The Top Springtime Surf Destinations

A reef slab somewhere in NSW, Australia.

A reef slab somewhere in NSW, Australia.

In the past few weeks little pulses of southern hemisphere swell energy have lit up the reefs, points and beaches of the Pacific Coast from Chile to Canada. San Diego does especially well this time of the year with combo swells firing up beach breaks across the county. Here’s a guide to your best travel choices to catch springtime swells.

Trestles: You’re going to fight crowds and the some of the world’s best surfers at the top of their game. But if you want to surf some of the best lined up waves designed for high-performance surfing, than Trestles—Middles, Lowers, Uppers, and Cottons—is the best game around. Don’t like crowds—then surf at midnight. Just remember that we all need to fight to Save Trestles.

WCT surfer Heitor Alves was ripping. He made this.

WCT surfer Heitor Alves was ripping at Trestles. He made this.

San Diego County Beachbreaks: Our more than 70 miles of coastline suck in combo swells this time of the year. Beachbreaks especially do well in the springtime when multi-directional ground and wind swells can make random beachies fire for a couple of hours or a few days.

Baja: Southern Baja can light up with southern hemi swells. The surf can go from flat to overhead in a few hours and then die just as fast. Winds are notoriously fickle on the Pacific side and water temps plummet through June. The dreaded northeasterly winds on the East Cape can kill your epic session in about five minutes. Baja has a rhythm all its own but bring along a fishing pole, SUP, and a friendly attitude, you won’t be sorry.

Serge Dedina dawn patrols remote Baja

Serge Dedina dawn patrols remote Baja

Vancouver Island: Snow capped peaks, bald eagles, friendly surfers, fun beachbreaks and mysto reefs, along with great springtime snowboard and ski runs make this Canadian adventure outpost worth a visit. Great food and arguably some of the most beautiful surfing vistas on the planet make this island and its wave-riding capital of Tofino one of the most unusual and worthwhile surf destinations in North America.

It is cold but beautiful on Vancouver Island. Somewhere near Tofino.

It is cold but beautiful on Vancouver Island. Somewhere near Tofino.

Mainland Mexico: Pick a point or beachbreak. There is a reason why some of the world’s best and bravest surfers flock to iconic and heavy waves like Pascuales and Zicatela. There is no other location on the planet where you can as easily and cheaply score barrels that can spit you out into the light of day or grind you into the sand. The mellow points and reefs of Punta de Mita, Saladita and Sayulita offer a more fun reality for less danger inclined surfers. All in all, mainland Mexico is arguably the most cost effective and wave-worthy destination on the planet. If you’re adventurous there are thousands of miles (literally) of wave-rich coastline that largely go unridden.

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Central and South America: Pick a country. Chile for long left points and the opportunity to ski and board early season snow. Peru for even longer lefts and the world’s best ceviche. Nicaragua for offshore A-frames and El Salvador for perfect but crowded right points. Ecuador is the newest surf destination with warm water, consistent waves and a friendly vibe.

Australia and New Zealand: Unfortunately prices have shot up, so make plans to camp and cook your own food, but with some of the world’s most beautiful and iconic landscapes and diversity of waves, Oz and Kiwi-Land are great surf and adventure travel destinations.

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Why you travel to Australia-it doesn’t get any better than this.

So get out there. Whether you’re at La Jolla Shores, Bells or Chicama, remember that the more experiences and adventures you have, the happier you will be. And congrats to Brazilian surfer turned San Clemente local Adriano de Souza for his victory at the Bells Rip Curl Pro and all of the other ASP surfers for putting in awe-inspiring performances at one the world’s most iconic surf contest venues.

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Keeping the Stoke Alive

During a recent trip to Mexico, a hurricane that slammed the coast of Oaxaca a week before rearranged the sand banks at a remote point. I took a two-mile march up the coast, noticed a new post-hurricane wave spinning down the beach and paddled out.

Out in the lineup a set came. I caught the first wave and drove down a head-high wall that kept slightly open as it peeled along a narrow sandbar.

For me the essence of living a stoked life is being able to see and try new experiences and tap into the energy of the ocean.

I met my wife Emily in 1985 on my first day as a UCSD study abroad student in Lima, Peru. Emily, who is from Wisconsin, had just turned 20. I was 21.

We immediately realized we shared a passion for adventure, the outdoors and the ability to laugh at our misfortunes. Soon we were clambering up rocks to reach 16,000-ft. alpine lakes in the Andes and exploring the culturally rich coast of northern Brazil.

A few years after our marriage in 1989, we found ourselves living in a 14-foot trailer in an off-the-grid fishing village in Baja with our Australian Shepherd Chip while we carried out graduate research on gray whales.

At the end of our two-year stay in Baja, Emily became pregnant with our oldest son Israel and we moved back to the U.S. Three years later my youngest son Daniel was born.

That is when life got really good.

Before my children were born I was pretty much over the marginal conditions of the beach break I grew up surfing. As soon as my two sons were old enough to enjoy the beach, all of a sudden the mundane became exceptional.

A normal day at the beach became the best day ever.

With kids you get to experience everything new again and again. Their laughter as they jump over waves holding my hand and their joy the first time they surf a real wave.

A few years ago, the boys and I hiked down to Black’s Beach on one of the best days of the winter. Normally I would have avoided the super-packed lineup of one of the world’s best beach breaks like the plague.

But whereas I was frustrated trying to compete with the likes of Jordy Smith for set waves, the boys were stoked to share waves with one of their heroes.

After a few waves I went in and found surf photographer Jeff Divine on the beach.

“You know, with kids, everything is an adventure,” he said.

Six months after that experience at Black’s, Emily was kind enough to let me take the boys to Australia for six weeks to live in a van while we chased cold and powerful winter surf along the New South Wales and Victoria coasts. Emily came over and spent an additional month with us, which included a trip to New Zealand.

The memories of our adventures—finding perfect, empty waves in Ulladulla, watching Daniel light up as we encountered a mob of kangaroos on a wild beach, surfing Bell’s Beach, hiking around glaciers in New Zealand and watching tiny penguins waddle up a beach on Phillip Island—will be embedded in my memory for the rest of my life.

I have never had much money, and I am not sure how to go about making much of it. My life is richer for all the experiences I have had and the family that is my greatest joy.

What has kept my stoke alive are those moments of transcendence in which something new brings my family together around shared adventures, experiences and making the world a better place.

Saving our Surfing Heritage Through World Surfing Reserves

One of the most innovative tools for the conservation of surf spots has been the development of Surfing Reserves. Pioneered by Brad Farmer in Australia, the Davenport-based Save the Waves Coalition has taken the lead on organizing the development of a global network of World Surfing Reserves.

Serge Dedina: Why do surfing areas need to be designated as Surfing Reserves?

Katie Westfall: Natural surf breaks are important public recreational resources. Unspoiled surf spots are unique and rare and important for their ecosystem services, recreational, aesthetic, educational, and economic values. On a global scale, surf breaks have been destroyed by coastal development and threatened by water quality issues or closure of beach access. In California alone, several surf spots have been destroyed along the coastline, including Killer Dana and Corona del Mar in Orange County and Stanely’s in Ventura County. Through World Surfing Reserves (WSR), we are proactively working to prevent this from happening to the most amazing surfing areas on the globe.

Dedina: What does a World Surfing Reserve status mean?

Westfall: Designation as a World Surfing Reserve means that an area has been formally recognized by a worldwide group of experts, the World Surfing Reserve Vision Council, as a globally significant surfing ecosystem. Once approved, the local community makes a long-term commitment to protect the area’s coastal and marine resources and creates a Local Stewardship Plan that outlines exactly how this commitment will be carried out. World Surfing Reserves staff in turn helps to build the capacity of the local community in threat response, stewardship, and community outreach and education, which are the three elements that form the fabric of managing a World Surfing Reserve.

Ericeira World Surfing Reserve, Portugal. Source: World Surfing Reserves.


Dedina: Where did the concept of surfing reserves come from?

Westfall: Surfing reserves can be traced back to the 1973 when the Victorian government in Australia officially established the first reserve at Bells Beach. National Surfing Reserves Australia (NSR) was formed in 2005, which was a pioneering program that created a blueprint for surfing reserves in Australia.

In 2009, Save The Waves Coalition partnered with NSR Australia and the International Surfing Association (ISA) to launch World Surfing Reserves, with the goal of adding layers of protection to world’s most iconic surf breaks and educating people about the tremendous value of these special places.”

Bell's Beach, the world's first Surfing Reserve. The area is now threatened.

Dedina: Are there more than one type of surfing reserve?

Westfall: Reserves can either designate an individual “wave break,” which includes just one surf spot, or can designate a “surf zone,” which includes multiple waves along the coast. The two types of Reserves are essentially managed in the same way.
Dedina: What surf spots globally and in California are now World Surfing Reserves?

Westfall: Currently, three World Surfing Reserves have been officially dedicated including Malibu in California, Ericeira in Portugal, and Manly Beach in Australia. Santa Cruz has been approved and will be dedicated as a World Surfing Reserve on April 28th. The official dedication ceremony for Santa Cruz will include an evening fundraiser on Friday, April 27th as well as the official dedication on April 28th, with a paddle out at the Pleasure Point at 10am and a ceremony at Steamer Lane at 1pm. The general public is invited to attend all the events of the dedication ceremony. For more information about the event, people can visit the WSR website.

Dedina: What is the process for evaluating and then designating a World Surfing Reserve?

Westfall: Communities interested in designating their local break or breaks as a World Surfing Reserve will first submit a brief Letter of Inquiry (LOI) to World Surfing Reserves. If the LOI meets the minimum criteria, then communities are invited to submit a full application to World Surfing Reserves. The WSR Vision Council, which is a global group of leaders from the surfing, environmental, scientific, media and business communities, then votes on whether or not the application is approved. The application is evaluated by four criteria: 1) quality and consistency of the wave or surf zone; 2) unique environmental characteristics of the area; 3) surf and ocean culture and history of the area; and 4) local community support.

Manly Beach World Surfing Reserve.


Dedina: Is the key criteria having a local stakeholder/stewardship group?

Westfall: Local community support for establishing a World Surfing Reserve is one of the main criteria for approval. Applicants must show broad support from local businesses, community groups, nonprofits, governmental agencies, etc. Once a World Surfing Reserve has been approved, a Local Stewardship Council, a group of seven members from the local community, is created and oversees the management of the Reserve. It is very much a grassroots effort dependent on support at the local level.

Killer Dana, before the Dana Point Marina killed it. This was a complex and important coastal and marine ecosystem. Now it is one of the most polluted areas on the Southern California coastline.


Dedina: Some have criticized World Surfing Reserves as having little teeth to prevent threats. Are there concrete examples of WSR status helping to reduce a threat or enhancing a surf spot’s conservation status?

Westfall: We see the WSR designation as a starting point rather than the finish line. We are planting the seeds of surf spot protection in the four WSR sites, and Local Stewardship Councils have been established for each site. These members serve as the guardians of the Reserve. These councils are identifying the needs for increased protection, which may include more stewardship, policymaking, better coastal planning, etc. The program is still in its infancy, and in the next couple of years we will be able to assess if these efforts are leading to more effective threat responses and increased stewardship of the coast and ocean.

WSR is essentially creating community around the protection of valuable surfing resources and increasing the number of tools available. Even locations that have significant legal protection can come under threat, but the more tools, resources, and people you have, the better chance you will have of defeating that threat. As the late Peter Douglas said, “The coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.” The same goes for waves.

Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and widlife and is the author of Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias.

Cyclone Surf in Australia

New South Wales coast. Photo: Zach Plopper

Former WQS surfer, WiLDCOAST employee and San Diego County standout Zach Plopper talked to me about his recent trip to Australia where he caught one of the best cyclone swells in recent history.

Serge: You recently spent a couple of weeks surfing Down Under. Out of all the surf destinations in the world, why did you choose Australia?

Zach Plopper: I had an opportunity to visit friends with my girlfriend Holli in Sydney and Crescent Head, New South Wales. The water in New South Wales is in the upper 70s this time of year and it is one of the, if not the, most wave rich coastlines in the world. I celebrated Christmas four days after the longest day of the year. Kookaburras birds woke me up every morning. I was surrounded by hilarious Australians and surfed a perfect right point with surfing legend Robbie Page. That’s why I went to Australia.

Serge: On your trip you managed to catch one of the best Christmas cyclone swells in recent history. What was that like and how did that swell differ from a major swell here in Southern California?

Plopper: The intensity of the swell was incomparable to a big swell in California. The waves jumped from three feet to double overhead in a matter of hours and stayed that way for seven days. As the cyclone moved south the swell came at a slightly different angle each day producing more wrap around the point. It’s like an East Pacific hurricane moving north along the California coast for a week, but with a hundreds point breaks to choose from. Apparently Parko and the Coolie crew were towing in at Kirra and all of the Sydney beaches were closed out.

Serge: The assumption for lots of California surfers is that Australia is a very crowded surf destination. Was that your experience?

Plopper: The prime spots are no more crowded than those in California. And overall the surfer density on the coast is much much lower than here because of the amount of “bush” between cities and towns. There are hundreds of miles of absolutely empty beach. On pumping Christmas Day I surfed an overhead, very popular point break with an average ten people. There were two people out for a period.

Zach Plopper in action in Australia. Photo courtesy of Zach Plopper

Serge: Where did you surf on your recent trip. And where are some of your favorite surf destinations in Australia?

Plopper: I got wet at Manly in Sydney before the swell filled in. And then surfed Crescent Head for five days with a session at Scotts Head just to the north. I wrapped up the trip surfing the beach breaks and points around Booti Booti National Park. I have always been fascinated about surfing those spots after seeing them in a bunch of movies growing up. I’ve been to Australia twice but only to New South Wales and Southern Queensland. I’d love to explore more. I’d say Bluey’s Beach (named for a cow named Bluey that fell of the cliff) is my favorite zone thus far.

Serge: What is it about the Australian people and surfers especially that makes the country such a welcoming place?

Plopper: The surfers in Australia are the friendliest I have ever encountered. It obviously gets a little more congested and anonymous around the cities but beyond that surfers seem super open and excited to chat and share waves, if you are respectful of course. I made a friend at just about every spot I surfed. Australian’s in general are very friendly. Their culture has many British undertones but is also a lot like California (50 years ago). It is a very easy place to adjust to coming from Southern California.

Serge: Are Australians surfers ahead of their counterparts in the U.S.?

New South Wales.

Plopper: I noticed a lot of very good surfers. I’d say the average surfer in Australia is better than the average surfer here. The fact that the sport is so much more mainstream in Australia, the quality of surf and the coastal centralized population probably have a lot to do with it. Something like five of the top 50 athletes in Australia are surfers, one of which is female. The sport is much more accepted there and a much bigger percentage of the population are surfers. Even the old ladies in the tourism offices know what the swell is doing and where you should go to “get a few kegs (barrels)” before looking for a place to stay.

Serge: One of the things American surfers seem to love when they visit is the quality of the beachbreaks there. What makes them so unique or special?

Plopper: The rainforest backdrops, crystal clear water and white sand has a lot to do with it. Add powerful, hollow peaks and a handful of people and you’ve got a sand bottom surfing dreamscape.

Serge: Your girlfriend Holli came along on this trip. What makes Australia a good destination for a couple?

Plopper: If you have people to stay with, your girlfriend doesn’t mind a camper van or you are rich, Australia is a great place to go as a couple. It is not a good place to go and expect nice, cheap accommodations. Australia is ridiculously expensive for an American right now. Nonetheless, there is a lot to do from Sydney nightlife, empty warm beautiful beaches, world-class wildlife, wine tasting, café hopping … you nor your significant other will ever get bored.

Serge:  In the past six months you’ve caught great waves in Spain, Baja and Australia. What location ranks best in terms of surf quality and quantity?

Plopper: They each provided such unique experiences that it is tough to compare. For me it is not just the waves that makes up the experience. The three places couldn’t be more different. I surfed tropical beaches and points in first world Australia. I surfed river mouth lefts in old world Spain. And I surfed sand bottom point breaks in the desert of third-world Mexico. I got really lucky with swell at all three so I’d have to say quality and quantity were equally matched but in their respectively unique ways.

Photo: Zach Plopper

Taylor Jensen’s Professional Surfing Life

From my Coronado and Imperial Beach Patch Surfing Column of the week of March 16th:

Coronado’s Taylor Jensen is one of the most accomplished surfers to have come out of South County. Whether he is on a powering new school maneuvers on a longboard or ripping on his shortboard, Taylor, who holds 6 U.S. National longboard titles, mixes an impressive blend of athleticism, power and style into his surfing. He continues the long line of Coronado competitive new school longboarders including Mike and Terry Gillard and Dan Mann. When I caught up with Taylor, he was on his way to compete in the Noosa Festival of Surfing in Queensland, Australia.

When did you start surfing? And when did you get serious about professional surfing and why?

I started surfing at about 6yrs old. My Dad used to take me down to the beach and push me into waves on a blue body board. I was hooked from then on. I got serious about it when I got my first sponsor at 13. John Gillem hooked me up with Rusty Surfboards and that was it. I was sold on the idea of surfing for a living.

It seems as thought the Professional Longboard circuit is in a period of flux. To me you represent the best of “New School” longboarders carrying out high-performance maneuvers, but it seems as thought the sport is moving back to the traditionalist style as exemplified by the Vans Duct Tape Invitational that Joel Tudor organizes. Where is professional longboarding heading now?

Longboarding is sort of at a crossroads now. There has always been this divide between the traditional single fin side of things and the high performance side. There is no use trying to argue for one side or the other. That’s like someone who rides a twin fin telling someone who rides a thruster that they are wrong. It is surfing no matter what you ride. Longboarding, from a marketing standpoint, needs to head in the traditional direction. We need to differentiate from the shortboard side of things. People see me as the high performance guy, and yes I love riding a high performance longboard when the waves are good, but I also love riding a traditional single fin and noseriding.  Joel’s Duct Tape tour is a great thing for the sport. I’m heading to Spain later this year to be a part of it and am really looking forward to it.

You’ve spent a lot of time in Australia. Why does it seem that surfing and especially professional surfing is taken much more seriously Down Under than in California?

Just about everyone lives on the coast in Australia. Surfing is a part of everyone’s life here, whether they realize it or not. Surfing in Australia is a sport in which training facilities are dedicated to. Guys are signing multi million dollar deals at the age of 16 now. It is a great thing to see.

With the rise in retro shortboads that are wider and thicker than modern shortboards and allow high-performance surfing in small waves, is longboarding really even valid anymore?

Longboarding is a preference. There is no need to validate it. Ride whatever you have the most fun on. That is the whole reason any of us ever started surfing. Everyone should have as many boards as they can fit in their garage and ride them all. Every craft brings a different feeling of stoke. That is what we are looking for every time we enter the water. Longboarding, either high performance or traditional, is something different and it is where surfing started.

Taylor's Quiver

What types of boards are you riding, and who is shaping them? And how do you work with your shaper to obtain the shapes and boards that work for you?

I’m currently riding Firewire Surfboards. And I have almost every board in their range. Dan Mann shaped my longboard model. The relationship between a shaper and a rider is key to getting the best result. I always looked up to Dan’s surfing as a kid and he has seen me grow up so we have that hometown bond that allows us to create a great board.

You are one of the more athletic surfers on the professional circuit at any level. How are you staying in shape for surfing? And do you think most surfers are ignoring the importance of working out and diet to stay fit for surfing?

I had a severe ankle injury for the past three months so I got really out of shape. Getting back into peak performance is a lot harder than I remember. I’m getting into yoga and stretching a lot. Eating really healthy and taking care of your body is critical for surfing. Surfers are fit because of the exercise they do while surfing. If you combine that with stretching and eating right you’ll be looking at a new you.

Who are the surfers who have influenced you? And who is moving surfing forward today?

I have never really looked towards longboarding for influence. They guys who are pushing shortboarding are who influence me. Guys like Christian Wach have taken noseriding to a whole new level? The stuff he is doing on the front of his board is amazing! Also I like to see people who ride everything and who just don’t conform to some BS image for the media. Be you and do what you want to do, have fun with it!

One of the things that I admire most about your surfing is your ability to absolutely rip in any medium on shortboards and longboards? Do you find it hard to go back and forth? Is there a period of adjustment you have to make to surf well when go from a longboard to a shortboard?

I love shortboarding. That’s a huge part of my enjoyment in surfing. I’ll generally go weeks without riding a longboard and when I go back I surf better than ever before. Taking time to ride different boards is a huge part of developing your surfing. It is how you learn to get speed from different sections of waves and its how you find your own style. That’s a quest that never stops in your surfing, that journey to find your own style is something you can always work on and refine.

Where is your absolute favorite place to surf?

A certain place in Australia. It is the most magical place I have ever been. The waves are amazing, the people are wonderful, and the whole vibe is so laid back. I’m in love with this place. It is what California would have been like if we didn’t stuff it up with all the concrete, freeways, and pollution.

Best surf trip ever?

Two years ago I ended up on a trip to Micronesia with Mick Fanning, Beau Young, and Steph Gilmore. I have no idea why but it was amazing. You learn a lot by watching people like that. I took a lot of knowledge away from that and I gained some great new friends!

Who sponsors you and how do you work with your sponsors to have a long-term mutually productive professional relationship?

Currently my sponsors include Firewire Surfboards, Ocean Current Clothing, On A Mission, Kicker Audio, Coral Reef Wetsuits, and Surfride Boardshop. The relationships differ from sponsor to sponsor but all of them are like family to me. We have lunches, go for surfs, hang out and chat. But at the end of the day I am not employed to just surf. I get photos in magazines, go on editorial trips, shot videos for sections in movies, write a blog, test out future designs and give them feedback from an athlete’s point of view. There really is a lot involved in it but its always going to be better than sitting behind a desk.

What advice would you give a young surfer thinking about making the leap into professional surfing?

If you are really serious about it, take the time to test out the different career paths within the sport. There is always the chance to be a free surfer if contest aren’t your thing. And focus on having fun, as long as you are having fun it is worth it. The minute you stop having fun is when it turns from a job you love into the job you hate and then there is no point doing it. Get out there and go for it!

A Family Adventure on the Wild Coast of Australia Part I

Thanks to a sabbatical awarded by the California Wellness Foundation, I was able to take a 10-week break from my job as the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST, an international conservation organization, and travel with my family to Australia.

The plan was for my sons, Daniel (11) and Israel (13), and me to spend six weeks surfing and camping in national parks in Australia. Then Emily, my wife of 20 years, would join us for a final week in Australia and three weeks in New Zealand for surfing, hiking and skiing/snowboarding.

Most surfers who travel to Australia tour the world-class surf spots of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland (the Gold Coast). The boys and I were interested in the more remote and unpopulated surf coast of southern New South Wales and Victoria — described in our Surfing Australia guidebook as, “A surf explorer’s dream.”

The first part of our trip was to be an 800-mile pilgrimage south from Sydney along the coastal Princes Highway to Bell’s Beach. The location for the world’s longest running professional surf contest, Bell’s sits on a world-class reef in Victoria — just outside Torquay, Australia’s “surfing capital.”

Kauai meets Carmel

The boys and I arrived at Sydney Airport in the early morning after a long flight from San Diego. We hailed a taxi van and hauled our five surfboards and canvas duffel bags filled with wetsuits and camping gear to the Kea Campervan rental center on the outskirts of Sydney. There we picked up a 2006 VW diesel pop-top camper van that was to be our home for the next seven weeks.

South of Sydney, the Princes Highway skirts the forest of Royal National Park, the world’s second oldest national park, and then descends onto the coast at the village of Stanwell Park. Our first view of the beach was what every surfer dreams of-offshore peaks, minimal crowd and a park with showers and clean restrooms. The forested cliffs of Royal National Park that end at Stanwell Park gave the area a feel of Kauai meets Carmel.

Later that afternoon ,after checking out a surf contest at Sandon Point, we drove into an empty beachside caravan park in the village of Bulli Beach. We cooked up some lamb chops and passed out.

Kangaroo Beach

A few hours south of Sydney, the landscape changes from bucolic English pastures to Central America-like eucalyptus or “gum tree” rainforests and national parks. Our destination was Murramarang National Park, known for its population of “bodysurfing” Eastern grey kangaroos. The park is about 45-minutes south of the surf town of Ulladulla.

The turnoff to Murramarang from the Princes Highway immediately transported us into the Lost World. The gum forest was thick, dark and moist with heavy underbrush. A road sign warned of kangaroos. We spotted a lyrebird, a cross between a peacock and a turkey. Flocks of parrots flew across the road.

We arrived at Pebbly Beach and set off down the tree-covered path to a tree-lined cove.

Daniel raced ahead. Israel and I arrived at a grassy meadow above the beach and found him surrounded by a mob of kangaroos. Daniel sat motionless, grinning from ear to ear, as a joey approached and almost plopped into his lap.

After we set our bush camp at the nearby Depot Beach campground, Israel stumbled upon a swamp wallaby feeding in the dunes. He described it as ”a cross between a kangaroo and a giant rabbit.”

Between surf sessions at a nearby reef, we hung out at our camp, under a huge eucalyptus. We were surrounded by kangaroos and laughing kookaburras. At night, a pair of brushtail possums, nocturnal marsupials, nosed around our campfire in their nightly hunt for food.

Living 24/7 with groms

Back in San Diego the lives of my two rambunctious sons revolve around school, surfing, skateboarding and water polo. Living in a cramped VW van presented a unique set of challenges.

Because Israel had moved around like a worm in the upper van bed during our first night, he was exiled to a waterproof and sturdy Sierra Designs two-man tent. Daniel and I split the upstairs and downstairs van beds.

They boys quickly adapted to life on the road. Each evening after a day of surfing, they slapped steak, lamb chops or hamburgers on the gas-powered campground barbie.

They used their extra energy, during downtime in the van, to give me a surfing makeover: They hoped to improve my hopelessly out of date ’70s flow surfing style.

“Dad,” Israel said. “You really need to work on your snaps. You aren’t getting vertical enough.”

Bells Beach

An epic north swell we enjoyed during our stay at Murramarang had dropped off so we packed up the van and headed down the two-lane Princes Highway on our way to Bells Beach. The boys were exhausted from their last surf session.

We had communed with kangaroos, and had become enamored of the beautiful coastline, abundant national parks and wildlife, excellent waves and friendly people of Southeast Australia. As we drove off, each of us looked forward to what adventures awaited us. We looked forward to more surfing, more wildlife and meeting more Aussies.(Australians must be among the friendliest people on the planet.)

Originally published by San Diego News Network.

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