The week we were waiting for had finally arrived: surf camp!
The morning of our travel day, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and passion fruit courtesy of Jess. After stuffing our bellies, we packed up our bags, piled into the van, and headed off to Crescent Head. We were all pretty excited; the place was definitely a step up from what we were used to (generally camping in the wilderness) and the idea of a pool, volleyball court, and the three meals a day that we didn't have to cook ourselves was enticing.
Although we couldn't wait to catch some gnarly waves, we began with two days of volunteer work with the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. We helped out with the clearing of Lantana and Bitou bush, introduced plants that have completely taken over the native bush and shrubbery of Australia by blocking out the sunlight and not allowing the native plants to grow. Our job was to remove as much of these invasive species as we could. We would chop the stem of the plant and then immediately squirt a couple blue drops of poison on the stump which would seep deep down into the roots killing in the plant. It wasn't easy. Sometimes, the main stem would be deep inside a bush and we had to crawl init on our hands and knees. Despite the fact that it rained the whole time we worked, everyone kept a positive attitude. After we finished, it was pretty cool to look at the new open space we had created out of what had been a huge, tangled mess. It felt good to contribute to such a meaningful issue and the park rangers were definitely grateful for our help.
When it was time for surf camp, we had about a forty-five minute drive to the place where we would surf. When we arrived at the beach, we slathered on some sunscreen, put our wetsuits on, and grabbed our boards. After a few minutes of practicing standing up on our imaginary boards drawn in the sand, we grabbed our real, foam mini mals and ran into the water. Surfaris surf camp had a number of great instructors to teach us during the next couple of days. We all started out on small breaking waves. We would paddle while the instructors would give us a little push from behind to help us catch the wave. We would try and stand up only to make it to our knees before immediately falling off. It took us a little while to get the feel for it. Each time we would make it a little further, making it to our feet a few tries later before falling off yet again. However, as the day progressed we all became so much more comfortable. We were able to stand up and ride the wave all the way into the beach. The sound of the waves breaking was replaced with the cheering and hollering at one another as they rode by. Everyone had a huge smile on their face.
It was impossible not to be having a good time. We surfed all morning and afternoon, stopping only for lunch. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted. Bruised and sore, we crawled into bed just after sundown. The next day, we honed our skills and were all standing up with ease as we took turns weaving in between the bobbing heads. It was amazing to see how far everyone had come considering the majority of us had never surfed before. We all had so much fun and gained a lot of confidence.