“It's just so raw!" The WSL announcing crew, and the surfers they love, have lofted this description so many times this past week while talking about Margaret River that you'd think the place is a still-wiggling chunk of yellowtail, rather than an upscale, vineyard-covered, carpaccio-scented engine of tourism. You like it raw? Tell you what. Take the leash off. Lose the fullsuit, here's a short john. And a block of parrafin for that 7-foot, 12-pound rocker-less single-fin you'll be riding—which you made yourself. No Jet Ski assists. No board caddies. Let's kick this back to 1969, when Margies hosted the Australian National Championships. Nat Young won, then did the writeup for SURFER. Nat knows raw. We pick up his story in the prelims:
The surf was six- to eight-foot, with an occasional 10-foot cleanup set, and it was easy to feel that the waves had come from a long way off, having an amazing amount of power. I managed to snap my big-wave board clean down the center, and then really had a job trying to increase the range of my hot-dog board. I'd done this once before in Hawaii, and it worked perfectly. By mixing flour and resin into a paste and laying it up around the rails, you can make an edge that will make the board hold in better. I did the same thing at Margaret. I also tore my old fin off, and glassed on a new, deeper one, and sanded in a straighter foil to get more direction out of a turn. All these adjustments were made in-between heats. Luckily, there were plenty of willing hands to help with the work. I felt complete exhaustion that night after six hours in the water, as well as the mental and physical pressure from having to tune a board during such an important event.
The following day it was a consistent 10 feet, maybe bigger. After being sucked over the rocks during my heat, I suffered minor injuries to both my board and body. Back on the beach, I carefully placed the board in what I considered to be the perfect spot for the dings to try before I could cover them with tape. When I returned from lunch, however, I found the board had slipped down an embankment and into a fire. The front three feet were badly charred, and part of the foam had disintegrated. While I was ripping away the burned areas, the announcer called out for more resin and glass. Ian Cairns' father produced the necessary materials. My heat was coming up. I globbed the thing together, and was still applying masking tape to the deck while the rest of the guys in the heat paddled out. At the bottom of my first wave, the board seemed way out of balance, and I had a long swim to shore to think the whole thing over. After one good tube, and a couple of other reasonable waves, I scored just enough points to advance. After more frantic taping, I was back in the water. Big, fast, hollow surf. The taped-down nose section kept filling with water, however, and after every wave I had to point the nose in the air to let the water escape.
The following Saturday, I won the contest. In general it felt good—although my mind and body were completely thrashed. Part of me wanted to catch the midnight flight back to Sydney. However, I had an obligation to see things through. The invitation was for a buffet dinner in the dining room of Caves House Hotel. It was the contest directors' way of expressing his thanks and ending the event in good spirits. What the director forgot, though, is that Australians are animals. Someone called out "One, two, three, buffet!" and the table was alive with grasping hands feeding hungry mouths; the food was gone in precisely five minutes. The rest of the night is vague. Everything and anything alcoholic was consumed. Some guy dropped his pants and executed a perfect "hambone," and soon the food and beer began to flow from one room to another through the air. Ted Spencer was hoisted up at one point, and foodstuff of all description were hurled at him. Peter Drouyn splattered tomato sauce over everyone. The Queensland judge never quite managed to drink his glass of wine because every time he lifted the glass to his lips he would see someone who would look better wearing it. The record player ground to a stop in the middle of "Cheap Thrill"—further inspection revealed that the needle was covered in tomato sauce. A friend noticed my coat was a little cleaner then his; I responded by pouring a bottle of claret all over myself. The party continued. Much later I made it to my room in one piece, and considered myself extremely lucky. I have never experienced an "animal out" like the close of the 1969 Australian Championships.