Coming back to Sydney was like coming home for me. Between 1995 and 1996 I spent a year living in Australia with Mike Cowie, Foozeball Dave and my brother Jed. We were young and mostly what I remember doing was surfing and skateboarding. I spent most of my time in the little beach community called Manly which is just north and a short ferry ride from Sydney’s downtown. It’s a mix between Vancouver and San Diego in that the vibe is super chill and everyone is really nice, the upside being that there are no junkies or bums asking for change here in Manly. Living in Vancouver, Kits to be specific, I guess I have become somewhat used to the sketchy drugged out dudes asking for change every time I go to Whole Foods to pick up groceries. 20 years ago this was never a problem in Canada. North American society, specifically me I guess, is becoming desensitized and such things have become the norm. What happened to people’s values and self respect that such things are accepted as normal?
The beachside community of Manly, and from what we have seen of Sydney, is somewhat void of such things. Much like Kits, everyone is super fit, stylish, happy and are loving life. The culture somewhat revolves around the surf and all of the healthy living that goes with being by the ocean. Cafes line the beach front and every second person is carrying a surfboard, riding skateboards, or riding bikes. The waves out front are somewhat crowded, but even I was able to get more waves as I could count on the best of the 7 days that we were here. Some of the surfers were only wearing board shorts, but I was happy to have a shorty as the water was a little cool due to it being fall now. To my surprise, the waves were really great with lots of overhead peaks firing down the line. I had a blast!
Best of all is that the day after we arrived my good friends Andy and Nick, who I knew from when I worked at Manly Blades, took us camping about 4 hours south of Sydney. The plan was to surf heaps, but a massive storm that dumped 200mm of rain in 24 hours made the surf less than perfect. It was so great connecting with them and meeting their new families. Even though it has been 17 years since I have seen them, it was like we had been hanging out non stop without missing a beat.
We camped at a small beach community called North Durras and the place was teaming with Kangaroos. They were absolutely everywhere and it was pretty cool to see them bouncing all over the place. It wouldn’t be Australia without a spider or snake story. While camping there was a HUGE Huntsman spider about a foot from my head. Josi spotted it and screamed and I jumped. Andy told me that it was a “friendly” spider and that it is Ok to pick it up. He hinted a few times that I should, but I thought skip that, I can’t stand spiders! The next day he tells me that one of the same spiders bit his daughter not too long ago and he decided not to send her to school that day to keep an eye on her. Apparently it’s only poisonous if you react funny to it and regardless they can pack a mean bite. My rule of thumb, never pick up a spider. Luckily it didn’t rain the whole time and we were able to enjoy a big open flame BBQ and lots of stories by the fire.
Back in Manly, we stayed at a little guest house/hotel a couple of blocks from where I used to work and a half block from the beach. I loved living here because I was able to fit surfing into my daily routine. The pic above is Andrew catching a early morning wave just before we went for breakfast.
We toured Sydney and some of it’s many beaches with Josi’s friend Stephen, who lives in Manly as well. He is a member of the Manly LIfesaving Club and prefers to surf on a lifesaving board. It’s big and he rides it on his knees and to my surprise he was able to control it pretty efficiently. When we fly out to New Zealand Steven has offered for us to stay at this house right on the beach which is really great.
It was also really great to catch up with Bill and his wife Barb. Bill was my my boss when I worked here at Manly Blades (now called Skater HQ), and it was such a great place to work. Bill was great because he was good with business, and a the same time super laid back and all good times. We also connected with Josi’s Ausi friend Chris from back in Whistler who also lives in Manly. So many friends are now living in the same area!
On one of the days without much surf we took the harbour ferry into the city. SItting on deck and and seeing the famous Sydney Opera House from the water with the city skyline behind it is always a cool sight. We checked out the Museum of Art, which is free, and the art exhibits were all really great. We also had fun passing the time by taking photos for Orb Clothing. Had we had more time here we would have liked to check out a lot more of the sights, but on this trip surfing took priority and we made the most of it.
While there aren’t many, the few downsides to Australia are the distance from home back in Canada and the cost of living. Eating out and buying groceries seems to be about 35% higher than Vancouver. Real estate in the most desirable beach side locations is also hyper inflated. I guess if you are living and working here you don’t notice it as much as we do being tourists. It doesn’t help that we just came from Bali where things are so crazy cheep.
The upsides here in Australia far outweigh the cost of living that’s for sure. It’s nice here because when walking down the street people smile at you and say “good day” and the overall vibe is super friendly. There are loads of cool cafe’s and shops and the surf is right there. I could easily move back to Australia as it’s such good living and to my surprise, Josi totally loves it here as well.
Our next stop is to visit our friend Juliet and her son Ben who live in Melbourne for a week of checking out the city and cold water surfing.