With more than 80 percent of Australians living within 30 miles of the coast, the beach has become an integral part of the Aussies’ laid back lifestyle. Now that I’ve been living here for a little over a month, it’s about time I pick up a knack for some water sports.
For this weekend excursion, I packed my backpack and headed two and a half hours south of Sydney to Seven Mile Beach, Gerroa for SURF CAMP.
Growing up, I never had the opportunity to participate in a sleepaway summer camp. But this place allowed me to finally fulfill that experience! From bunk beds in bungalows to subpar bathrooms, and from barbeques to group guitar playing and sing alongs, I’m grateful I said “yes” and signed up for this incredible experience.
The camp program was promoted at an exchange students meeting my university had, so we got $100 off our camp package-- a pretty nice deal. The package I was apart of was the “Weekender.” Here’s how it all went down:
The weekend started off with a 5:45pm meet up at Wake Up! Hostel, located right across the street from Sydney’s Central Station. I went with a group of my friends, but was very impressed to see the diversity of the 100 other campers I’d be spending my weekend with. There were students from all over (Spain, Ecuador, Canada, Mexico) all stoked to have a great surf weekend. Typically, the program's director would herd us onto a double decker coach bus for the trip to the campsite. However, since my friends and I arrived to the meeting point early and there weren’t enough seats on the bus, we were booted to the train group. Sydney’s public train system is really nice--double deckers with padded seats and some of the chairs have the capability of rotating, making it nice to sit face to face with a group of people. The train ride was about three hours long and it didn’t have quite the scenic view, but we played card games and jammed out to some tunes to pass the time. It was nearly 10:00pm by the time we arrived to the campsite. We were ushered into the open common area where the picnic tables were located to go over ground rules and split up into cabins. After room assignment, we dropped off our bags and headed to the beach. The clear night sky allowed for some awesome stargazing. Exhaustion from traveling got the best of me so the night ended shortly after that.
All the campers were divided into two groups -- my friends and I were part of group two, so we had a latter wakeup call.
On Day One of Surf Camp, it rained on and off throughout the day, but according to the instructors this was a good time to be out. Apparently the rain makes the ocean water warmer. To start off, we had two lessons, each lasting about two hours. The lessons were extremely helpful; we learned everything from standing up to learning how to check for the perfect surfing conditions (analyze the wind, waves, and tide). We started the lesson on the beach, first learning how to push ourselves up and then how to position our feet on the surfboard. After that, we then headed into the water to put our newfound surf knowledge to the test. At first, it was hard to determine how to gauge which wave to catch. But after a couple nose dives later, I managed to get up a few times and by the second lesson I was taking waves in consistently. Throughout the lessons, the instructors were also coming around and offering campers one on one help, which was super helpful. They were also taking pictures which we would then get to see at the end of the weekend. By the end of the second lesson, the majority of the campers were able to stand up and ride the waves!
In between lessons, we had some down time where we were able to just relax in hammocks or enjoy the other camp facilities (ping pong, foosball, pool). We also had some very Australian meals- burgers for lunch and chicken, sausages and pasta for dinner! One of the instructors later joked that the burgers were made from kangaroo. I couldn’t gauge if he was kidding or not… I sincerely thought it was turkey. If that was my first experience eating kangaroo, I’d be a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to acknowledge it and fully enjoy it.
After dinner and a full day of surfing, we ended the night by heading to the local pub where we met a few locals and joined them on the dance floor. Gerroa is a nice, quaint little town. So this pub didn’t have the typical pub atmosphere feel. It reminded me more of a banquet hall fitted with a bar area and a makeshift stage for the live band. Nonetheless, everyone, including the locals, seemed to enjoy themselves! There was a 72 year old woman, with a cane in hand, dancing and singing along to “Mamma Mia” with us.
We had an earlier start (7am) on Day Two, as our group had the first surf lesson of the morning. We only had one lesson where we learned about turning, speeding up, and slowing down on the board. Surf conditions weren’t as great as the previous day’s, but it was still fun to be out in the water with friends. I felt pretty confident with the waves and my surfboard this time around. Our time on the beach was shorter, as the bus was heading back to Sydney around 6:00pm. We finished the afternoon off with ham sandwiches for lunch before packing our stuff. Overall, my surf camp adventure was such an outstanding experience. The camp’s staff were awesome and was it fun meeting so many new people. I’m sure I’ll be renting a surfboard in the near future and will continue to listen to reggae music every time I want to feel that surfer’s beach vibe.
Until the next weekend excursion *shaka sign*