Unlike last year, it hasn’t really rained here in West Oz and the waves have been pretty fantastic so far. The reports were saying two to three meters (which is around six to ten feet), but it turned out to be more like four to eight feet. Everywhere was good Saturday. As more and more people are arriving for the Salomon Masters from the last contest at Newcastle (which Kelly Slater won), spots are starting to fill up.
Our crew, the Salomon crew, knew exactly where we had to go—The Box. In case you’ve never seen the place, it’s a slab of reef approximately a half mile or so (it seems longer) out to sea and directly across a small bay/rivermouth from the main break at Margaret River. And it’s called The Box because, well, that’s what the wave looks like.
As soon as he woke up, Kieren Perrow was frothing to get it. He loves the psychoness of the spot and it suits his psychoness well. Ever since we’d missed it a couple days before, he knew we had to be on it this time. Along with Kieren, Salomon’s Dan Ross, and fellow Australians Jay “Bottle Thompson and Austin Langridge, we charged over there in the morning.
As fellow TransWorld photographers Hilton Dawe and Andrew Shields took a boat, I felt a swim would be fine to get all the way out there—I’ve done it before. A superstitious person, I couldn’t help but shit myself at all the bad omens I was encountering even getting out. First was the scorpion that popped out of Austin’s suit as we were all changing. Nobody knows where it came from, it just jumped out as we were getting ready—we carefully picked it up and put it on the beach for good karma sake. Then there was my brutal hangover brought on from a “light drinking night with Jason Bennett and TransWorld Photographer Dave Troyer. Somewhere along the way I forgot how powerful Aussie beer is and maybe drank a little too much the night before—I was a mess.
Next was the shark factor. Here in West Oz, everyone seems to not worry about it even though a Great White was seen breaching last week in the adjacent bay. One guy told me, “You haven’t been reading the papers have you? No, I haven’t. Instead of the long route getting out to The Box, the boys took me up a side route that kinda comes around the back of the break—still long, murky, and scary as hell. Oh yeah, and they just took off—leaving me waddling alone in the middle of nowhere.
That wasn’t the worst part. As I heaved my guts in the lineup in between shooting, a kid next to me kind of gave me this disgusted look and said something like, “Mate, you’re gonna attract Bronzies, meaning a nasty-ass Australian shark. Exciting.
Shooting on the side and witnessing a session at The Box is one of the most incredible phenomena’s I’ve ever experienced. Guys like Kieren, Koby Abberton, Clint Kimmins and many others wait for the heaviest, nastiest slabs they can and go for it. It’s hard to explain the power of the wave as it heaves up from nothing and anyone willing to try commits to the drop or gets thrown by the lip onto a nearly dry reef.
When it’s good during the contest, the place can be a bit of a madhouse. Normally only surfed by a few locals, the place swells with WQS competitors battling to get some much needed exposure while they’re on the road. Just to the side are four boats filled with photographers bickering, avoiding sets, and trying to get in position for “the shot.
Saturday’s maniac awards—given out by me—start with Tom Innes for “local ruling his local spot before everyone else got out. Amongst all the guys paddling out, Tommy held his ground and got some mean ones early on. Jay “Botttle Thompson for “most wipeouts—it’s almost like he likes it. Austin Langridge for “nastiest wipeout. A set-wave drop/battle lost from the onset and a face-first reward straight into the reef—he popped up like nothing happened. Kieren Perrow for “wave of the day—a critical air drop followed by a long,, fast tube. Clint Kimmins for “being himself. Clint’s got Napoleon Complex for charging waves. He’s got something to prove and does what he can to prove it on the biggest waves with the biggest falls. And finally, Koby Abberton for “just being psycho. He did it last year and he’s did it Saturday—he found the sickest waves to do the sickest shit and goes for it. I remember last year when he tried what was easily a six-foot air, dropped twelve feet down in front of the wave, nearly broke himself, and came up laughing—at The Box. Saturday, the biggest wave of the morning came in and he went for it despite the fact it was closing out. He’s a gnarly, gnarly individual.Honorable mention goes to Charlie-Boy Carroll, Gavin Beschen, Chris Ward, Makua Rothman, Myles Padaca (who apparently got a sick one after we got out), Dan Ross (who was in the running for nastiest wipeout), Marcus Hickman, and a couple of boogie boarders who were mixing it up as well.
On Monday, indecisiveness kept us out of the water until around eight o’clock. “What do you think? was a common question followed by, “I don’t know. You do a lot of driving around here and deciding where the best spot is can be the hardest part. Once we did choose, we ended up at Gas Bay while the rest of the surfing world took the extra long walk to a break a about a mile down the beach. It turned out better than we’d thought as Pancho Sullivan, Kieren, and Myles Padaca got some sick ones.