*published for Surfing Life magazine
The Northern Beaches has been rated as the most white, mono-ethnic district in greater New South Wales, a place completely devoid of sympathy for the unknown, where the tanned monotony of ingredients like Home & Away is baked into our DNA. It is a cruel, cruel Anglo-Saxon metropolis where Brazilians weep for their lack of assimilation and Russians are fittingly nowhere to be found. A region that despite its fierce Winter gusts, is in an eternal Summer state, where shorty shorts rule and ghetto side boob singlets are uni-sex and for some reason transeasonal. It is the place to hibernate in the winter and locals unashamedly cower in the warmth of NB’s heaving beachy bosom. Why? Because it promises nothing and delivers marginally beyond that. It is winter’s safety net of urban surfing.
The Golden 15
It’s a heated debate, but I don’t think anyone really comes to Sydney’s Northern Beaches for surfing. The 15 or so beaches that give it its name exist more so as portals to mutated surfing subcultures spawned from the larger area rather than great surfing destinations. In the summer, grommets rule the waterways like rats to NYC’s underground and of course the only decent waves over 2ft arrive in winter. But nobody stays or comes for the surf in this chilling interval. We stay for the apricity, for the lack of sweaty commuters with tug boat inflatables, for the caffe lattes and the days we count down till Bali. For some reason there’s a plethora of unconventional workers and we all sit around mid-week reading the paper over pastries because we are a breed of nouveau coastal colonists. Most guys have a semi-professional beard that is acceptably smart-casual and sometimes there’s a bunch of pros that hang around but no one really knows why. While breaks like Nth Narrabeen and Winki Pop might bring the young and naive, most people know these hot spots play out for their residential convenience. Unless you’re one of those few that still clings to the eight second barrel Larry Blair got at the Manly Coke Classic back in 1977. But like me, you probably weren’t even alive and even when the bomby breaks off Nth Steyne like an awkwardly chubby 40 year old it still is not why we stay. It’s for the scantily clad tourists that bake hopefully in a beaming sun with a UV Index of 2. For the comedy of bodyboarders that never say never and for the influx of hipsters that do yoga on SUPs. It’s the obnoxious golden glow that Manly dons on a winter morning making her the most arousing beach abroad. It’s the blissful seasonal ignorance that can only exist in winter, at a time when we are completely unaware of our cultural intolerance. A place that asks us to do nothing but chill in its crispy winter warmth.
The best thing about this urban dwelling is that, apart from Jennifer Hawkins and the highest rating of football orientated sexual assault allegations, the Northern Beaches has absolutely no attractions. We are like a slightly comatose version of Surfers Paradise without the Condom Kings and angry 17 year old tradesmen. There is no Big Banana, no Giant Clam and no 3 Sisters, apart from the ones you might meet at Shore Club on a Saturday night. We are completely setup for Mother Nature’s glorification and all the sun has to do is tip her crown above a distinct blue horizon and it’s like a small choir of children sing softly through the air. It is the starfish of the eastern seaboard, taught nothing but to show up and look good. We need no accessories and have very little edge. There is no iconic point or reef break but somehow we are still home to some of the greats like Lynch and Beachley. On a good day we offer vanilla and sometimes deliver beige, but only when a little drunk and on those days I feel like Bec Cartwright back when she was young, and olive and Hewitless. Way to be.
History tells me you can develop cultures out of simply denying others. Impatient in our surfy virtues we are too insular and threatening for ill-mannered migrants to settle, and so diversity is exceptionally low on the Northern Beaches. There is already a distinct difference between the north and the south of the region and if this was five years ago we would be on the periphery of a cold war between Manly and Avalon and it would be carried out in a skatepark with Angus stone as the honourable judge. But things have changed, we’ve adopted an emerging ethical intent, which I think was picked up overseas on someones gap year. We’re totally chilled out now and everyones got a gluten free attitude. We’re void of Versace suits, shithouse Italian designer sunglasses and anything that looks like it may have once been worn by an Ibrahim. Though we do have heaps of drugs and drinking, which keeps the winter angst at bay and the sun always shining.
So come on by in winter, unless you are: not Anglo-Saxon, don’t wear stupid oversized street gear, looking for the massive oyster and a bit of multi-culturalism, don’t enjoy drinking ciders on the grass while watching 1ft surf, actually want to surf, and below a 5/10 in attractiveness. We are extremely anti-social if you are an outsider. Sunny days!