By Chas Smith
The sun isn't up yet because it is 5:30 am near Margaret River and cold. An offshore winds whistles cold. The air is cold. Craig Anderson is waxing up his closeout barrel board. 6'2″. Nate Lawrence, photographer, is checking his water housing. The swell is supposed to be very nice. Substantial. Rat-a-tat remixes play. Jay-Z and Biggie. So good so good.
The call comes in from Anthony Walsh at 6. Booj. We leave. It is dark and so cold.
That damned Booj, or Boodge, or whatever is totally a short drive but totally a long cold walk. Craig complains of freezing feet. The sun is peaking from the east, illuminating various beach grasses and clumps of sand, but there is no warmth. But the sky is baby blue. And square kegs are detonating straight on shore. Thunderous! Craig has been rapping, "We gots to get paaaid."
Then says, "Oh fuck, they're breaking right on shore." Nate Lawrence says, "There are guys pulling into closeout barrels without photographers. That is what West Oz does to you." Two of them are Kai Otton and Dayyan Neve.
We post up on the sand and watch. Kai Otton takes off on a bomb, goes straight and breaks the nose off his board. Craig says, "He went straight and his board broke. Imagine if he would have pulled in? Neck break." When he comes in Craig asks, "What were you thinking Otts?" Kai answers, "Ahhh it looked like it had a corner."
Craig watches for a few more minutes. "It ledges up real quick. I'm probably going to go over the falls a few times." "Look at this one. Neck snapper." "That bit ahead…I'd reckon you'd come up with no neck." "Why do people do this to themselves?"
An oldish man trots down to water's edge and starts stretching. More than stretching. Yoga. Craig says, "This guy is stretching! What a fucking idiot! He knows he's going to get bent in half, that's why." Kai breaks his second board in three places. No one had ever seen that before. Craig says, "Three pieces, wow. That is the first time I've ever seen that." Kai says, "It's fucked out there."
Craig suits up and gets ready to paddle…but then there is a zipper malfunction on Nate Lawrence's wetsuit. He quickly runs back to apartment to repair. Craig and I sit on the sand and watch. Dede from Indonesia comes and sits nearby. Craig says, "Kai broke his board in three places." Dede says, "Oh shit."
The waves are getting bigger. More square. Filled with sand and death. Anthony Walsh takes off on an absolute bomb that explodes up to the heavens around his corpse. Anthony Walsh is a man's man.
Craig's phone rings. It is someone asking if he wants to be in the competition today. The six star prime Margaret River Drug Aware Pro. What heat would I be in?" he asks. "Ten? I should do it, eh?" He accepts the offer.
Craig laughs. "That is the funniest stuff ever! They said I could have been in the trials with 45 guys and I said no chance."
Dayyan walks by and Craig tells him he is in the comp. Dayyan says, "How'd you manage that?" Craig answers, "Craike's foot is still buckled." Dayyan says, "Good on ya then. Go right. There are these big macky rights." Craig says, "You haven't seen me surf, have you."
Nate Lawrence comes back ready to shoot. Craig tells him he's in the comp, laughs again and says, "At least I'll get a little paper today." Nate asks him what he's going to ride and Craig answers, "My biggest is this 6'2 closeout barrel board." He laughs again again and the two head out to grab a few closeouts. Craig sort of wants it to break so he can ride his shorter shortboard in solid 6-8 foot Margs.
The board doesn't break. In the car on the way to the comp site I ask who he is going to surf against in heat ten. Craig answers, "It'll be the best surfers in the comp. The wildcard always gets shafted because he doesn't deserve to be out there anyway. Thanks Craike, ya legend."
We stop and get some pies. Craig nibbles on Tim Tams. "That's two wildcards in a month. I must be doing something right."
We arrive and look and the thick thick far out to sea thick surf. The day earlier I had asked Craig to describe this same wave. He answered, "I'd reckon it's shit. One word shit. But if I had to give an in depth description I would say a fat left and right. Depends what you’re after. If you're after doing cutbacks on a fat wave then it is your wave. I have surfed there a bunch of times and not once have I had any fun. I'd reckon it's absolutely fucken shit." Dion Agius had said, “It usually cops all the swell so it is gigantic. Cops all the wind so it is gigantic and messy. Breaks halfway out to sea, breaks fat, and is surrounded by sharks. So it is a fat, messy gigantic wave surrounded by sharks and halfway out to sea."
The wind is just starting to come up. It is big and far away. Craig says, "I don't want to surf that! It's almost not worth $500!" Nate Lawrence says, "You have to pay?" Craig answers, "No, I get paid. If I get a 6 footer on the head I'll turn around and come right back in and say 500 dollars please."
We all look back out to sea. Craig says, "Look at how big that wave is. I don't surf big waves. I've got a 6'2 that goes like shit."
We start walking toward the competitor check-in area. Craig says, "All I want to do is a big carve with my arms behind my back. Like Occy or Matty Hoy. Except not a hack, a carve."
He checks in and we move over to a tent before he paddles. Craig says, "The first time I surfed in the QS they made us surf that wave…South Side." He points a tanned finger to the left. "It was 1000 knot onshore and 1000 foot. It was the worst time I'd ever had." We watch a stand-up paddle boarder get chewed alive by a giant white wall at South Side.
Craig leaves for the marathon paddle out. Ben Dunn, Heitor Alves and Nat Young are in his heat.
The horn sounds at 11:30. Beeeeep. The announcers say, "It is a real shame that Craiky isn't in. He is a Western Australia air specialist. Craig Anderson, who is taking his spot, better boost." The waves are still 6-8 foot and thick.
On his first wave, Craig drops into a heaving bomb completes a mid-face cutback, then wipes out incredibly on the inside section. Totally upside-down. One announcer says, "Craig is hurtling himself in the wave like a rag doll." The other announcer says, "He got done and dusted for sure." When the replays are shown everyone in the tent moans. He gets a 2.00
Later Craig gets a 4.33 and 3.67 for a total of 8. He had guessed his heat total would be 8.2 earlier. He got 4th in his heat. On the way out he picks up the collection form for his money. No broken neck. Paper. And not having to surf Margarets maybe ever again. How fantastic!
"Today was not fun, but it was funny" says Craig Anderson.