(Part 3 of Exciting New South Wales series)
I long have been amazed and been into the water sport of surfing that when someone mentions the word “surfing”, I instantly know that they meant getting stoked on the waves out at sea; whereas before I would link surfing as synonymous to browsing the WWW. Can you imagine what a complete dork I was? Not that it changed, obviously I am still an Internet junkie. But now it seems that a new kind of surfing is here to haunt me: Sand Surfing; and of course, Australia has a place to do that (act surprised). As that country/continent where riding the waves is a natural past time, it is inevitable that those surfing skills will find a way in the massive sand dunes of Stockton Bight in Port Stephens, NSW.
We took to the famed dunes here in the Northern Shore of New South Wales via the 4WD tour offered by Dawsons Tours. It was at around noon when we started the tour and well, it was sweltering to say the least. Before the sand boarding, our tour guide/driver took us for a ride around the dunes in our real-deal Hummer 4WD, stopping by interesting spots. I know, sands for miles– where are the interesting spots on that? But interestingly, there are.
|Our bad-ass ride.|
On the first stop, we were taken up to the top of the dunes to marvel the forest that’s right beside the sand dunes itself. Its pretty amazing stuff and I am not sure if my photos did it justice.
|Where the sands meet the trees. 🙂|
Next stop we were taken to the Tin City which was built around the 1930s during the Great Depression. It some sort of shanty town located right in the middle of the sand dunes. The cluster of shacks that make this area are mostly made up of corrugated iron, hence Tin City
Tin City kind of reminds me of a ghost town in the middle of the dessert as in those western-type movies; only I cannot picture saloons or Clint Eastwood being somewhere in it but instead Mad Max-type pubs where a young Mel Gibson emerges from. It may seem twisted when I explain it like that but our tour guide clarifies the issue going on in my head when he goes on to tell the story that Tin City is actually used to film some scenes in Mad Max. Whoa! I know, I kind of get creeped out at my accuracy at times. LOL.
|Tin City is a favorite film set for desert settings.|
Another stop that we made is in this sand clearing where Aboriginal middens are found. The middens is mostly composed of heaps of Pipi shells and animal bones which relates the day-to-day life of the the Worimi people who are believed to be the original land owners of Stockton Bight. If you are into archaeology, you’ll love this stuff. Unfortunately I haven’t got a photo of it that I took myself. At this point of the tour, I was cursing myself for forgetting to slather on sunscreen and was thinking how I would pay for it in the near future (skin cancer or premature ageing? take your pick).
Then came to the exciting part: sand boarding. Our guide gave us a quick introduction on sand boarding and gave us instructions on how to do it properly. He then handed us our sand boards which looks like a snowboard and is made out of a very flexible plastic material called formica. Then he proceeded to tell us that each board has already been pre-waxed at the bottom to allow for a smoother (and faster!) ride downhill along the sand– kind of reminds me of waxing you surfboard which functions on the opposite (to allow for traction when standing up the board).
|How far down? Try 30 metres.|
So now we come to our fate which is to be put to our sandy grave, about 40 metres downhill. The usual position is to sit on the board with your legs bent and knees up. Then you just slowly drag yourself out to the crest for the fall off. For speed control and direction, we were told to have our fingers trailing behind us. Of course common sense follows that as you dig your hands or fingers deeper in the sand, the slower you will go. On my first go, I had all my ten fingers trailing behind me which I thought was no fun because its not fast, I even stopped a few metres towards the bottom! Well that sucked. On my second go I learned to have your fingers just skimming beneath the surface to have the perfect speed for a more thrilling and fun ride.
|Race you to the bottom!|
While going downhill was fun and exciting, going back uphill to the crest was torture. Did I mention that this was at around two o’ clock in the afternoon in the summer with the sun up as it can be? I am not a person who curse that much but man, my mouth was foul on every trudge uphill on that very steep gradient! After that I believed I lost 5 lbs and yes, the sun damage on my skin and hair is still accumulating with every second. To the more adventurous kind, the guide offered another drop off point to sand-surf, standing up as with the usual surfing position. It was just a few meters away from where we are and it is not as steep as from where we did sand boarding sitting down. A few hours ago, I would be lining up for this. But lo, the climb uphill against the soft sands had depleted my energy so much, I am not kidding you that I almost passed out. I certainly would be more than happy to go downhill sand-surfing but trudging back up is another story.
|Looks fun, ain’t it? But the climb back up is a whole different story.|
So I just watched from afar as my fellow sand boarders went surfing down the dunes– with some falling flat on their face, its kind of funny. Still, with sands on their faces, I envy them. I mean, where did all my stamina go? I for sure cannot walk all the way to Tin City if we are left stranded in the middle of the dunes. And that may mean that I will be the first to die in that scenario. What’s worst is my bones will be considered worthless and uninteresting when archaeologists mistake it for aboriginal middens. Well that’s just a sad and pitiful Note to self: get your ass do some serious circuit training!
|The one in the purple shirt with NYS on it will be left for dead when stranded in the dunes. 🙂|
The dunes at Stockton Beach are a definite must-see if you’re headed Down Under. It really is just marvelous; and what’s Australia if not thrilling? So try sand surfing out there, too. Just remember to slap on some sunscreen and have plenty of stamina in store. The last thing you need to remind you of your vacation is a badly burned skin and a knowledge of how sand tastes like when you wake up after passing out face-down on the sand.
For more info on Stockton Beach Dunes and Port Stephens:
For tours, try Dawsons Tours: