Western Australia’s coast line is over 20,000km long, a mecca of uncrowded surf spots for the spirited. Join Salty and his three mates as they make the journey north in search of that perfect wave.
It’s organised chaos. The four of us meet at our mate Dave’s house to pile our belongings into two cars. We’re heading north of Perth to Red Bluff on Quobba Station to chase warmer weather and that perfect wave. We never seem to leave at the arranged time, but this is a good thing and a true indication of what we’re about to leave behind, the concept of time.
Very few people know about Quobba Station, as it requires some exploring in a 4WD. The land is only inhabited by sheep and goats on stations as large as 600,000 acres, which means we’ll have all the waves to ourselves. It’s also a location not all are fond of. You must pack all the water you need for your length of stay, there are no shops to purchase food from, the toilets are glorified holes in the ground (well managed), and there’s no phone reception. So for this boys’ trip, it’s perfect – a secluded oasis in the desert with waves and no babes.
It’s a 12 hour drive from Perth, but when you know what you’re in for, it’s worth it. To chase incredible waves that break above shallow coral reefs full of marine life. This journey is with my good friends Dave, Bryan and Sean. They’re all capable surfers, and as a group, we’ve made the pilgrimage up here for the past ten years.
One car is packed full of surfboards, and in the second, everything we need to survive when we’re not in the water. It’s a perfect setup really. One car can easily be emptied and freed up to roam the desert once we get up there. Having two kitted out 4WDs at these locations is essential. It takes away the stress of exploring beautiful and remote locations that would just not be possible in a 2WD, without risking serious damage to the car. It also puts our minds at ease at the thought of being seriously bogged with no other car in sight.
The drive is just as beautiful as the destination, where red dust meets the deep blues of the Indian Ocean. We drive late into the night, managing only half way as we pull over on a dirt track to roll out our swags. It is about 1am and just happens to be one of the coldest mornings in Western Australian history. We were not prepared for this! It wasn’t until we were all silent in our swags that we realised we had set up only a stone’s throw away from a rusted old windmill. The blanket of outback silence was broken by the sound of a squeaky old door being opened repeatedly, at 5 minute intervals.
As the sun rose, I woke up to look at my phone. It turned itself off several times before I could finally open the weather app and check the temperature. It was -2°c. Frost covered the car windows and my heater had stopped working, so it was windows down to keep the windscreen from fogging up. We threw our swags atop the 4WDs and got out of these harsh conditions as quickly as we could, our eyes all filled with tears and hands numb.
As kids, we used to make the same drive in a small 2WD, and we felt the dangers of driving during dawn and dusk. We only drove in daylight due to the high risk of kangaroos, emus, cattle, goats and sheep, all susceptible to roaming across the roads. We feel much safer now, embarking on the same journey in our 4WDs with solid bull bars, fixed with high-powered spotlights, giving us the clearer vision and a safety barrier between us and the animals.
Our hearts race as we finally summit the last hill before reaching the coast. We’re greeted by the warmth of the sun glistening off the Indian Ocean. We still have several hours of sunlight remaining, so we deflate the tyres to 22psi for the gravel/sand and aim for an amazing surf spot we can’t wait to reach.
We coast over the dunes to a visually pleasing corduroy horizon of waves, carving their way across the seafloor towards us with no one else around. Our smiles are so big they seem to jump off our faces. We’ve made it!
We all manage to sneak some amazing waves that afternoon, the winds are perfect and the bay remains completely empty besides our two cars. Dave snapped his board, which is never a good start to any surf adventure, but we laughed it off over beers later that evening.
As the sun began to set, we rode our last waves to shore and a pod of whales gracefully decided to join us, welcoming us back to our favourite spot in the north-west. We were spoiled by a stunning display of their power and sheer size as they played. One beautiful bay, full of marine life and no one else but us. A great reward after a long day of 4WD exploring and wave chasing.
It gets dark quickly up here, so we pack the boards into the car, crack a beer to celebrate our arrival as the whales slowly drift away. We then recommence our slow, kangaroo-dodging crawl to our camp spot, which is a 30 minute drive away.
It’s 7pm when we arrive at the empty campsite, exhausted from the six hours of driving and the three hours of surfing. The dinner is very simple that night and complimented by more than a few cold beers as we all sit back staring at the flickering flames of our campfire.
The following several days are somewhat systematic yet timeless and constantly changing, not usually words you’d hear in the same sentence. When you’re on a surf trip a day basically unravels as follows:
1. Wake up to check the waves in front of camp to see if it’s worth surfing there.
2. If the waves are no good then it’s a decision whether to drive further north or back south to other surf options. And repeat.
Either way it’s a very quick pack of the boards into the car, along with a poorly prepared breakfast of ‘whatever I could reach with my eyes not quite open’.
The sun is peeking over the horizon as we race around the dusty red desert in search of beautiful, isolated surf spots only accessible via 4WD and a good knowledge of the area.
Most days we don’t return until after dark. They are long days but there’s something so beautiful about returning to camp, starting the fire and being so ‘surfed out’ that you feel your body is melting through the chair.
We had one set of rain-filled clouds sweep over our ‘home in the desert’ that defintiely made a wet mess of the dirt roads. The long puddles of mud were knee deep and made for some fun when you’re racing one another to the surf breaks. One car ended up under a wave of red mud within the first few minutes. This mud tends to stick to the car like super glue.
As we begin our drive back home, the 4WDs stick out like a sore thumb. So as we hit the busy roads of the metropolis, our cars were dirty and screamed adventure, a vivid reminder of our youthful exploration!
Salty is an internationally acclaimed photographer who’s passionate about his constant search for new personal and photographical challenges. His work is widely renowned for pushing the limits and blurring the lines of lifestyle and adventure photography. You can keep up with Salty’s latest work at www.saltydavenport.com and on Instagram and Facebook.
Caleb Davenport’s goal is to explore the raw and rugged Australian landscapes, capturing the uniqueness of the land we live in whilst raising awareness to its fragility.