The Australian Pipeline [guide]
What: Welcome to the Australian Pipeline, mate. You’ve surfed the North Shore’s Pipe, and you’ve surfed Mexico’s Pipe. But have you surfed The Australian Pipeline? What’s that, no, you haven’t?
According to Mark Warren:
South of Jervis Bay is Wreck Bay, the site of an Aboriginal settlement and home to one of the classic south coast waves. Right off Summercloud cove is Pipeline, A perfect left reef break that gained its name for its similarity to Hawaii’s famous north shore break, though it’s known by many other names including Black Rock, Summercloud, or Wreck Bay. Pipeline is one of the hollowest and most photogenic waves in Australia. It features a thick and fast-moving peak, which pitches with surprising speed over the shallow, sea urchin-infested reef. It breaks left and right on smaller days, but only left when the swell gets over 2 metres. The relatively short ride has surfers hungry for more and this break can get ridiculously crowded on good days.
Where: Summercloud Bay, Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia
Transport: Panel van highly recommended — you’ll be living out of your car.
Stay: Camp for free at many roadside parks in the area.
Eat: This is a long way from Sydney coffee culture — there’s quite a few fast food joints, though. If you’re doing it on the cheap, just get provisions at Coles or Woolworths and cook your meals on the gas grills in the public parks.
When: The wave turns on in NE winds, and at least a meter of south swell, working best at 2-5ft, and still holding at 6-8ft and beyond. So that would be quite a few winter afternoons. June through September sees many good days here. And it works on all tides.
Who: Mostly bodyboarders, only expert/experienced slab/reef surfers
How: Don’t lock your car, and don’t leave any valuables in your car at the carpark. Rumor has it you will get robbed. Hike a half kilometer through a path overrun with ferns, sharp, grassy plants, and craggy, dead trees until you come down a hill to a small white-sand beach.
The wave breaks on a unique lava formation covered in sea squirts and live seaweed. Most surfers take off on the mellower outside section and cruise into the more critical inside part (the one with pits bigger than their utes). Otherwise you gotta air-drop right into the gold. And did I mention, get out of the wave quick? Like, really quick? The end section is a dry, sucking shore break close-out.
Why: It’s one of the best waves on the east coast for barrels, a veritable shack-machine on par with anywhere else in the world. Sneak out of Sydney after a morning surf when the wind goes north and there’s still some south swell in the water. You won’t regret it! Wind-groomed, wide, and perfect left barrels await. When the swells reach 6ft, the wave becomes possibly one of the hollowest, rideable barrels in the world.
And also, there is beautiful terrain. According to the government website:
Booderee is home to over 200 species of birds and over thirty species of native mammals including ten species of bats, thirty-seven reptiles, seventeen amphibians and at least 180 species of fish. The great diversity of species is thanks to the vast range of habitats found in the area – coastal cliffs and heaths, sandy beaches and rock platforms, mangroves and ocean, swamps, lakes and forests. Many of the 200 species of birds are residents, while others are travellers passing through and some are of special significance to the traditional owners of the park.
I won’t say it’s “breathtaking,” because that would be cliche. Instead I’ll go with fucking awesome. Just lying on the white sand in the sun watching gigantic death barrels unleash their power on this weird lava reef while dolphins pass through is enough for me. Actually surfing them is just the icing on the cake.
Hazards: Theft at the car park, foul locals, getting repeatedly snaked by pro bodyboarders, theft on the beach (teenagers), getting caught inside on a set where the wave sucks the reef almost dry, the tricky entrance/exit off the sharp lava ledge into fast-moving water, and the shallow depth at which it breaks (maybe 3-5ft on average), which makes it suicidal on double overhead plus.
Kook Pretzel Rating: 7/10. Oh yeah, baby! If it weren’t for the crowds and occasionally sketchy locals, I’d go 10 for 10. This might be the best barrel in NSW.