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Stepping off the plane in Sydney on February 16th, we were instantly struck by two things: 1) the blazing, incandescent, irrefutable light of the souther summer sun & 2) the incorrigible, undeniable reality of travel exhaustion. Luckily, the former seemed to melt away the latter as we stumbled our way through a couple days in the Blue Mountains with local Steve Lennon, and around the Northern Beaches of Sydney with local Nick Carroll.
It was not long before the first (and really only) catastrophe of the trip hit us. Or rather, hit Queensland. Granted, we were lounging in the relative sublimity of New South Wales, but our project itinerary had us marching up the coast straight into a double cyclone storm. I thought I had presciently devised a route that would allow for any number of eventualities. Friends and campgrounds, sites and surf spots dot the coast all the way up through Noosa and we were set for a leisurely drive that would grant us all sorts of options. The one thing I hadn't fully accounted for was a the need to completely turn our trip around and head south instead of north.
Granted, the cyclones would mean some pretty epic surf conditions along our prepared route, but "epic surf" is not "learner's surf" and torrential rain is not all that conducive to surfy filmmaking. This all meant a loss of a couple days of truly productive filmmaking as we had to refigure our itinerary and make our way down the long, long... long! southeastern coast to theMelbourne area where we would find the sort of surf & cinematic possibilities we had in spades for our northern route.
But this is documentary filmmaking at its most quintessential.
Fortunately, the prevailing Aussie can-do spirit overwhelmed us in the form of Mick Sowry, filmmkaker, artists and a creative force behind the astoundingly crafted Great Ocean Quarterly. He set about finding us harbor and home for the rest of our trip, introducing us to Justin Brady, who lent us his shack in Mallacoota, and Steve Demos, who offered us a home and hand onPhillip Island. Steve also introduced us to Matt and Sandy Ryan, the latter gifting Robinson a one-on-one surf lesson!
Mick then welcomed us in Torquay, home of Quiksilver & Rip Curl, Bells Beach, Winki Pop and a thousand other breaks. He introduced us to the legendary surfer/shaper Maurice Cole (who has pioneered any numberof surfboard designs), the incredibly surf-addled Day family (Papa Ben helps run GDJ and each and every memebr of the family absolutely rips) and we even paddled out with Gideon Obarzanek for a smoosh session at Bells.
Not to be outdone, our return trip would offer us a New York blizzard counterpart to its Aussie cyclone cousin, more or less stranding us in California for a couple night (happily, mind you) and offering us a decompression chamber in the form of Cardiff Reef.
We are not safely, and nearly, back to routine in Brooklyn.
As far as assessing the project so far I think I'll have to break it down from different points of view:
The Surfer - A bit skunked. Had to go the opposite direction of where my bones wanted me to go, into the relatively calm seas of the south. Never got into the groove that one might hope for in two weeks of Coastal Oz meandering.
The Surfing Papa - Mostly pure stoke. The change in itinerary did relieve us of a few days of full on kid-in-the-water, and definitely took us away from getting Robinson in the water with other kids. But the boy stood up on his first wave (under his own paddle power) and was pretty adamant bout making it into the waves as often as possible. He took to his Token surfboard with gusto.
The Filmmaker - A mixed, but positive, bag. I think we came away with perhaps optimistically 2/3rds the footage I was hoping for. The edit will turn on a slightly different fulcrum than I had hoped for. I think for the amount of initial turbulence, we did a pretty good job of finding our feet and making the best of each opportunity.
The Teacher - An invaluable experience. Robinson got into the groove of amateur birding with Uncle Kevin, got to live an itinerant, camping lifestyle for the first time, and experienced first had what it means to be the beneficiary of the generosity of new friends, good friends and friends who share a value system. We all came back the wiser in many ways.
So there you go. As honest an assessment i can come up with in this foggy jet-lagged state.
Stay tuned for more from The Boy's Journey!