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I believe this is what the youths these days call, “van life.”
The first time I drove from Crescent Head to Byron Bay was in November when I was still fresh to Australia, and I drove straight through without any stops because I didn’t really know any better! It’s only four hours and easily doable in one go, but I’m now aware that there are some really amazing surf spots along the way. I’m fortunate enough to be able to take my work wherever I go, so I had the luxury of taking my time getting back to Byron.
Right after I finished writing last week’s post, I checked out all of the thrift stores that Port Macquarie had to offer, and with a sick new (old) pair of coveralls in hand, I drove to Coff’s Harbour for an afternoon surf. It was totally blown out, so I took this as a sign to continue my East Coast Op Shop tour. The thrift shops in Coff’s were the first I’ve seen in Australia that actually resemble the American ones - dusty warehouses filled with junk and clothes that are hung up with no rhyme or reason and no size or color coordination... just the way I like it. Although I didn’t find any treasures, I felt right at home in that environment and tried on 80s prom dresses until the stores closed.
While the city is interesting to check out, it’s not really a great place to try to free-camp on the streets, so I drove another 15 minutes north to the sleepy village of Emerald Beach and parked up for the night. I woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean, of which I had a lovely view straight from the comfort of my van. The waves were about ankle to knee, but a couple of locals were making it look fun, so I tossed my wetsuit on and paddled out for a few. As I sat and waited for a crumbly closeout, I looked at the headland directly to my right, and up at the top on a grassy plateau were five kangaroos, perfectly lined up as they grazed for their breakfast. While there are a lot of close seconds, that may just have been the most ‘Straya moment I’ve had thus far.
I’d heard great things about the next surf spot on my trip (keeping the name of the spot anonymous), so I hit the road right after my magical morning surf. As these things tend to go, this hyped up spot did not deliver that day. The incoming swell was a bit late, and I wasn’t too keen to sit around and wait until it filled in, like I did in Crescent all those months ago. Instead, I drove into the nearby town of Woolgoolga - which I still struggle to pronounce - for, you guessed it, more thrift shopping! The op shops in Byron are so limited, I felt like I needed to take advantage of these rural towns’ potential gems! I struck out and drove another hour and a half to Yamba, where I went on my mini road trip a month ago. The waves were junk there too, but I ran into a friend randomly walking down the main street, and we got to watch the most epic lightning storm happening just out to sea!
The next day the swell had filled in just enough to surf the main point on longboards and midlengths, but was pretty small for anything under 7’6. This is a shortboard-heavy area, so it was super uncrowded and super fun! While I was surfing, a familiar face paddled out - Oceanside’s own Taylor Jensen, the 2017 WSL Men’s Longboard World Champion! Taylor and his wife Nava, also a professional longboarder that happens to be the daughter of the legendary Nat Young, split their time between California and New South Wales with their young daughter (and another on the way!). Running into Taylor just continues to support my theory that the longboarding world is so small, you can paddle out almost anywhere in the world and find someone you know!
It was my friend’s birthday that day, so after surfing, I made the final leg of my journey back to Byron Bay. This region of Australia has so many special places to visit and surf, I feel so lucky that I have had this time to explore all of its nooks and crannies!