How Jake Osman found his calling in remote Western Australia
He's surfed the heaviest waves in Australia, but Jake Osman now lives 400-odd kilometres away from the coast and says he couldn't be happier — and it's all thanks to a broken down car.
Osman grew up on the West Australian coast and was surfing competitively by the age of 13.
He was a state champ by the time he was 15, but by the time his 18th birthday loomed he was starting to doubt whether he wanted to be a pro.
"I didn't know how to balance taking it serious and actually enjoying it," he said. "I felt pretty isolated with what I was doing, I wanted to go try other things."
Broken down in the outback
While travelling Australia on a photography trip in 2014, Osman found himself stranded far from the ocean when his car broke down on the outskirts of Halls Creek, 2,800km north of Perth. Stuck in the remote Kimberley for a week waiting on parts, he fell in love with the place.
"On the first day I went for a walk through town and dropped into the youth centre," Osman said. "I just clicked with one of the guys there.
"He showed me around and I met a bunch of people — I just loved it."
When a position in youthwork came up in Billiluna Community, in the Gibson Desert 200km south of Halls Creek, Osman decided to stay in the region and work. He managed the community's recreation centre, which included going on camps and facilitating a fun space for local children to spend time after school.
"I just felt like I became apart of this massive family straight away," he said.
"I just love the energy with the kids. They're just so full of life, it was nothing I'd ever really been around before."
Despite living in the middle of the desert, surfing was never far from Osman's mind. While in Bililuna he first saw a video of 'The Right', off the south coast of WA. While Osman was reluctant to leave his job, he headed south in pursuit of the wave.
"In real life it's a whole other ball game with the sound and everything," he said. "There is just so much power, and you're right there in the thick of it."
After seeing The Right close up, Osman doubted his ability to take it on. "There was so much adrenaline that got me through the day watching," he said. "I left session thinking, 'there is no way I can surf this.'"
Soon after, Osman surfed another well-known wave in the area, the notoriously shallow reef known as Cyclops. Having surfed Cyclops, Osman resolved to give The Right another go, and a month later he was heading back to face the wave.
"That day, it was life changing," he said.
Osman has since surfed The Right some 30 times, and while he said the feeling it gives him is difficult to describe, it is the feeling that draws him back..
"It just feels like nothing, everything just slows right down, it's just dead silent," he said. "It took me four years of hitting every swell that broke there, that's when I started getting recognition.
"But that's not the idea of it — it was all about seeing what I can do, then I fell in love with it."
Answering the call
But the remote lifestyle and a desire to contribute to the community eventually saw him return to the Kimberley. Osman returned to Halls Creek in 2018, running the youth centre before departing earlier this year.
"I wanted to get back to the Kimberley, the emotions are just real raw," he said. "You're just straight living."
Osman is currently working in Pingelly, in WA's Wheatbelt, but plans to travel Australia again in the near future.
// TOM FORREST
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