"It was the strangest thing I ever saw, a tableau of the surfing experience painted so perfectly you couldn’t deny its brilliance, even if you disagreed with its right to exist."
So that’s what it feels like.
My surf pool cherry’s been popped, after a lifetime of waiting. No last-minute injuries or mud storms could stop me: a 24 hr FIFO mission to URBNSURF Melbourne (at my own expense), with six hrs spent in the pool.
It was the strangest thing I ever saw, a tableau of the surfing experience painted so perfectly you couldn’t deny its brilliance, even if you disagreed with its right to exist.
Yes, it raises many ethical quandaries.
It will continue to have its opponents, and in some cases rightly so.
But jeez, it was fun as fuck. An artificial high indistinguishable from the real thing. Stoke on demand.
Or, to quote one barrel-soaked punter after our twilight Beast mode session, “That was better than my first pinger.”
Here’s some notes:
I managed to jag a group booking with thirty-five other souls. All “advanced” surfers, to use the pool lingo. This meant we had the entire tub to ourselves and could switch from left to right at will, as long as we kept the numbers balanced. Plus, we could change the settings as conditions dictated.
We had two x three-hour sessions. Two hours on turns, one hour on advanced tube, three hours on Beast.
I spent five hours and forty-five minutes of my six hours on the right. Because, why go left when you can go right?
(A fun tidbit: I’m not actually a goofyfooter. I’m also not actually Munga Barry.)
I took my Holy Grail and a back up Sam Egan fish. Would take a performance twinny as an all-rounder next time.
The wind affected the tube, as nature intended. First session under a light WNW breeze had most barrels makeable. A brisk southerly on the second day ruined the party like, well, a brisk southerly.
(Surely there is an easy fix for this? Stack some of those shipping containers up the southern end as a wind break?)
Water temp hovered around twenty (sixty-eight Fahrenheit). Air temp typically fluctuated. Long arm springy was comfy for the evening, two mm steamer for the cool early morning. Boardies and vest (or less if particularly hot) would be fine during the day.
Eleven-to-twelve wave sets. A minute or two downtime between. Guaranteed a wave almost every set. Not once was I left wanting, or feeling the wait was too long.
Lost count of total waves ridden.
When at full complement, the eighteen surfers per side were packed very tightly. You ran more risk of damaging a board in the queue then you did on the wave.
No hassling observed. Everybody got their fill. Some card counting came into play towards the end of the second, wind-affected day – the first four waves of each set on the tube settings were always the best, whereas backwash started to impact some (but not all) waves thereafter. The twelfth wave only broke every second set and was sometimes a bit smaller.
There were no injuries reported from the entire group. Only one snapped nose, and a lot of very sore bodies. The Beast packs a punch and I copped a few nasal blastings, but I never truly hit the bottom. Had more run-ins with the wiring mesh on the pier than I did with anything else.
The amount of water moving around, particularly towards the end of the set, made paddling back to the pier difficult if you blew a wave. Better to ride it all the way in catch the rip back out from the inside.
Sitting at the top of the queue facing the wall felt like being a petulant child placed in the naughty corner. There was no way a wave could come from here, you would think. But on cue the whistling would start, the water would dip and a triangle would form in front of you.
Spin, paddle, hug the wall and drop in.
Take off on all settings was easy. I have a habit of getting in my own head and often fucking up basic functions – and you are ridiculously close to the wall – but I only blew one take off the entire time. That was towards the end of hour six and more due to fatigue than anything else. (I also fucked up countless turns/barrels FWIW.)
Advanced turns: A fun drop into the first section naturally loaned itself to an off the top. But immediately the effect of the freshwater was felt. Top turns stuck and even with my well-volumed EPS I wriggled from rail to rail like an eighties quey warrior. I’m not usually much of a fin person, I’ll just go with whatever, but for the pool I had a new set of Kolohe larges in the Holy Grail. I’d ridden a borrowed set on fun bowly rights (in the ocean) and was so impressed I immediately went and bought some.
But in the pool they felt draggy, slow. Something looser was needed.
Regardless, it was still eminently rippable once you adjusted. Most waves offered ample space for two or three turns, with an end section of varying quality.
Advanced tube setting was a lot of fun, despite being slightly wind affected. Another easy roll-in with a gentle cutty/carve section to begin with, before a speed stall and squish into an enjoyable little tunnel. The below photo was wave three of the set so still quite clean, after that they were more warble and chandelier-affected.
Ahhh Beast mode. My sin, my soul.
I was expecting some sort of old school Kirra groyne below sea level grinder with the associated low make rate. It certainly was thick, but I actually found it relatively manageable, again thanks to the easy roll-in, and similarity to a local ledge. These were legit, heavingt nuggets that opened up a lot more cleanly than the advanced tube setting.
I took the advice of Swellnet‘s Stu Nettle to stay low, and angle lower. Nose directed almost to the beach to wipe off speed before a quick correction to get up and under the lip. An immediate short but intense cover up, no slow-motion cascading lip or time to appreciate it. But a damn fun tube with some wickedly surreal vision, especially when the lights came on late.
I had a solid tube make rate on day one, way better than I would in the wild, and I’m no Jim Banks. However, this was impacted again by the wind on the second day, I made less in two hours than I did in one hour the night before.
It was my absolute personal highlight, though, and the thought of getting it on a true “offshore” day has me salivating.
But each of the settings on their own was worth more than the price of admission.
There was way less paperwork and red tape than I imagined, and super friendly staff. Very keen to help in any way. One of the guys even threw a directional shaka when I asked where I could buy a bottle of water from.
How stoked must he be?
We pretty much had the joint to ourselves the whole time and only caught a glimpse of the session before ours. But it was immediately obvious the skill set of other surfers varied widely… Whether this would be a plus or a minus for a competent surfer, I cannot say.
My quick take?
Qui- lit has already established the decrepit nature of the contemporary surf grump. Lives, family, loved ones are placed on the sacrificial altar in exchange for our fix.
We are all compromised by our selfishness, our wonton gluttony. Why not at least condense it?
So just do it.
Leave your apprehensions at the door, and score some guilty pleasure.
For me, the only real question is: when should we book the BG group day?