The message came through on WhatsApp and with it, a sense of nervous reality. That a simple conversation a few weeks ago was actually coming to life.
We were going to bodysurf “Middles” in Cape Solander.
Located just outside the south head of Botany Bay, “Middles” is a reef break that shares bathymetric real estate with its more infamous neighbour “Ours”. It is a break exposed to swell, wind, errant locals and whatever else swims by.
Fortunately, I would be heading out with some old hands, Pete Sperling and Grant Schofield, who assured me that the 4′-6′ conditions would be soft touch and suit a noob like myself.
Arriving first early Friday morning, I could see the thick southern swell lines marching in between the trees of the roadside parking . The wind is not as good as expected and despite the high tide it looks fairly decent and solid.
Pete and Grant arrive shortly and proceed to lighten the mood with tales about the time Grant shattered his kneecap at Ours and the days where you have to swim in to Botany to get out.. Good times
Middles infamous neighbour "Ours"
We all suit up and after a brief stretch, shuffle down toward the rock off with our fins on. Like a penguin, I’m following the two ‘locals’ when the shuffling suddenly accelerates and I’m racing after Pete and Grant as they move down the rock face onto a ledge by the waters edge.
To enter the water, requires timing a jump over the incoming surge and then being swept out along with the drain. No problem, except the ledge I am standing on, is a one jumper only ledge and that jumper is currently Grant. I barely make it back to the rock face, before a series of waves attempt to sweep me into the barnacle covered rocks. Not a great start for the noob.
Waves that are deeper than they are tall
There is finally a gap in the sets and I jump in to follow Grant and Pete out to the break. The sweep is ok(ish) and the swim not too long. As we get closer, the energy in the water becomes apparent, the waves are thick, powerful and considerably deeper than they are tall.
Grant Photobombs a nice wave
A shoulder high peak rolls through, hits the reef and morphs into an overhead wave. Sitting on the shoulder, it drops out that much that I go from being eye to eye with a surfer, to looking at the top of their head as they pass by in the pit below. Its a wave where you really want to set your shoulder for the steep takeoff and barrel before flattening out to shoot the section toward the inside.
We all trade waves but it is Sperlo, part dolphin, who shows his experience and style with consistent selection of the longest and most hollow of waves.
Sperlo finds the flair
As we bodysurf through the dropping tide, the waves gets deeper and more hollow. Its around this time I get what is probably the biggest barrel I have ever had bodysurfing. Taking off just behind the ledge, it draws up steeply and I gun the high line as it throws an absolute cavern. Sitting on the foam ball, everything is in slow motion as the wave roars around. I can see the exit and the guys in the channel. I'm going to make it!. Its a moment frozen in time, Im already celebrating as the end section teaches me not get ahead of myself. I swim back, grinning with the humility.
After awhile and a few more “last’ waves, the dying swell brings a great session to a close and its time to get out.
If getting in to the water was challenging – then getting out is like solving a quantum math equation written in Mandarin while floating blindfolded upside down in a tank of snapping turtles.
worst case you swim the 1km and get out in Botany bay
First you need to swim through/around “Ours’ while still keeping close to the rocks and not being cleaned up by rogue sets. Then you get to the exit “steps”, which are like some herculean labor built for endurance and torture. The “steps” are a series of three distinct ledges nearly a metre tall each. The bottom ledge, closest to the water, is an overhang that sits unreachable from the water line. The feat, is to then get from the water and onto the steps while avoiding being swept away or shredded by barnacles.
To do this, you have to hold position against the strong wash sweeping around “Ours” until a suitable surge comes. You then use it to to lift and deposit you "gently" on to a step. The higher up and less barnacled, the better. Miss the step or fall off and best case you swim a loop and go again, worst case you swim 1km and get out in Botany bay. Fortunately, we all pass on the Botany swim and make it out a little tired and a lot stoked.
It’s a hell of a location and certainly has its challenges but this truly is a magnificent wave for bodysurfing. All I need now, is another Code Green
Has spent over 30 years of his middle aged life trying to spend more time in the ocean. Likes to surf, bodysurf, free dive and pretend he enjoys chasing big waves.