Surfing safari in wild, wild West
I AM on a surfing safari in the wild, wild West - that is the West Australian Coast of Australia having kicked off my trip with the Suzuki Longboard Tour at Mandurah, a bustling coastal town one hour south of Perth.
Mandurah means 'meeting place' in Aboriginal.
The tribes from north, south and east would meet along the sandy coastline for a shindig or corrobaree.
Nowadays the meeting place is the second fastest-growing area after the Gold/Tweed Coast, with oceanfront estate developments and canal motorways lined with glamorous homes and trendy cafe bars.
The venue for the second event of the Suzuki Longboards Tour was Surf Beach, fronting Secret Harbour, Rockingham, north of Mandurah.
Secret Harbour is an Oceanside estate with golf courses and a surf club on the beach and has bars, cafes and surf shops but no harbour as such. Apparently Bondy (Alan Bond) was keen to build a huge marina through the sandy dunes with ocean access, but the locals canned it - consequently no harbour, but the name stayed.
In the old days you needed a four-wheel drive just to get to the beach, but these days the latest Suzuki four-wheel-drives are employed to transport the easy-to-erect contest tents and p.a. sound system.
The event was to be held on the left-hand point of Avalon, further south of Mandurah at Falcon, but the swell wasn't big enough on Saturday and though it rose slightly on Sunday, it was too inconsistent, so Surf Beach, despite its straight-handers was the only option.
Sunday morning was actually quite fun, offshore waist-to-chest-high split peaks. The surfing standard was going off, with the new radical longboard-style based on the ASP criteria requiring greater variety and flow of repertoire, risk and commitment.
Meanwhile up the beach, free surfing shortboarders like local hero Stephen Knowler were boosting and punting air moves like Parko's 'superman air'.
Suzuki Longboards contest director Sean McKeown deserves a medal for his perseverance and dedication, having driven across the Nullabour from Rainbow Bay to Perth with all the gear. He only hit one kangaroo, and that was just before Perth.
Also joining the WA carnival has been former two-times World Professional Longboard champ Beau Young, son of Nat Young, now embarking on a musical career with his debut album, Waves of Change and performing at various locations along the tour.
Hawaiian longboard greats Bonga Perkins and Kekoa Umera (last year's number two be- hind World Champ Joel Tudor) didn't have to be talked into joining the Suzuki tour, as the Hawaiian boys have been on the Gold Coast and Noosa numerous times but have never ventured to the West Coast.
Bonga ended up winning the noseride final pocketing the $1000 winner-take-all cheque, which he will probably share with Kekoa who finished fourth in the final.
One of the oldest competitors in the competition Mick Marlin placed sixth in the 0/45's. Mick is 56 years old and a super legend.
Originally from North Narrabeen in the early 1960s, Mick bailed out of the contest scene in the late '60s and turned into a traveling soul surfer, surfing South Africa and then motorbiking around Europe and the UK before settling back down in the West.
As a goofy-footer it's no secret that there are more lefts in the West than the East Coast and he set up shop at Mandurah.
Mick is well respected and a local icon within the West Australian surfing community.
Talking of which, former top-16 ASPWCT West Australian surfing legend from the '80s and early '90s, Mitch Thorson, of Margaret River, tied the knot over the weekend.
Mandurah only catches half as much swell as 'Margs' and that's where Megan and I will be heading next before heading way down south to Denmark for the third event on the Suzuki Longboard tour.
Then we go back to Perth, jump in a deluxe campervan and head up to the north-west in pursuit of more gutsy left-handers.