Five hot surf destinations to seek asylum at this summer

Jake_Dean
Surfpolitik

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (a possibility given Sydney’s house prices), you’ve heard about Australia’s ongoing detention centre controversies.

The UN asked Australia to urgently evacuate detainees from the Pacific islands of Nauru and Manus Island to stop the ongoing health crisis among asylum seekers. More than 6,000 Australian doctors signed a letter to our Prime Minister demanding children in detention be immediately removed from Nauru, amid reports one-in-four are suicidal. The Government, amid ongoing public pressure, said it will move all children now held in detention on Nauru to Australia by year’s end. And those are just this month’s headlines (read the BBC’s explainer on Australia’s asylum seeker policy).

But if you look past things like Australia being reported to UN’s human rights council, and the 12 deaths in immigration detention on Nauru and Manus Island since 2014 (through murder, medical neglect, “misadventure” and suicide), you’ll be pleased to learn there are pumping waves alongside the places Australia has locked up asylum seekers – both offshore and on the mainland.

Bali? Been there, done that. North Shore? Ha, old hat! Let’s take a look at our favourite new surf trip destinations for 2019.

Nauru

Looking for an “off-the-beaten-track” island getaway that oozes Instagram street cred? Look no further! This petite Pacific island nation (21 square kilometres, pop. 11,200) sits north-east of Australia and is so fresh Lonely Planet’s guide doesn’t even feature any text.

“Chunky, fast and short would describe most of our breaks,” says John Short, a Melburnian who went to Nauru in 2009 on a contract to repair some phosphate mining equipment and never left. “The island’s round and it takes 20 minutes to circumnavigate the whole nation, so you can always find a wave somewhere.”

His description of its premier slab hints at the country’s wave quality when conditions align. “The biggest barrel-iest wave can get to eight foot, is very round and must be respected,” John says. “An ocean swell hitting a one-metre deep reef is very bowly but short in ride. You either get slotted or munched – there’s no halfway.”

John established the Nauru Surf Club earlier this decade to teach surfing and surf safety to Nauruans and refugees and they welcome donations of old surfboards, legropes, fins, etc. Contact him via email and he’ll find a way to get the gear.

Expats and locals surf alongside each other at Nauru Surf Club (Photo Nauru Surf Club)

Pros: White-sand, palm-fringed beaches. Uncrowded setups. Always offshore somewhere. A passionate surf community to hang with. English is widely spoken. It’s close to the equator, so the climate and water is warm year-round. Jump on a direct flight from Brisbane via Nauru Airlines.

Cons: Getting a visa can be tricky, particularly if you’re in the media. You’re never too far away from the 600+ people who live indefinitely in the nearby detention centre in “shocking” conditions.

Manus Island

If you thought Indo was the closest overseas option for a sneaky trip, think again! Papua New Guinea is a bee’s dick from Australia’s northern tip and it’s packed with waves.

Manus, in the country’s north, is PNG’s fifth largest island (2,100 square kilometres, pop. 50,321) and it’s covered by rugged jungle and the curious endemic emerald green snail. But what matters to you is its setups.

Unverified accounts - read: the Surfing Grapevine - says there's a range of waves along the north coast, and a quick gander at Google Earth appears to support the theory with a plethora of reef passes to choose from. Pictures tell the real story however, and these images by Sydney photographer Joel Coleman, who ventured to Manus in 2014, will have you salivating.

Surf all day on Manus Island (Joel Coleman)

...and night too! (Joel Coleman)

Pros: Tropical, warm water, palms, etc. Friendly locals. Uncrowded. Really close to Oz, via Air Niugini. See Joel’s images again.

Cons: Sharp and shallow reef – not for beginners! No local surf shop. Risk of malaria. While Australia’s offshore detention centre closed last year after the country’s supreme court ruled it was “unconstitutional and illegal”, there are still 636 men stuck in PNG, including 495 refugees and 131 failed asylum seekers. The fight to leave Manus and for compensation for their “unlawful detention” continues.

Christmas Island

This tiny speck 2,600 kilometres north-west of Perth, nicknamed “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean”, is bursting with biological diversity. Its annual red crab mass migration has been called one of the wonders of the natural world, while whale sharks, rare seabirds, stunning coral reefs, breathtaking national park and deserted beaches draw visitors from around the world.

Not to be confused with the other Christmas Island – Kiritimati in the Pacific Ocean – which also boasts pumping waves, information on the surf at Australia’s version is harder to come by.

However, a commenter on highly-renowned surf advice website Wannasurf said he scored on the island while working there for six months. “If you do some exploring you’ll find some pretty gnarly reefs, which I’d recommend for a bodyboard if you know what you’re doing.” We’ll take your word for it, Rob, considering the island’s close proximity to Java, which apparently has the odd wave too.

Though it's not known for waves, if you luck into a swell you'll think all your Christmases have come at once! (Artist's impression)

Pros: Awash with natural wonders. It has a surf shop. Warm, tropical, white sand beaches… you know the drill.

Cons: Access to many beaches is difficult due to the coast’s sharp cliff faces. The island was also, until it closed late last month, home to a notorious Australian immigration detention centre, where a stateless refugee with mental health issues was found dead in 2015. Another tragedy on the island occurred in 2010 when 50 asylum seekers drowned after their boat hit rocks and sank near the island’s main settlement.

Perth

A trip to Australia’s West Coast should be on the bucket list of every surfer worth his or her salt, and the state’s capital is the perfect place to start.

Perth’s beaches can pump on their day, the slabs and quokkas of Rottnest Island are a short ferry ride away and you’re only a few hours’ scenic driving from Margaret River, one of the world’s great surf (and wine) stretches.

Perth beaches, pumping!

Pros: Waves, scenery, wildlife, wine… it’s hard to fault the west.

Cons: Beers are expensive. Men in grey suits. West Coast Eagles fans. An hour-and-a-half away from Scarborough Beach is the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre (YHIDC), where protests and fires raged after a 22-year-old Iraqi committed suicide in September. His family members say he wasn’t getting the mental healthcare he needed. A 2017 review of YHIDC conditions by the Human Rights Commission found a “significant level of concern about the standard of physical health care provided at the YHIDC and the impact of detention on mental health”.

Sydney

Sydney, too, is a surf traveller’s dream and it’s the place where Hawaii’s Duke Kahanamoku popularised surfing in Oz during his 1914-15 visit. Not only is Sydney one of the world’s great cities, there’s a gluttony of riches when it comes to waves, from fun beachies to life-threatening slabs.

Surfing in Sydney: should you get in trouble there's always a wahine in a burquini watching over you

Pros: The culture, man. Sightseeing mecca.

Cons: Crowded. Expensive. Traffic. Late-night drinks are tough thanks to lockout laws. The Villawood Immigration Detention Centre – housing Australia’s largest immigration detention population (approx. 500) – sits, ironically, about 42 kilometres from a notorious slab and the landing place for Australia’s original boat people – Captain Cook and his Endeavour crew. The Human Rights Commission’s 2017 Villawood review found accommodation in its high-security Blaxland compound doesn’t meet standards required by international law, and it documented concerns about the negative impacts of detention on mental health, especially on people detained for prolonged periods.

Comments

blindboy's picture
blindboy's picture
blindboy commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 2:49pm

Great stuff!

atticus's picture
atticus's picture
atticus commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 3:25pm

The name of the 'wahine' in the story is Mecca Laa Laa which would sound great as the love interest in a Gonad Man comic.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 9:45pm

You forgot Port Hedland , where a summer surf trip only a few short years ago could have seen your skull crushed with large lumps of concrete specially selected for this very task by the poor asylum seekers housed at the detention centre.

A couple of employees there weren’t able to partake of the cyclone swells that year - and maybe for ever more - after the poor asylum seekers attempted to murder them by passing the lumps of concrete up onto the roof in a chain gang before raining them down with brute force and ultra violence onto anyone who happened to be in the vicinity at the time .

Attempted murder , media whitewashing and misplaced sympathy......Fun in the sun !

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 6:37pm

I spent a few years in Headland one night. Turned red from ion staining. Subjecting people to west coast eagle fans would have to be a human rights violation. Curtain was another center.

Victory!

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 6:46pm
boxright's picture
boxright's picture
boxright commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 7:00pm

No sympathy for asylum seekers and tax cuts for billionaires hey Blowin!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 9:47pm

So you feel sympathy for the violent criminals that were housed at Port Hedland?

boxright's picture
boxright's picture
boxright commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 7:19pm

Last point. Now tar all asylum seekers with the same brush.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 7:32pm

I never realised there was a surf camp on Manus.

I forgot about the Manus pay out no wonder none of 110 resettled from Manus in USA haven't rejected the offer while 70 from Nauru apparently have.

Also forgot about that Blowin, and the riots and setting of a centre on fire and hunger strikes with lips sewn together, not much has changed really Australia or offshore it's all the same game.

Please Stunet just give me that ignore button for Crypto (Herc, uplift or whatever other names he has used)

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 5 Nov 2018 at 9:50pm

Who’s tarring all asylum seekers with the same brush ?

They forgot to mention Port Hedland on their list of detention centres where atrocities occurred.

Jof's picture
Jof's picture
Jof commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 7:07am

Anyone, not just kids, should not be in detention unless they choose to be. Determine where they are from and help them get back safely. Don't lock them up!!!

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 9:23am

All cultures need to accept each other and work together. Dissolving the dark element is the key and has come to pass. Mind you Boy bands should be locked up in sound proof boxes.

Victory!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 11:00am

Riz Wakil, former patron of Curtin Detention Centre Surf Camp at Derby.

https://www.swellnet.com/news/surfpolitik/2010/08/19/those-whove-come-across-seas

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 11:03am

Wax in .....never a good idea .

Especially when wearing a dress shirt.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 11:08am

It's not a good look, but then he's only copying other surfers:

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 11:51am

HA ha ha, he provided some good laughs.

Victory!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 12:26pm

Maybe Tony had some depilation in mind when he picked that board up ?

And is that old mate Riz Wakil in both photos ?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 12:28pm

Yep.

Answering the second of your questions: It is Riz, though he's looking a bit depleted after the session.

Rather not think about the first question.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 1:05pm

Can’t blame him.

If I had to hang around Tony for anything more than 30 seconds I’d be depleted too.

And I’d probably have sore knuckles.

factotum's picture
factotum's picture
factotum commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 6:08pm

Red mist aside, I reckon Tones would smash you like an avocado, Blow In.

Then again......................

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Thursday, 8 Nov 2018 at 3:16am

Tony is not a stand up boxer, he is piss poor really.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 6:12pm

Is that Auntie Jack giving it to our Tony ?

Lead with the chin , Tones !

mr mick's picture
mr mick's picture
mr mick commented Tuesday, 6 Nov 2018 at 8:12pm

Once a KOOK always a KOOK. More likely the SUCKER punch off the wipeout game show. Name suits him as well!

Mr mick

Optimist's picture
Optimist's picture
Optimist commented Wednesday, 7 Nov 2018 at 6:10am

Five things I admired about Tony Abbott.
1) He wanted to plant millions of trees in a national land rehab and carbon project but was blocked by the Greens and Labor.
2) He lived with the Northern aboriginal communities for a while to sus out their needs.
3) He would stay at the army barracks with the soldiers when in Canberra to save the taxpayer money and plus he enjoyed it.
4) He was a volunteer fireman and charity worker for most of his life.
5) He could eat a raw onion without blinking...Hardcore.
Like him or not the mans a unit. There is good in everyone.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Wednesday, 7 Nov 2018 at 6:54am

The other thing to love about Abbott is that his 25 year reign as the MP for the Northern beaches / Warringah tells you all you need to know about the good burghers in that area and their self image of fair , progressive and right on thinkers.

BB used an accusation that Blob was from the Sutherland Shire as an insult , despite being from the area that unleashed Tony onto the National stage and allowed him to walk it till the present day !

Credibility = Zero

factotum's picture
factotum's picture
factotum commented Wednesday, 7 Nov 2018 at 11:21am

"Credibility = Zero!"

Hahahahahahahahha!

factotum's picture
factotum's picture
factotum commented Wednesday, 7 Nov 2018 at 11:24am

Optimist, a man that knows his onions!

I guess 1 out of 5 ain't bad.

Ain't that a Meatloaf song or somethin'?

c735293's picture
c735293's picture
c735293 commented Thursday, 8 Nov 2018 at 3:19am

About the flogged horse which is Abbott, Yeah: 5 positives and dozens of negatives (Including a Spanish Inquisition/Dark ages style of "faith").
As the saying goes; "You can't polish a turd".

Mike

Mort's picture
Mort's picture
Mort commented Thursday, 8 Nov 2018 at 3:13am

It is not about seeking asylum this Summer. Though the Summer theme is quite meaningful. I am going to loose my fat and I will surf Burleigh in March. Anything else that happens is good.

Spono's picture
Spono's picture
Spono commented Sunday, 11 Nov 2018 at 7:24pm

Id prefer a surf report without your political view of detention centers no one knows ever story right or wrong we just want to surf.

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