Surfing In Darwin Is As Unpleasant As You’d Think
These guys and gals endure quite a bit for a waist-high burger.
At first Darwin surfer Anton Gallacher thought the Indigenous people running along the beach toward him clapping and waving their hands over their heads were just excited to see someone surfing. Then he turned around.
“There’s a three meter croc, 30 to 50 meters away, just lurking, stalking,” he says.
It was the second time he’d nearly been snuck up on by a saltwater crocodile, one of the world’s deadliest and most stealth predators. Anton thinks they’re “getting more keen, too.”
On another occasion he was stung on the arm by a deadly box jellyfish. He survived due to the fact the tentacle had been ripped whole off the organism during the storm he was surfing in. On top of that, there’s also Tiger Sharks cruising the area, feasting on the abundance of giant, exotic fish that inhabit Australia’s rugged, ephemeral top end. The water is brown and muddy, there’s mangrove sticks floating around that require dodging, and the waves are some of the worst imaginable — sloppy wind swells delivered by close-to-shore cyclones and tropical low pressure systems.
“Picture storm swells, but without any shape or rules,” says Anton, though he adds: “ That’s the whole thing about it. There is just surf for maybe a month or two months of the year (during the wet season), and you just do whatever you can to get it.”
Anton was introduced to surfing during a trip to Bali when he was 10. Bali is only a three hour flight from Darwin, meaning many of the local hardcore surf crew make monthly and bi-monthly trips to the island. While there for the first time, Anton’s father took him to the warungs of Uluwatu to watch a solid, groomed swell do its thing. And who else was out there but Mr Pipeline himself, Gerry Lopez.
“That was the first time in my life I’d seen real waves and I was just in complete awe,” he recalls. “These guys were riding these giant waves… they had hot chicks, they were drinking beers, they looked like they were having the best time. I was hooked straight away.”
He returned to Darwin, determined to learn to surf. By 14 he was capable enough to stand up and ride along the typically knee to waist-high waves, later achieving his dream of dropping into a bomb at Ulu’s. Surfing in Darwin might be the kind of surfing lifestyle many of us would do anything to avoid, but as Anton points out, it’s all a matter of context.
“I have had some glorious days out there surfing,” he says. “Especially being from the NT (Northern Territory), it’s not everyday you get to to go surfing with a group of people you grew up with, and I think that part of it makes it special.”
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