In which two hipsters fail to learn how to surf in Margaret River, Western Australia

As of this writing, Luke & Jesse sit on Otres Beach in Sihanouk Ville, Cambodia. We’ve placed our copies of A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes aside to watch the surf. (Really, we should be finishing our copies of Voodoo Vintners & To Cork or Not To Cork, but damn it, this is vacation.)

We are learning that there is something to be said for small waves. Tourists of awkward proportions and questionable motor skills are renting longboards and making not only valiant, but successful attempts at surfing. The waves here never reach even a meter in height, and they roll to shore as lazily as they please. Want to catch one? Just walk out to it. Suddenly, in an unfortunate epiphany, the surf lessons in Kuta Beach on Bali don’t seem quite so silly either.

You see, we tried to learn how to surf in Margaret River, Western Australia. This is where John John Florence won the Telstra Drug Aware Pro 2012, Kelly Slater did a showcase (and drank Xanadu Wine) and we saw the Soul Surfer herself, Bethany Hamilton. Do you see what we’re getting at? This is the surf of professionals, and there is no such thing as a bunny slope. And now, looking out at the delicate, fluffy waves of Otres Beach and it’s oblivious riders, we can’t help but feel a bit envious. We were not so lucky.

We had said we wanted to learn how to surf, and our slightly sadistic and overly competent bosses had obliged. “We’ll take you somewhere easy,” they said. “The waves are small,” they said.

Our first sisyphean attempt involved one Redgate Beach. This is the coast’s best effort at a learner’s surf spot. Our friends kindly gave us boards to borrow & a few simple instructions. Paddle that way, catch a wave & attempt to stand up. Well, okay, if you say so. It turns out that you can actually catch a wave out to sea, if you time the riptide correctly.
Poor Luke was taken out to Local Favorite, Ellensbrook, for Round Two. It is absolutely not a beginner’s break. It doesn’t even deign to have sand, providing all comers with a rock entry & a reef break following. Luke believes that he spent more time under water than above. Not by choice, it just seemed that the waves hadn’t eaten in a long time.
Then, we visited Honeycombs. Here, watching waves hurtling at us with all the quiet grace of a freight train, we went out for our third & final attempt. Catching a wave was a little like having the hand of Poseidon lift you himself, then in a sickening moment of multi-foot free-fall, have him hurl you with force into an unforgiving beach. This was the last straw. As we left the water, our fears were confirmed with a sickening finality as we watched one of our completely skilled and overachieving surfer friends have his face split at the nose & eye like a boxer on the losing end of a fight on that same shore break.

Our Margaret River surf experiences aside, we still want to ride waves. We’ll be renting intertubes here in Cambodia tomorrow.

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