The first time in my life I saw an ocean with actual waves was when I just turned twenty. I’m Austrian (not German). Austria is a landlocked country. Holidays by the sea were usually spent sunbaking by the Mediterranean sea aka massive lake. No waves there.
I came to Australia on an exchange semester for the first time about 10 years ago. I lived in the city. On the weekends I loved going to Bronte beach. It was love at first sight. I loved the waves and I would spend hours playing in the water. A couple of times lifeguards got upset with me because I swam out pretty far and got smashed in the waves. Little did I know that it could be quite dangerous out there (like most people from overseas – just watch an episode of Bondi Rescue). Also, I did not understand back then how surfers could be so rude and almost run over poor swimmers. Either way, I just loved going under, over, with the waves. Being tumbled around. Just loved it.
I returned to Australia a couple of years later on a round the world trip. In Byron Bay, I had my very first surf lesson. I was really lucky, it was just me and another dude and the instructor. That was back in the days when Byron was still a sleepy surf town. I will never forget the first words of my hot instructor: When you slide on your board, be really careful and tender, it’s like sliding onto a guy. Wow. I’m still blushing thinking back. I think that’s when I was hooked to surfing. No, no, ok I actually I think it was when I got the rush of catching a wave and then the excitement when I first managed to stand up. Not so much when I could not feel my arms the next day. What people don’t tell you about surfing: it does not matter if you’ve snowboarded or skated before, you first gotta get that paddle thing sorted which can be pretty painful at times.
My round the world trip was over eventually. Back to everyday life…for a bit at least. Until I met a guy from OC California in Vienna(random I know). I visited him in Newport, CA. He had a spare board and I paddled around in the whitewash a bit. One day, we got up really early, I mean really, really early, like 6 o’clock early on my holidays. It seemed like a crime to me (I’m not a morning person by nature). Well, he wanted to go for an ‘early’ one with his mate before work. Oh dear. I was not impressed. We picked up his mate who literally lived two minutes walking distance from Huntington Beach. He went surfing before work every day. It was a pretty yucky morning and the surf was rough. So I did not go out but I watched the guys and how stoked they were, especially theHuntington beach dude. All I could think was: he’s so lucky, I want that too. I returned to Californiaa couple of times. I’ve ‘surfed’ Trestles. I went on my first roadie to Baja California, Mexico. We had to climb over a fence, down a beach and found this amaaaaaaaaazing point break. Not that I could surf it. Quite the opposite, I almost drowned, being bashed against the rock. But I was sitting on the shoulder of the wave (before almost drowning) and saw all the guys who could actually surf, have an absolute ball. That’s when I found out what a point break was.
When I got back to Austria again, I was determined to be reunited with my big love – the waves. I’ve organised a Visa and moved to Australia, BondiBeach to be specific. I bought my first surfboard (thanks Luke for not taking the piss at the surfshop and for selling me an awesome first board) and wetsuit and starting surfing in North Bondi– the kook (beginner’s) corner. The very first time, I walked down there, armed with my board and suited up, a Japanese tourist asked me if he could take a photo of me. He probably thinks until today that he took a photo of an Australian surfer chick, but really it was an Austrian who paddled around a few times, but really had no idea. Too funny, either way, I went surfing every single day, no matter how the conditions were, small, big, onshore, offshore, and I was determined.
Fast forward, six years later, after lots of scratches, broken boards, a few assaults, sore shoulders, some stitches here, countless drop ins, I made it. I worked my way up from North Bondi to South Bondi to play with the big boys. Some of the surfers, who I looked up to and I was sometimes even intimated by, are now my mates. I’ve done some amazing surftrips and spent two months in Indo. I’m still frothing every morning about the surf. I get grumpy if I can’t get to surf for some reason. I love being in the water. I love getting up early to be greeted by a pod of dolphins. I love the feeling of duck-diving through clear water into the sun. And, there is nothing better than riding a wave.
I still love going back to Byron Bay, it always makes me smile thinking back to those first surf attempts. I’m so grateful that I got to learn to surf. You see the world through different eyes. Now, I am that lucky person who gets to play in the water every day before work.