and is comprised of long, punchy, empty beachbreaks with clear bluish-green water heaven. We stayed two nights and shot photos at a sandbar that at times would double, even triple up, and dry heave. It wasn’t huge, it just threw. Our last morning there, we had to pack up and leave to get Jun to the airport. He had to get home for one day before traveling again to England, then back to New York-the life of a playboy.

After dropping Jun off in Sydney, we hooked up with some of Todd’s ironman mates again. They, of course, had just come off a big night and met us to watch Todd’s boys-the Illawarra-St.George Dragons-play the Northern Sydney Eagles (Hopa’s team). Compared to American stadiums and football teams, the scene is smaller. In terms of craziness, it’s definitely nuttier, and everyone gets into it. Thanks to Todd’s patient explanations, we had a good grasp of the rules as we digested meat pies and Toohey’s (adult beverage of choice), and witnessed his team lose a close one. Bummed, Todd said goodbye to his mates, and we headed for his house about two hours south.

Todd likes to call Gerringong “God’s Country”-I like to call it Todd’s country. He’s the resident mayor in this small town. Living with his soon-to-be-wife Amanda, Todd’s house is a beautiful brick house about three blocks from a gorgeous beach. As we arrived, the swell was drastically decreasing. Driving around in the search for waves, there was an amazing amount of wave possibilities with crystal-clear water. This place is God’s country, and we didn’t want to leave. We still surfed. When it was tiny, Todd would rip out some old boards and force us to try every one to expand our surfing minds. Although we got skunked, we were still having fun, and Todd was going out of his way to make sure of that. Yeah, we missed some good surf (a swell popped in after we left)-but overall, Australia treated us well. As our monthlong tour came to a quick end, and we departed ways, I couldn’t help but think about next year-I’m going back for sure. Hopefully, God will send some waves to his country.so led the heat with five minutes left, Morrison (Presso’s second cousin through marriage) took a right, threw down an alley-oop and a small tube for a 9.4-the winning wave of the heat. That wave was on TV for the next week.

That night, a couple hours before dark, Trevor Hendy took us in his boat to a place called Stradie. Accessible by boat, it’s located across a waterway that separates the untouched Stradbroke area from the concrete jungle of Surfer’s Paradise. It’s a busy waterway with jet skis, fishing trawlers, recreational boats, and sharks-lots of sharks. Despite the speed of the boats, the prevalence of sharks, and the often crazy current, surfers still paddle the 250-yard distance-all for Stradie. It’s worth it. The break is usually bigger than everywhere else and consistently has perfect peaks. This session was the best of the trip, even though clouds began moving in.

A storm moved in that night, screwed up the contest, and made us change plans for the trip. The weather was to clear up, and the waves were supposed to get bigger, so we extended our Goldie stay. We tried to shoot at Lennox Heads (about two hours south) even though it was cloudy-it was also perfect. I was trying to get some water shots but found myself battling a nasty little current like salmon trying to spawn upstream. The points in this area, especially Kirra, are known for river-like currents and the long walks back up the point.

Presso’s dad Russ happened to be traveling and surfing the coast at the same time we were. His scouting reports helped us make the call to leave the Goldie and make a move for Angourie. A couple hours south of the Goldie (or the length of two of Jun’s shakas on the map), we came up on a fishing town just above Angourie, called Iluka. The town is so small we thought we were gonna see the Dukes Of Hazzard pull up in a Holden-Australia’s main muscle-car brand. As we drove through town, everyone took second glances at the minivan with four surfboard coffins stacked on the roof-the population had just doubled.

Iluka is on the north end of a sharky inlet, and Angourie is on the south. These types of inlets are found all along the East Coast. In a nearby town called Ballina, there’d been two attacks in the past few years. The day we arrived, a diver was eaten in South Australia. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that Stradie, Ballina, Iluka, and Port Macquarie all have the same sharky setup. On one side is a long inaccessible jetty with a rebounding (off the jetty) wave that creates a peak, inside the inlet is a small beach with a tiny shorebreak, and on the other side is another jetty and some kind of point-at every spot people paddled across to the inaccessible side to get the good wave.

After staying in Iluka for a night, we moved on to Port Macquarie-a much larger, nicer town. After one day there, we moved on in order to avoid the weather, as the rain was supposed to show up the next morning.

Instead of building a shack at Forster (pronounced “Foster”) and camping, we decided to rent a house on the beach so Jun could cook us up spaghetti dinners, and we could get the sun for photographs whenever it popped out. Forster is about two hours north of Sydney and is comprised of long, punchy, empty beachbreaks with clear bluish-green water heaven. We stayed two nights and shot photos at a sandbar that at times would double, even triple up, and dry heave. It wasn’t huge, it just threw. Our last morning there, we had to pack up and leave to get Jun to the airport. He had to get home for one day before traveling again to England, then back to New York-the life of a playboy.

After dropping Jun off in Sydney, we hooked up with some of Todd’s ironman mates again. They, of course, had just come off a big night and met us to watch Todd’s boys-the Illawarra-St.George Dragons-play the Northern Sydney Eagles (Hopa’s team). Compared to American stadiums and football teams, the scene is smaller. In terms of craziness, it’s definitely nuttier, and everyone gets into it. Thanks to Todd’s patient explanations, we had a good grasp of the rules as we digested meat pies and Toohey’s (adult beverage of choice), and witnessed his team lose a close one. Bummed, Todd said goodbye to his mates, and we headed for his house about two hours south.

Todd likes to call Gerringong “God’s Country”-I like to call it Todd’s country. He’s the resident mayor in this small town. Living with his soon-to-be-wife Amanda, Todd’s house is a beautiful brick house about three blocks from a gorgeous beach. As we arrived, the swell was drastically decreasing. Driving around in the search for waves, there was an amazing amount of wave possibilities with crystal-clear water. This place is God’s country, and we didn’t want to leave. We still surfed. When it was tiny, Todd would rip out some old boards and force us to try every one to expand our surfing minds. Although we got skunked, we were still having fun, and Todd was going out of his way to make sure of that. Yeah, we missed some good surf (a swell popped in after we left)-but overall, Australia treated us well. As our monthlong tour came to a quick end, and we departed ways, I couldn’t help but think about next year-I’m going back for sure. Hopefully, God will send some waves to his country.ums and football teams, the scene is smaller. In terms of craziness, it’s definitely nuttier, and everyone gets into it. Thanks to Todd’s patient explanations, we had a good grasp of the rules as we digested meat pies and Toohey’s (adult beverage of choice), and witnessed his team lose a close one. Bummed, Todd said goodbye to his mates, and we headed for his house about two hours south.

Todd likes to call Gerringong “God’s Country”-I like to call it Todd’s country. He’s the resident mayor in this small town. Living with his soon-to-be-wife Amanda, Todd’s house is a beautiful brick house about three blocks from a gorgeous beach. As we arrived, the swell was drastically decreasing. Driving around in the search for waves, there was an amazing amount of wave possibilities with crystal-clear water. This place is God’s country, and we didn’t want to leave. We still surfed. When it was tiny, Todd would rip out some old boards and force us to try every one to expand our surfing minds. Although we got skunked, we were still having fun, and Todd was going out of his way to make sure of that. Yeah, we missed some good surf (a swell popped in after we left)-but overall, Australia treated us well. As our monthlong tour came to a quick end, and we departed ways, I couldn’t help but think about next year-I’m going back for sure. Hopefully, God will send some waves to his country.