Happy New Year! I hope everyone has had a great festive season celebrating with your friends and loved ones. I am in sunny Perth, Western Australia for the holidays, so the blog has been a bit neglected.
Life in Australia conjures up many different images – the great wilderness of the outback, stunning landscapes and amazing indigenous wildlife, laid back and friendly locals and probably the most famous of all – great beach life. After a few weeks in Perth it is easy to appreciate why. Australia is the only island continent and the sixth largest country in the world with a land mass of about 7.692 million square kilometres. This land mass also gives the 23 million Australian population a coastline of 59 736 kilometres to explore and enjoy. The state of Western Australia alone is bigger than India, accounts for around 40% of the Australian land mass and 30% of Australia’s coastline. For those living in Western Australia, that’s just under 100m of beach per capita, compared to mainland Scotland, which is about 15m per capita.
The beach is very much part of normal daily life in Perth. Despite a spike in shark attacks the last 12 months, Perth residents flock daily to the many pristine kilometres of beach within the urban sprawl, enjoying the plethora of beach and outdoor sports activities. Laying flat and slowly cooking is not that pleasant for any length of time. I have been to the beach several times since my arrival, restricting my activities to swimming. It was however time to step up to the plate and try something which I felt was well within my capabilities – boogie boarding.
For those that are unaware, a boogie board is about half the size of a surf board and is designed to ride the waves with your body flat, partly on the board. It is the ocean equivalent to a tricycle, or bicycle with stabilisers. For this “blending in with the locals” exercise, I went to Scarborough Beach in Perth with some friends. Like the name of the city, many suburbs around Perth are named after towns in the UK.
We were on the beach by 8am to beat the heat. The car park and beach numbers reinforced the fact that the beach was part of Perth’s unique lifestyle – many of all ages visit and enjoy this wonderful natural playground and stunning, accessible and free leisure space. The Perth coastline is pretty exposed, so there is generally always surf, but the length of ride is usually quite short.
I spent the first half hour watching the surfers, boogie boarders and occasional distance open water swimmers in the ocean, as well as grandfathers and toddlers, mothers and daughters and everyone else generally enjoying this famous beach lifestyle. After observing boogie boarding techniques used by others, I felt confident enough to borrow my friends’ boogie board and chase my own wave …
Similar to surfing, you either wade or paddle out, but not as far out as surfers. Boogie boarders catch the wave just after it starts to crash and then surf the top of the wave until laps the shoreline – hopefully with you on the board. My first attempts unsurprisingly were not successful as I leaned how to time the start my “wave ride”. I was either too soon, as the wave just pushed me a long for a bit before crashing ahead, or too late, as the wave crashed on top of me – giving me the ocean washing machine experience! These are called dumpers. I did however persevere and under the expert guidance of the boogie board owner, I soon found myself literally riding the crest of the wave. It was exhilarating – and heaps of fun.
So here I am with a wave approaching. As soon as this pic was taken, I went into position….
The one place on Earth where the “drowned rat” look is in fashion…
I had two great boogie boarding sessions, growing in confidence with each one. Boogie boarding really is good fun and if I can do it, anyone can. By about 10am however, the waves were getting bigger as the wind gathered. I should have listened to my friends, but I decided to have one last session. The waves were indeed bigger. But so was the thrill riding them. Until I was caught by a dumper. I had been caught before, but this one was stronger and I was unable to hang on to the board, which gives you protective buoyancy. I was thrown to the seabed and felt a clunk on my face and shoulder. Time to stop.
As I dried off and had a drink, a couple of young families next to us were introducing their daughters to surfing. They sure start them young here…
My visit to Scarborough beach completely reinforced the reputation that Perth oozes a healthy beach lifestyle where keeping fit and enjoying the outdoors is very much order of the day. During my time on the beach, as well as surfers and swimmers, I saw people paddle boarding, kayaking and kite surfing. We also saw lots of runners and cyclists as we walked to and from the car, passing this great free outdoor gym – an absolutely fantastic recreational facility for the public.
After two and a half hours on the beach, the temperature was starting to climb and the surf was getting bigger, so we decided to head off. Spending only part of the day at the beach is common, especially in the heat of the summer. I did really enjoy my boogie boarding and will definitely give it another go. Just a pity I didn’t try it before Christmas, as I would have asked Santa for a boogie board!
Once again, Happy New Year everyone. I hope you are maybe inspired to take up a different sport for 2013 – it can certainly contribute to health and happiness!