Ranger in the west

Al McLeod in WA

Photos by: Col Leonhardt – and Georgia Pignolet

Western Australia at this time of year is a popular destination for those wanting a little bit of adventure along the way. If you are seeking a slightly clichéd trip where road tripping is rewarded with perfect white sandy beaches, and no more than a handful of windsurfers at the most crowded breaks, then you will certainly strike lucky here. Al McLeod was one of the lucky few who scored epic riding and jumping at the ultimate windsurfers playground this season. We join Al for the ultimate surfari tales…

Western Australia is a massive place – it is hard to comprehend how big it is until you have actually spent some time there. There are plenty of awesome sailing spots; the only problem is they are usually hundreds of kilometres apart!

This summer I left Melbourne after Christmas and started the 3500+ km trip to WA. Having done the drive before I knew that there is always a chance of something going wrong, especially across the Nullarbor region where phone reception is a luxury and the towns (usually just a roadhouse) are at least four hours apart. Planning is important – you don’t want to run out of fuel in what is literally the middle of nowhere or end up driving at night when the kangaroos can reach plague proportions on the roads. Our drive went well, apart from what could have been a potential ‘Wolf Creek’ situation… Luckily everything panned out and we made it to Esperance just before New Years.

After hours and hours behind the wheel, I was itching to get into the water. Esperance is an amazing location – home to what are probably some of the best beaches in world. Imagine white sand, bright turquoise water and offshore islands populating the horizon in every direction. This same place also gets its far share of hollow, glassy waves and cross-offshore winds – that is Esperance. Unfortunately we had missed the wind and the swell by a couple of days so after a surf we were on the road again – this time to Margaret River.

Margaret River is famous for its wine and its waves – and from December to March the Southerly sea-breezes turn it into Australia’s premier big wave sailing location. On a small day at Margs the sets push mast high, on a big day mast and a half to double mast bombs are a common sight! It is a tricky launch at Main Break through a small keyhole in the reef, once you get through that you must bear away downwind to the channel. It is pretty awesome being able to safely make it out the back through waves that size while watching the locals tear it up! As to be expected Margs can be a very intimidating wave – there is a lot of volume in the lip that can smash you and your equipment, leaving you swimming for the river mouth after one mistimed hit. On smaller days the inside section of the reef known as the ‘Surgeon’s Table’ also gets very shallow, taking a few unprepared victims when the wave sucks up and unloads onto the shelf.

Whilst Margaret’s is mostly about waveriding there is also good jumping to be had on the upwind section of the reef called ‘Southsides’. On the really windy days people often tack upwind to escape the crowds of Main Break and get some air. However, if you crash a jump and don’t get out of the impact zone quickly it is pretty easy to get dragged across the shallow reef – so if you are going to have a go make sure your landings are sweet!

The Southern Coast of WA between Margs and Esperance is full of pristine beaches, typically only accessible by 4WD. While the famous Lancelin Ocean Classic was running in knee high waves and 10 knots we were scoring 25 knots of cross off perfection and fun head to logo high waves at an undisclosed South Coast location. There is a lot to offer down there for those with a sense of adventure. Sure you might spend hours searching in vain but you might also stumble across an epic set up with literally no one around but you and your friends. It is easier to just sail at the well known spots every day but if you never go, you never know right?

I think that sentiment kind of sums up what this roadtrip was all about; there is always something just around the corner. Only in WA to get to those corners takes hours behind a steering wheel!





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