Posts Tagged ‘Ceduna’

Cactus Day 3 – by Rob Ward

This is a bit of a blow. Even under the awning you can (just?) see in the foto below, the light is way too bright for me to see anything on MAC’s screen. So I can’t write standing at the table I made from a panel of Carbon/foam/laminex (Formica), or sit with MAC resting on the little fridge freezer I have on loan. So I’m reclined with MAC on my knees and my head jammed on the walls of the sleeping box on the ute. (The white bit, obviously).

Camp (Castles surf break just over dune) habitation of the Camel Driver, the Painted Dragon and the Honey Eater – the Camel Drivers 2 best mates (read on…) unless you already did. NB Solar panels calculated to spit out photovoltaic energy. Crafty.

Let me tell you about my new best friends: The first and most hilarious is not called a Painted Dragon. There IS a lizard here that IS called that. But the one I’d call a Painted Dragon is called here a Gecko, which it most certainly isn’t. To know why this little guy is my new best friend (number 1) you’d have to know those whom I designate mine enemies. Everyone in England knows what a horsefly is. They’re big bumbling f###ers… we used to shoot them with the elastic garters that held our socks up at the school where the man used to beat me with a stick. They used to breed in the hot tin-roofed classrooms or under the floors or somewhere. But they blackened the windows. Alive and dead. Here they are called March Flies and someone recently announced a theory that were properly called Marsh Flies. Well, this is the Desert, the edge of the Nullarbor Plain. (That means no bloody trees, sport…) And these things have gone forth and multiplied. (You get Biblical in the desert). So I think we can dismiss that radical take on the etymology of March Fly. Since one is covered in flies here from sun-up to sun-down and equally, as the hoi polloi are wont to say in the UK, from “arsehole to breakfast time” – which I suppose to mean, “all over” – the March flies come at you under good cover. And these ones here bite twice as hard as the Queensland March flies, PLUS! they are half the size. So you’ll be walking along trying not to be a woos, lagged in flies like a dinky-di, outback, mule-skinning kind of Ozzie or imagining yourself in one of those pictures you see of bee-trainers (you know the ones where they have a bee “hat” on) and suddenly your composure is shot to buggery by a stabbing pain in – some place on your delicate skin located between your ******** & b’fast time. You look at the afflicted part and sure enough, there is a drop of your very own red, red blude as if you’ve just been donating it of your own free will to the doctor (to check that your AIDS has not come back) or the clinic that collects it for people who need it. Far from it, it has been removed against your will, painfully, in order that this spawn of Beelzebub can go forth (and here’s the irony…) multiply Biblically. Indeed, in plague proportions. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Pharaoh was in these parts before he started afflicting the Jews and that he seriously pissed God off.

Enter the Lizard that should be called the Painted Dragon. He should be called that,

Because it’s a great name and he deserves to be called by a great name
Because his back is a beautiful scaly skin tapestry that is expressly designed to strike dumb your average word-smith. Oh alright! it’s a lace-work of black separating fractal patterns of reddish-ochre split into two broadly parallel lines each about 6mm wide in between a cool mint green patterning tending toward a lemon belly. Of course the overall effect if you don’t get up-close and personal is a light sandy brown. But don’t be fooled. This is the Painted Dragon.

And here’s his trick… it’s amazing and it’s what makes him my best mate. I’m cooking standing at my table. Along comes the March fly (by the way, you’ve noticed the month; just a hint to the radical etymologists (& entomologists) among us, he settles on your foot. And just as he is about to fork in his first mouthful of dinner you feel a delightful tickle on your ankle rather than a stabbing pain and your dragon has nailed him even as he drilled! But these guys are even more proactive than that. This morning I watched one jump a full 100 mm and pluck one out of the air! This may not sound like a great leap to a 1800mm high human being … but just try leaping 1800 mm straight up… these guys are just 100 mm long; probably 15 mm high.

Ron who owns the place these days was just by (we’re friends… I gave him money) and told me of a fellow who was here for a few weeks and became such good mates with one he wanted to take it home. That, of course is NOT ON. If everyone did that this place would be a writhing, knee deep carpet of March flies and there would be not a small number of emaciated once-human leathery near-corpses riddled with tiny blood-stains.

Best friend number 2 is a pretty, social bird with a tinge of green to his wings, a black eye-flash, a sweet unassuming song and a cunning ability to fly upside down into the tiny scrubby bushes here that look identical but actually constitute an eco-system of great diversity (if you get up-close etc…). They say that good art is a matter of ‘mis-direction’. So if this was good writing, you would have no idea at all why this pretty ‘Honey Eater’ (again, crassly mis-named) is my second, new best mate. And I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by mentioning that, while it may seem silly for a bird to fly into a bush upside down, they do have a knack of coming out with their beaks bristling with legs and wings. But I’m not allowed by the conventions of good art to say what the legs and wings are hanging off…

Anyway, enough of legs and wings; let’s get onto cabbages and kings. There was swell when I got in 3 nights ago but I’d driven all day – only 560km, not the 900 of the day before that, so I parked somewhere and braced myself to “make a deal” with Ron, who wanted $10 a night, which is a lot for a toilet when a chap owns a shovel. Ron came round shortly before dark which is about 7:30; sunrise is about 7:30 too so I guess we can agree that Meridian Passage at this longitude and using the rather odd time conventions in South Australia must be about 1:30 pm. For the record, NSW is one hour ahead of Qld. SA is 30 minutes back from that. NSW claim somehow to be saving daylight, eh? I know I wrote that, but it doesn’t seem to me to mean anything believable. SA of course, is – well the way I drove – nearly 3000k further away from sunrise than Stradbroke Island. And, now that we know that the world is round (actually, of course, an oblate spheroid) and goes round the sun (actually, elliptically round the sun) we know that sunrise is something of a misnomer. But more serious than the error of all those phrases is the sad fact that I even felt I needed to know what time the sun did, or didn’t “come up”. I woke at “6:30” this morning in the dark. I actually went to bed at “7:30” before dark. But the thing is, which 7:30 did I got to bed with and by which did I arise? The phone picked up SA time back in Ceduna where there is coverage. The computer is on Qld time. But my body is going to have to come round to acquiescing to Cactus time. The, sun rises, the sun goes down. Ca y est! Yesterday I went on to the beach and with no sign of human company did my Salute the Sun. I felt no need to rush. And last night, when I had a stainless cup of red (just found the glasses) I felt no desire to finish the bottle. This is part of why I came here.

The day I arose and surfed Castles. Very badly. In fact rather as if I were the victim of a bit of Jesus healing. You will know the story. A Centurion came to Jesus and said unto him. I am a man of authority. I say to this man “Come!” and he cometh. I say to this man “Go” and he goeth. I recognise in you a man of authority. It is sufficient that you say the word and my servant will be healed. He’s a 66 year old in a wheel-chair and he says he wants to surf.

Jesus said to his disciples, “I say unto you, I have not seen such faith as this in all Judaea.” And to the Centurion he saith, “Return to your servant. Tell him to arise from his wheel-chair. He will surf”. Well, as it went, I rather took the view that Our Lord had overestimated his pull with Our Father who is in Heaven. I surfed, but I surfed as if I were still in a wheel chair. Fortunately, I was alone and I pray, unseen. Later in the day I wandered up to Caves which was firing and offshore. I had wanted a paddle and did not want to mix it with the locals of which there were 12. But Lo, when I went out there in the afternoon there was but one. And I passed a man upon the road who was not young (for he was at least 40) and he was afflicted by poor attitude. He said to me, “The wind is on it. It is wretched”, though when I thought upon that I knew that the man truly had said, “For it is Rat Shit.” Thinking this unbiblical I passed upon my way. Having returned to my dwelling I picked up my 6′ 3″ quad, and girding my loins (read: fighting my way into a full wetsuit for the second time in 10 years, yay it was an struggle and yay I did fall upon the ground as it were possessed by an demon and if he who passed by on the other side of the road in my hour of need because I was a Samaritan and therefore despised, he should have seen me writhing in mine effort later to get out of it in the shallows, for, verily, I did nearly drown.) Long story short, terrific head-high waves running 100M with one guy out. “Carrick”. Good nautical name: the “Carrick Bend”, a particularly complex knot; also the name of a Cornish Council which would be right. Dad has a 100′ boat in Indo chartering. Carrick, after 11 years in Indo now drives a tug in Thevenard up the way near Streaky Bay I think. He ripped, and – you know what? – the healing kicked in. (A prayer, travelling at the speed of light – the ultimate speed of the permeation of force in the Universe – it must therefore take a measurable period of time to get from Judaea to Heaven and back again, so fair-enough!) And verily I did rip too. Later joined by Simon who farmed 7000 Hectares and was waiting for the first rains upon the land that he might plant grain. Simon had been a shearer before his parents gifted him the farm. I said, By Jove, that must have given you a strong back! And he said that it did but that it was a young man’s game. I had taken a look at him and thought he was not only young but hard as nails and I said to him, “And how old are you?” And he replied that he was 37. I said, Verily, verily, you are indeed a poor old f#ck.

And we had a ball.

Later,

Rob

The sea and part of the Gawler Craton, the granite underlying the sedimentary sandstone and limestone on which the surf breaks and a piece of rock that has neither been been faulted nor folded in 1,450 million years and can therefore be supposed to be “as God intended”. Which I would apply to all of Cactus if God believed in me.

Camel driver seen on walk to Port Le Hunte (That really IS the name) That really isn’t a camel driver…


Rob Ward

I am heading off into the South Australian desert in a week or so to Cactus. If you Google Ceduna South Australia and go west 60k to Penong, Cactus is on the coast 20k roughly south. Nothing there except vast ranges of dunes to the west and the extensive Point Sinclair where there are 3 lefts and one of the best rights in the world. Cactus is only the surfers’ name for the area. It is not on the map as such. I’m figuring out the intricacies of inverters, solar panels and deep cycle batteries. In the 1970’s I went there about four years in a row for period of up to 3 months.

I don’t know how the writing will go at Cactus. I am taking a table I have made (Foam Sandwich/Carbon/Formica) , and hope to be better set-up than I have ever been in the past. But I’m not an electrician and my ability to write ANYTHING (pen and paper? Are you kidding me?) is contingent on my yet-to-develop competence in assembling the deep-cycle battery, the inverter, the alternator and the 2 solar panels (when they arrive) in an order that is not mutually explosive. Or, even, that produces a trickle of usable MACjuice.

There is no broadband or telephone reception there and I shall have to do a ?weekly, ?Fortnightly trip to Ceduna to hook up.

There is some resistance to surf photography at Cactus these days. If you look on any website that speaks of Cactus (any that I’ve seen, anyway) you’ll be pushed to find a decent wave. A brilliant bit of reverse propaganda. Dunno how they do it. Violence, I suspect.

I have a lot to do between now and the next 10 days finishing off work at “Mermaid Composites” and preparing the Ute.

I wonder if you have read Fred Mew’s “Back of the Wight”. That’s more or less the Old Testament when it comes to getting into the surf. Of course, this was largely about getting in with rowing boats at night in horrendous storms to pull people out of sinking or grounded ships on the IW SW coast (the “Back of the Wight”). That, and smuggling and a little messing up the excise man.

I’ve lived in California and South Africa as well as sailing around Australia (whilst I was circumnavigating in Orinoco Flo) and I’ve driven across this country 3 times in cars costing from $50 to $200. But it is no pose to say that a great wave at Freshwater or Compton, for being so rare and beautiful and for its almost bizarre context and improbability remains as much of a thrill in my memory as any waves I have surfed around the world. And I do suffer a small nostalgia for Sid and the boys and girls, who so wisely and happily continued to make the lovely Island their home. I have a friend in Western Australia, Glyn Kernick (and his wife), who was also an early (and conscientious) member of the IW Surf Club and may be able to help you with pictures and memories.

I built Orinoco Flo with a heroic small crew of surfers whom I did not pay. (Even at £10 an hour, 15,000 man-hours was going to break the project!) I did what I could with caravans and work-for-dole projects and whatever it took. But they were all champs. I’ll spell out the money for you one time but be quite certain that, when I sold Midnight Hour for £35,000 it was less than 1/6th of what was going to be needed. God is Good and I knew none of this before I started and (Allah be Praised) never employed an accountant who may well have made discouraging noises. I started her in 1992. I had built a less technical 35’ catamaran; Midnight Hour in the late 1980’s mostly alone, although a surfer from Sandown, Pete Singleton, came down from his job in London as a despatch rider to help every other weekend. The object was always to get to surf, though of course the boat building travelled under the guise of “commercial enterprises” but no-one was deceived, least of all the first ex-wife who moaned fairly constantly. With Midnight Hour I spent a year in the Canaries chartering, mostly to surfers before going round the Atlantic and selling her to a Welshman. We had good access to Isla Lobos off Fuerteventura. It’s essentially just a volcano with a brilliant lava bottom right point break peeling down the west side. One South African described it as, “more fun than Jeffrey’s.” I’d agree with that. I lived at Jeffrey’s Bay for 6 months in about 1975 having gone there by boat from Western Australia. A Newquay surfer, “Moby” (David Patience), travelled with me. I had met him in Newquay when I was at the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth after my midshipman’s year. But I didn’t know him very well at that time. After the winter in Jeffrey’s we cycled about 1000k to Cape Town, mostly along the Garden Route, but also via some inland areas like Oudtshoorn where (if I remember right) ostriches are bred. We made some good mountain passes like the Outeniqueberge and the famous (for being a bastard) Schwartberg Pass.

I finished an Honours in well, all sorts of things like The Romantic Poets (Distinction! eh?), Shakespeare, The Enlightenment, Modern Art and Modernism and so on and so forth. Yes, it was done at about double the Open University usual speed. This degree was the counterbalance I needed after being battery-reared in the sciences to further my lost career in the services. The Navy took me to South Africa and South America where I had started to surf and that was the rest was my life. Not the one my parents imagined or wished for.

Flo was the biggest thing I have done and my best memory of all that is the achievements of the young surfers on the build who went on to get jobs in France and Spain as top boat builders. Andy Rose married a beautiful Spanish lady (Teresa… daughter Zoe)) and worked on the build crew for the Spanish Americas Cup. Luke managed a boat builders yard in France and they both did major parts of the circumnavigation. Andy the first half and Luke the South-about round-Oz and Indo leg. I built Flo with two experimental flexible rudders that I built like Tuna-tails. The new owners of the Oricnoco Flo are mostly surfers and she has done 17 Round-the-Atlantic voyages (about 9,000 miles each) to charter in the Caribbean each winter. And last year she completed a second circumnavigation.

My longest-serving Island friend is Marcus Lloyd from Sandown. I met him on my return from South Africa in 1970-something when he was 14. I was getting up a business in jewellery-making and used to take him out to the West Wight. Marcus was to be making this trip to Cactus with me and continuing on to Western Australia.

We recently agreed that a trip we made in (Oh, you know.. “back in the day”…) to France, Portugal and Morocco, taking the entire winter, was one of the best times of our lives. And the beginning of mine once I left the beaten path

France was my break-out and the crucible in which I transmuted from a young, middle class, would-be naval officer to a committed lifetime surfer. It is a pleasant interlude to recount and if you will be patient, I will write it for you as well as I can. Your other references I shall put straight where needed. I should start by saying that others made the real contributions to surfing huge Ireland. I did go there for my honeymoon as the customs had temporarily removed my passport. A Vietnam war vet loaned us his caravan at Easkey (damned if I can remember the Gaelic spelling but it had at least 5 x the number of vowels). And no doubt rendered properly all the subtleties of one of the dozens of Irish accents. I surfed big Easkey alone. Except for some really big sharks. It’s at the mouth of the river and they were no doubt gathered for the salmon run. I almost doubted my eyes but others will tell you that, at Spanish Point, (in the pub?) you can find fotos of huge sharks and the anglers that caught them off the beach. Also, when I got out of the water my wife who was warming my undies on the car heater and pouring an Irish Whisky for me, said “Did you see those sharks?” Before I married, I drove around all of the UK and Ireland when I returned to the UK from Australia, selling jewellery. I made three circumnavigations of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, living from a Fiat van.

I did a lot of surfing by myself. I don’t think many people could truthfully say that they really enjoy surfing alone. I did so on Lanzarote long before there were locals there and of course the place is fairly intimidating. But I had a lovely surf on the huge beach just south of Malin Head. I had spoken to a local woman in a cottage and she said that there could be surf there that extended to the horizon (or some like Irish exaggeration) but there was none the day I was there. I’d come over on the ferry from Scotland where I’d been surfing as well as (er?) working. So I went for a run and halfway up the beach (a mile?) I came across a beautiful 5′ peak, light offshore in clear blue water. So! I ran all the way back to my van, got my board, ran all the way to the peak and surfed 2 hours with the 1000′ high cliffs disappearing, blue to the south. Magic day.

We all had people who influenced us and perhaps gave us the courage to make a break with what we were “supposed to do” with our lives. I’ll mentioned one or two I’d like to credit as we go.

I followed your links and it is bonkers how nostalgic it is to see the old fotos and the old faces. Please do send my very warmest regards to Sid, Rog and Sue Backhouse, I always remember for their brilliant house at the bottom of which cliff? where? Rory I remember for the green ? Bilbo with the terrific arrow on the deck. I swear it made the board go twice as fast at Compton Fields. John Ainsworth was a lovely, gentle fellow and a good surfer. For the record, I’m as full of admiration for those people who made the Island their home and the centre of their surfing existence, as for any emigrants from the Island! Of course, Islanders took their adventures in the wide world. But they returned home to a place unique in the world. Has anyone else seen the Shingles Bank going off? I did once at about 6-8′, from somewhere near the Needles! A left and a right peeling down each side.

Today is Saturday. I’ve got some clients coming to pick up a race paddleboard and surfboard I’ve built with Chilean Myrtle veneer and a vacuum-bagged epoxy laminate with some carbon. I really only make boards for my own amusement. I can’t get properly paid for that sort of work but I am past bored with what I call (with reference to the band), “Average White Boards”. The board’s a quad. I veneered the paddleboard too which was shaped in Styrofoam. I’ve got to get a lot of stuff ready for the 5000k round trip drive to Cactus and I’ll enjoy writing the story if I get my electrickery spot on.

I’ll start with France as it launched from the Island………..