Toonalook Point Australia’s Most Psychologically Harmful Wave
FRIDAY – According to a university study published today, Toonalook Point has pipped the Gold Coast’s Burleigh Heads, The Pass in Byron Bay, and Torquay’s Bird Rock as the place most conducive to have a complete nervous breakdown while surfing.
Conducted at 70 surf breaks over two years, this expansive survey documented the demeanour of over 5,000 surfers, and concluded that the totemic hierarchy of Toona’s pecking order, the febrile nature of wide-eyed visitors, the cannibalistic savagery of the scavengers and bottom feeders, and the fact that the scene appears deceptively beguiling from land, all combine to make Toona Point – in particular the inside section on a high tide and an inconsistent south east swell – a ‘mental-health time bomb waiting to explode’, according to one researcher.
“This report makes for grim reading,” says noted Toonalook psychologist Dr Petra Mills. “Unless you were born in the Toona National Park, or you're a top 32 level pro, or just a remorselessly cunning human, you really are taking your mental well-being into risky territory spending more than an hour a day surfing this place.
“Human factors aside, much of the damage is done by the waves themselves – specimens of heartbreaking beauty that will fool you into believing that you might actually catch and ride a number of them yourself.
“It's too much to expect the human psyche to withstand this constant cycle of promise and deprivation.”
A survey-high 67 percent of surfers in the study showed signs of distress within 15 minutes of paddling out into the Toona lineup, with the severity of the symptoms increasing greatly between 7.00am and 8.00am, and more than doubling when respondents had to find that elusive “good one to go in on” as domestic and work commitments became increasingly pressing.
Indeed, vocalising the intention of securing a satisfactory final ride has been identified as a reliable indicator of psychosis.
The discovery of such a potent vehicle for dirty dopamine double-crossing has caught the attention of military and intelligence operatives both here and overseas, lead researcher Dr Dave Livingstone from the University of Sydney tells Ding Alley.
“As global tensions rise, there are a number of agencies keen to explore options to weaponise Toona Point’s psychological impact.
“With the U.S imploding like a slow-motion train wreck, Australia will need to develop autonomous strategies to secure its place in this volatile new world order. ASIO is looking to somehow harness Toona Point’s spectacular promise/withhold effect on those who would seek to do us harm.
“Modelling shows that if the CIA had access to this data a decade or so ago they could have brought the War on Terror to a swift and dramatic end: Simply train terror suspects in the fundamentals of surfing over an intense three week period, then send them out to The Point on a Sunday morning with the promise of a set wave for every ISIS bomb plot or Al-Qaeda hideout revealed.”
“I’m no expert in military law, but I’m fairly sure this would not only contravene every article in the Geneva Convention, and it’s a safe bet that rogue operatives like Barry Cornell would make what went on at Abu Ghraib look like a Sunday School picnic.”
Psychologist Dr Petra Mills concurs. “The irony of all this is that surfing is seen as a release, an escape from pressure, whereas in terms of causing normally well-adjusted, competent surfers to lose their shit, Toona Point amounts to a perfect storm.”
And in findings that will shock no-one: the study confirms the widely-held understanding that in broad regional terms, Gold Coast and Northern NSW pointbreaks are collectively more likely to trigger complete mental collapse than any other surfing zone in Australia – despite the Superbank throwing statistical anomalies into the data.
“We’d assumed Snapper through Greenmount would wreak total havoc with our subjects’ ability to process even the most basic emotions in a healthy and productive way, but such is the nature of the Superbank that surfers are resigned to having a shit time before they even paddle out,” notes Livingstone. “A striking number of respondents described themselves as feeling ‘dead inside’ before waxing up or even finding a carpark. Here we see pre-emptive despondency as an effective defence mechanism shielding a surfer from the futile expectation that lays the ground for destructive grief.”
“As eastern philosophy teaches us, ‘hope’ – as in childishly wishing for things that are not – is foolish and should not be indulged in: therefore when we gaze out at 400 surfers in the Coolangatta lineup, we are, in effect, seeing 400 Buddhas on the cushion, all in different stages of awakening, surrender and growth. It’s really quite beautiful.”
More conventional no-go areas include Newport Peak, with Livingstone commenting “Stress levels among respondents skyrocketed when one or both Carroll brothers were known to be in the area. They didn’t even have to be in the water.”
And though the study focussed on Australia’s East Coast, WA’s Trigg and North Point featured heavily in anecdotal reports: Trigg for the Benny Hill chase-scene antics in half-to-one foot surf, and North Point for Alpha surfers coming to blows over etiquette among double overhead bombs. Neither scenario conducive to sustained wellbeing.
An anonymous beach on Victoria's West Coast also polled highly as a mental minefield. “Despite the occasional reform left hander known as Ding Alley breaking into the rocks at the west end for about 20 minutes of optimum tide, the unceasing closeouts are water torture for anyone looking to go any way other than straight to the beach.” says an increasingly bitter sounding Livingstone, who may have tampered with the data to reflect his own surfing experience.
// DING ALLEY
DING ALLEY is illustrator David @maccatoons McArthur and wannabe writerer Gra Murdoch. Ahhhh, to be clear, Toonalook is an imaginary surf town, inspired by all the locations these two have lived and surfed at without distinction.