From Port Hedland to Portugal with Mick Corbett

Anthony Pancia
Swellnet Dispatch

A year ago, Mick Corbett took a job with BHP in Port Hedland. Not your standard FIFO work, the job required Mick to relocate to the far north-west of WA.

Despite the lack of local waves, Mick's kept his hand in, even got chosen to represent Team Australia for the upcoming Nazare Tow Challenge.

The event was green lit yesterday, and despite having 15,000kms to cover, a cyclone to evade, and a pregnant wife to placate, he's confident he'll make it.

Anthony Pancia caught up with Mick in transit.

Thanks to ABC South West.

Anthony Pancia: How did you hear that the event over in Portugal had been given the green light?
Mick Corbett: This morning I messaged Bill Sharp, and go, 'Has the green alert been given yet to Nazare?' He said, 'Yes, it's on', so I pretty much booked my flight. We knew it was a yellow alert and I had an inkling it would go green alert last night, but I waited until this morning to book my flights for this arvo.

Alright, so just to I guess bring a bit of clarity, what does that mean for it to reach green light? How big do the waves have to get?
Well, I'm thinking it's going to be about 50 to 60 foot, it's not going to be record-breaking or anything, but it'll be super clean which is pretty much why they've given it a green alert, because it's pretty rare to get super clean conditions over there.

So, I don't know, a 50 to 60 foot swell and clean conditions, it's pretty good.

Mick shadow dancing at Nazare (WSL)

So you will be representing, I guess, team Australia. Are you pairing up with Ross Clarke-Jones again?
Yeah, so Ross was meant to come, but after his little 'Survivor' incident where he broke his leg, I'm not sure he's going to make it in this time. So, I'm actually going to be teaming up with Axi Muniain from Spain. He's surfed Nazare a fair few times now and he's pretty good out there, so we're going to team up and give it a shot.

Just out of curiosity, was anyone else on the cards, like Russell Bierke or anyone? Any other Aussies that just couldn't get there in time..?
To be honest, Russell Bierke is a great surfer, he's probably more of a paddle surfer than a tow surfer, so I guess there was a few more people in mind than those guys I guess. They try to keep this comp more tow-orientated, and obviously the paddle guys have got their paddle comp themselves.

Adding a complication to this, you've got to get to Portugal and you were in Port Hedland today?
Yeah, I was in Port Hedland this morning, so I booked my flights this morning from Broome to Perth and to Dubai and Lisbon, so I had to actually drive up to Broome to catch my flight this arvo.

So how long is that?
It's about a five, six hour trip on the road and then it's about a 20 hour plane flight to Lisbon.

And then straight into some 50 foot waves.
Yeah, pretty much. I've got one night in Nazare and then so I arrive there that arvo and I'll be surfing on Tuesday morning and then I'll be flying out on Wednesday morning.

Oh, right and then back to Hedland. Hey, could you describe the past 24 hours in Port Hedland, how was your experience?
It wasn't too bad, so the cyclone passed through Karratha and a bit more west of it, so it actually wasn't too bad. We got some pretty strong winds and rain and lightning and whatnot, but nothing too bad, just a typical storm for down south your way I guess.

Can I be so cheeky to ask, were there any waves up in Hedland?
I did actually check, hey. There wasn't actually too much, I think the cyclone needs to get a bit closer for that.

We haven't received any classic northerly swell down here in the south-west either. I mean, obviously our first concern is for the people of Hedland and their houses, but hey, if we got some waves, that'd be nice too.
Yeah, well pretty much we do hope for cyclones every now and then hey, just so we can go and get wet. But as you said, our main concern are the people in Port Hedland and Karratha.

Was it difficult to leave Hedland? I'm not so sure what the current state of play was, but certainly last night there was a code red in place.
I did try and get flights out of Port Hedland, but obviously the airports were shut. I was thinking Newman, but then the cyclone was going inland so I wouldn't be able to go out of Newman, so my next bet was Broome, which was probably the furthest place away, but yeah it was the only option really.

Is a lot of your gear at Nazare, or do you have a stash of boards up in Port Hedland?
Yeah, I've got a stash of boards up in Port Hedland. But I've also got my Nazare board that I leave over there. I'm taking another board with me so I have a back up, but yeah, everything is pretty sorted.

Nazare has been on the scene for what, 10, 15 years now, it produces possibly the tallest wave in the world. What goes through your head when you're motoring out on a jet ski and you come around the corner and you see that giant teepee of a wave?
I tell you what, it's not when you actually go around the corner, it's more when you look at it from the cliffs that you're like, oh my God, because you can just see the whole arena. But when you're actually out there, you know it's dangerous but you're not really sitting on the inside, you're sitting on the outside so you don't really get to see the carnage on the inside that you might get to see from the cliffs.

You see some big lines obviously come through because it is the biggest wave in the world, but I guess it's uniform out there, not as messy as what you guys would see from the cliff.



Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Monday, 10 Feb 2020 at 6:15pm

About the only place on Earth that could make 30 foot Nazare seem like a respectable option is February in Port Hedland.

Good luck, charger.