Meth Heads, Road Trains & The Spoils Of The Australian Outback In Lockdown - Stab Mag

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"We actually forgot that COVID existed in West Oz. You didn't hear it, we weren't really using our phones. When you're living out the back of your car you're a lot more present. You wake up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when it goes down. There's not much distraction so we had no idea what was happening until we got into Sydney." Photo by Luca Salisbury

Meth Heads, Road Trains & The Spoils Of The Australian Outback In Lockdown

Watch former World Junior Champ Grayson Hinrichs in ‘Borderless’.

cinema // Jun 22, 2022
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Grayson Hinrichs won the U16 ISA World Juniors in 2018 at Huntington Beach out of nowhere. 

He surfed good, yes, and this was not doubted. But world junior champ material? That’s enough kava for you. Need a list of the mofos who’ve won that thing? Tom Curren, Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, Steph Gilmore, Tyler Wright, Caroline Marks, Tati, Owen, Sally…

You get the point. 

It just seemed like no kid from Bondi, Sydney’s most over-populated, average beach break, had any business being the best in the world, if even only for a day. And not because it was rough like the old days of scum valley were, littered with street urchins and under-fathered hoodlums hardened by generations of not enough or because sewage runoff that spilled out of the southern drainpipe put surfers at constant risk of contracting hookworm or because Bondi was largely Sydney’s cocaine underbelly and walking dark alleys for da dawn patrol in the early hours of the morning was never advisable.

Affordable housing or a sewer pipe in the middle of the beach? Your pick.

Quite the contrary. 

But because Bondi post-2000’s became souped up Range Rovers, active wear, suits, tourists, (more) blow and botox pretty quickly, a local hadn’t made the tour since Pauline Menzer, and as a kid there were now a million other ways to justify being distracted, jaded and soured by surfing south corner at dawn before the Let’s Go Surfing clowns ruined the party. 

But everything seems impossible until it is realized and Grayson did win the World Juniors and then backed it up with a winning Julian Wilson’s grom comp and it was all quite remarkable.

Back to back at ISA Worlds into JW Grom comp – Grayson on a heater. Photo by WSL

The fallout?

Bong rolled out the carpet for him, paid trips to Hawaii and Tahiti, provided him the sage North Shore mentorship of Shane Dorian, Matt Biolos made him a freshly minted quiver, and Surfing NSW inducted him into their High Performance Center athletic program. The royal treatment every aspiring pro surfer kid dreamed off. 

Except Grayson maybe, who put finding remote slabs and solo freediving Sydney Harbour to spear mammoth Kingfish which he’d tie to a skateboard and walk home, right at the top of his list of priorities above chasing the Q, pole greasing industry guys and vlogging his morning brew. 

Here is a photo journal of his 25,000 km West Oz trip where he fell in love, got berated by meth heads driving ‘road trains’ across the Nullabor, and scored the waves of his life, all while the country was going to shit with COVID. 

“We were building up the cars, just saving coin. We didn’t want a plan, we had a rough idea in our head of ending up in the northwest in three months. We crossed into WA about this time last year the day before the border shut, but we weren’t using HEMA at the time which is off-road navigation you need in the desert. Long story short, we ended up crossing through private property, and the property owner chased us down fuming, threatening to shoot us. It was wild, so we panicked and ended up turning ourselves into the cops. The cops in South Aus couldn’t have cared less…
“We were bad cooks, but we learned how to cook on the way.”
“We did that miserable drive across the Nullabor. Flat, straight, dry with road trains everywhere. They are these massive trucks, maybe 45 meters long with three separate carriages, and they would chop us clocking 150kph and tell us to get fucked on the radio. Drivers on meth 100%. There’s just no funding for police enforcement down there so they get away with it. Plus, I guess they keep Australia connected. 
“The border crossing was insane. So intense. Cops everywhere, people in hazmat suits, nurses, ambulances etc. We had a pet cactus that we’d brought across the country. Her name was Squishy. They threw her straight in the bin. It was like we were in Tijuana. A couple of days after we crossed the shut they border behind us unexpectedly. We ended up exploring some of the remote areas just west of the Nullabor. Beautiful landscape with no one around and tonnes of good salmon for diving. 
I put on a bit of a gut over there actually. There is so much driving in the west and south Oz. I ate so many roadhouse pies and drank so many choccy milks. I’d look down and just go ‘oh my god, it’s happening. I’m getting fat.’ It was an extra incentive to surf for longer. When we got to ******, I was pretty blown away. Probably the best waves I’ve seen. Long, reeling lefthand tubes is just not something you get much of on the East Coast. For a goofyfooter it is probably the sexiest sight in the world.” 
“We met a mechanic who let us use his workshop for free. The long roads beat your car to hell so we did all our own servicing there, changing filters and whatnot. He even helped us for free, he was a legend. His name was Joe.” Photo by Paddy Powers
“We were really adamant to work on a farm. Don’t know why but it sounded good in theory. The only place that had work and accommodation at the time was in Dunsborough in Margaret River. So all five of us started working at this vineyard together trying to make some dough. I think I had $60 left when I got my first paycheque. We got fired after a month and they brought in some huge Tongan units who must’ve been on special COVID VISAs. Can’t blame them either, they got paid half as much and did twice the work. We weren’t that bad but we also were having heaps of fun. Drinking at work, partying etc. In between we were surfing as much as we could.”
“We learned how to be independent. How to cook, clean, look after a car, look after yourself. Things you don’t get when you’re traveling with sponsors or an entourage. That was invaluable. It keeps you sane.”
“I recommend to anyone doing a Aussie road trip to check out the Flinders range. It’s a mission but it is worth it.” Photo by Paddy Powers
“We saw three big great whites in the West Aus region which was a bit of a wake up call. They just breached nearby and we didn’t do much diving after that. We also got some famous west Australian jewfish which was amazing to cross off the list.” Photo by Paddy Powers
“My parents were like ‘as much as we love you there is no point coming home, it’s hell here’. We actually forgot that COVID existed in West Oz. You didn’t hear it, we weren’t really using our phones. When you’re living out the back of your car you’re a lot more present. You wake up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when it goes down. There’s not much distraction so we had no idea what was happening until we got into Sydney. I was pretty rattled having to sign in everywhere and show a vaccine passport. It was like the stormtroopers had taken over or something. Being out in the desert, looking around and just seeing red dirt as far as the eye can see, no humans around, it’s a pretty special feeling.” Photo by Jethro James
“Yeah I always liked her at school so when she was asked to come on the trip I was like, ‘Yes! You can come with me”. And then, yeah, slowly we just got close. When you’re in such close proximity with someone for so long you like them but they’re also your best friend. That still applies now, we’re still best friends. It’s just nice to find someone willing to adventure, get out of their comfort zone.”
“In 2018 I won the world games and then went back to back at Julian’s and I was on a bit of a heater. Then COVID hit and it was that weird transition phase out of grom comps into adult competition. When comps came back I did a couple but I realized I wasn’t enjoying it. I was losing interest and it didn’t help that I had lots of other passions. I love my diving, foiling, editing, chasing waves. You need to be so disciplined to make it work in pro surfing and I’d rather invest money in doing trips and getting something out of it rather than torching money chasing the dream.”

You can check more of Grayson here.


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