Balls

Praia do Norte, Nazaré, on a good day. Would you go? Photo: ibaworldtour.com

ONE of the most radical things I’ve been lucky enough to experience through my travels is getting to see and surf waves I’d only previously seen in videos and magazines. Desert Point, Puerto Escondido, El Gringo and Mundaka are a few of the big-name spots I’ve ticked off the ol’ bucket list in the past few years and they’ve all lived up to expectations in terms of epic-ness and heart-in-your-mouth barrels. It’s a pretty sweet feeling paddling out to a spot you’ve heard so much hype about and drooled over for ages, and if you get a good one you can’t wipe the smile off your face for days. I’m currently in Nazaré, Portugal – a town with a wave so heavy I’ve heard it compared to Mexico’s Puerto Escondido and Mavericks in North California. Apparently an underwater canyon (one of the largest in the world), a geomorphological accident (I’m not gonna pretend to know what that means), leads Atlantic waves straight to this spot Praia do Norte almost without obstacles. This creates waves of unusual size compared to the rest of the Portuguese coast. It’s super massive and onshore today however and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit relieved at the conditions keeping me indoors watching cable instead of being really scared in frigid waters. Continue reading

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Wild

YESTERDAY I stood on a cliff looking out at the turbulent sea and said to my girlfriend something along the lines of, “fuck, it’s fucking windy”. 600 years ago old-timey medieval dudes in fruity hats used to stand on the same stretch of cliff and say to their girlfriends (probably), “good heavens Beatrice, I proclaim this to be the end of the world!” I’m currently in Sagres in the bottom left corner of Portugal and back in the day (i.e. when crew thought the world was flat) people considered the town – the furthest south-west you can go in Europe – to be the end of the earth. A guy called Henry the Navigator, the third kid of King John I of Portugal, became the driving force behind an age of exploration in Europe before he died in 1460, and obviously eventually everyone was like, “boy do I have egg on my face, there are heaps of other countries and places and Sagres definitely isn’t the end of the world”. But it really does have that ‘end-of-the-world’ vibe, as does the whole Algarve coast down here. 10-15ft swells regularly smack into the side of monstrous cliffs sending plumes of spray skyward, leaving you mesmerised, unable to look away. Continue reading

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Disposable

Dirty Dan (I think?) pulling in.

WHEN I was a little grom fresh on the bodyboard scene, my mates and I used to froth on disposable waterproof cameras. We could barely pull into the tube and aerials were only things you saw in videos, but we’d be in the water and when your mate was on the lens you dreamt of pulling into a heaving keg and seeing him sitting in the perfect spot with the camera pointed directly at you. In reality your mate would always be 20 metres away, holding the camera on a ridiculous angle while you scooped into a 1-ft mushburger but you still had visions of glory and cover-shots. And the anticipation after you dropped the camera off at the chemist for the film to be developed was almost too much to bear. ‘Come back in three business days,’ the heavily-made-up lady behind the counter would tell me, and exactly 72 hours later I’d hurriedly ride my bike back there to pick the photos up, often not registering the fact weekends and public holidays don’t count as business days. Not much has changed – I’m still a notorious photo-slut and I’ve started buying crappy disposable cameras again, hoping for someone to snap a turquoise-blue barrel shot of me to put up in the pool-room. The following photos were taken during a small, super-fun surf at Supertubes in Peniche, Portugal last week. I bought the camera for 30 dirhams (three Euros) at a Moroccan convenience store last month and I’d say the fare was well worth it. Continue reading

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Portugash

Shit got fun.

SORRY sports fans for the lack of updates this week. Internet access has been scarce since last Saturday but now I’m holed up in a flashy hotel room with WiFi and cable TV, so not only am I super comfortable and frothing out, I’m ready to update the shit out of ya. We arrived in Ericeira last Sunday after a big night on the sauce in Lisbon, hoping to score some Portugese juice. The forecast wasn’t looking pretty. Not long after meeting up with two mates from back home and jumping in our zippy rented Renault, we realised the weather was going to do its best to bend us over for the majority of the week. At times it felt as if the torrential rain and gale-force winds were going to tear down our two-bedroom bungalow, but it hung in there. The waves on the other hand, did not (to begin with). Ericeira’s famed reefs were being pounded by big swells but the wind was mashing it into a heaving chaotic soup, leaving us with little option than to drive north to nearby Peniche, which was also looking worse for wear. Continue reading

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Lisbon & Sintra

A castle thing. Europe is chock-full of them you know. We went to this one (Pena National Palace) in Sintra, Portugal and I took a photo of it (the one I'm captioning right now).

FEARINENGLISH is back on European soil folks. After what some might call a whirlwind three weeks in Morocco we jumped on a plane from Marrakesh on Wednesday, stopping in Madrid for a few boring hours before landing in Lisbon, Portugal, sans-passport stamp of course (damn you Schengen Agreement). We’ve had the classic tourist shoes on the past few days, walking around with our heads upturned bumping into stuff and taking heaps of photos of things. We went to what I read is the oldest bookstore in the world (I bought a Rudyard Kipling novel), strolled through an epic flea market, had some beers on a big hill overlooking the city with a cool local bodyboarder and went to check out a couple of films at the city’s annual documentary festival (one was about the Rwandan genocide, the other was about the death penalty in America, both films were good). Today we caught a train to nearby Sintra, home to some beautiful UNESCO World Heritage listed castles and palaces and junk, as well as one of the world bodyboarding tour’s annual events. Tomorrow we’re off to meet my friend Dan (of Premier Mousse fame) and another Adelaide fella who’s currently living in Europe, to scour the coast for waves. Take a look at some highlights from last week’s WCT surfing comp, which was held just north of here, and you’ll see why I’m so excited I may just wee my pants. Continue reading

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From the journal – Atlas/Sahara

SUN, Oct 16

Pretty radical day. Good feed for breakfast, then headed off to our first stops – some lush palmeries surrounded by barren earth and cliffs, then a stroll through the commanding Todra Gorge. Very cool, especially the gnarly rock climbers doing their thang. Mildred gave a local grom an Australian 5-dollar bill and he was frothing out and was the envy of his band of mates. A lengthy burst of driving followed, so I started reading the history of Morocco summarised in my guidebook, which was cool, then started on Jack London’s White Fang, which is cool ‘cos it’s about doggies. Next stop was bustling frontier town Rissani, where it was market day which of course meant our new tour guide took us to see the live cattle, sheep and donkey markets. Good old-fashioned animal cruelty. The streets and narrow souks were a feast for the senses, to borrow an oft-used phrase. The smells and colours flashed by so fast the mind couldn’t keep up with where each one was coming from. There were blacksmiths, barbershops, textiles shops, shoe repair shops, fruit and veg, and a Moroccan natural pharmacy selling an assortment of herbs, spices, alms, creams etc. I asked the proprietor whether he had anything I could use to rid my elbow of a couple of pesky warts and the next thing I knew I had a burning stick jammed into my arm, searing the flesh. He repeated this twice until I was left with a crispy charcoal scab. “I am a professional”, the guy assured me afterward. We bought some skin cream from him to give the fam as gifts back home and bailed after a mint tea. We then went to the back-room of a local store where we had lunch with the owner of the tour company, who is a guru and speaks seven languages. He told us how one previous customer had complained there was too much sand during his Sahara Desert tour. Continue reading

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Skunked

Taghazout.

MY week of surfing in Morocco is coming to an end, the wetsuit is slowly drying outside my window, my board leans against the wall waiting to be packed into my bag. It’s pretty safe to say I was skunked for surf during my first visit to Africa. I didn’t ride a wave over 2ft and I only pulled into two tiny tubes on the knee, both of which I didn’t make it out. One of the funnest sessions I’ve had was with the babe, standing up tandem on an 8ft foam surfboard. It was always going to be a gamble rocking up a little early in the season and hoping to score, especially since I didn’t research Moroccan waves whatsoever before I rocked up here in Taghazout in the country’s south. If my brain was screwed on properly I would’ve found out there were some better bodyboarding waves further north, near Casablanca and Rabat. If I had any sense I would’ve maybe visited Morocco in November instead to maximise my chances of scoring. And if I wasnt a complete dumbass I may have been checking the swell on the daily, only jumping coastal when I knew there would be waves. But hey, coulda, shoulda, woulda. Next stop is the Sahara Desert for a few days. I skipped the Amazon a few months ago, so this should make up for my world wonder street cred. Catcha. Continue reading

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Secret lives

Not our mate from the apartment but a local lass I spotted on my first visit to the beach in Morocco.

YOU might not know exactly what they are but I bet you’ve heard of burqas, ḥijābs and niqābs. But have you ever seen a Muslim woman de-robe then pound a shit-ton of hash?

There’s a lot of talk around the place about what Muslim women wear. Burqas (usually understood to be the woman’s loose body-covering, plus the head-covering and veil) aren’t that prevalent in Oz, yet – similar to many places in Western Europe – there are all these controversies with politicians saying the veil should be banned. Last year Aussie liberal senator Corey Bernardi labeled burqas ‘un-Australian’ and called on them to be banned. In 2009 French president Nicolas Sarkozy said burqas were “not welcome” in France, “In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity”. I’m not going to weigh into the debate here – I can see why some people see the veil as a symbol of the oppression of women but I also see no reason why they should be banned – people should be able to wear whatever the fuck they want as long as it doesn’t harm others. Continue reading

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Cats

Little Moroccan bundle of joy.

MOROCCO is littered with cats. It’s paw-satively brimming with them. You might say it’s the purr-fect destination for a connoisseur of fine felines. Classic gags. No but seriously I’ve never seen so many cats in my life; you can’t walk five metres in any town here without spotting 47 of the little fuckers in every shape and size imaginable. What’s even more bizarre is the nation’s lack of dogs. Many of the poorer countries I’ve visited on my travels have had problems with stray dogs. Indo immediately springs to mind, as do a bunch of South American countries. But in Morocco, dogs are an extreme minority. In fact in the first four days I spent here, I saw four dogs (that’s one a day for all you statistics nuts) – one of which we watched dying via violent seizures over breakfast one morning (jokes aside, this was one of the saddest most disturbing things I’ve ever seen). Compare that to the 47,656 cats I saw during the same time period and you get an idea of what we’re dealing with. Continue reading

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Beat It

Burroughs and Kerouac. Photo: guardian.co.uk

I’M typing today’s post from a room a hotel in Tangier, north Morocco, where Beat Generation icon, lover of fine heroin and gay sex William S. Burroughs wrote his famed novel Naked Lunch. His good pals Jack Kerouac (one of my favourite authors) and Allen Ginsberg used to stay here too when they came to visit Burroughs, so in theory I could be sleeping in one of the rooms the latter guys used to frequent (Burroughs apparently stayed in room number 9, I’m in no. 6).Unfortunately I won’t be able to channel any of the genius of these three gurus in this humble post, but I thought it was about time for an update – internet access has been scarce and I’ve been reduced to the odd internet cafe visit when I find one (rare), rather than my usual daily hostel/hotel room creep on the laptop. Anyways, I’m conscious that in my last post I may have given off a bit of a negative vibe about my first few days in Morocco. I was left with a sour taste in my mouth during three separate incidents (that’s what she said) involving sketchy locals, one of which I thought for a second was going to turn violent (lesson for the kids: drug dealers are in most cases bad guys, despite their often friendly demeanour). But since then we’ve experienced only good days, albeit days lacking action or intrigue. Yes, it’s been another of those laaaaid-back weeks, filled with cheap good food and sleep-ins that’d make even a fat lazy thirteen-year-old in his school holidays jealous with rage. Continue reading

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