Former PWA wave world champion Scott McKercher and Red Bull Storm Chase champion Jaeger Stone teamed up with Geraldton based photographer / fireman, Mathias Moerman, for a mission further north than their normal haunts on the West Australian coastline; the crew tell the tale of an epic score.
Words Scott McKercher, Jaeger Stone & Mathias Moerman // Photos Two Goat Media/Mathias Moerman
Scott – “It’s been over a decade since I haven’t turned left. A left hand turn in the road on a desolate West Australian highway that leads to one of the best wave sailing locations in the world. But as scribed on Ken Kesey’s bus back in the 60s, this bus was going “Further”.
The inspiration for me not to turn left was one of the best surf trips of discovery I’ve ever been on, on many levels. 13 years ago we arrived to a beach not having a clue where anything was, eventually finding it and then scoring epic conditions. Immortalised on my living room wall ever since, it’s been a constant reminder of having to go back. On that memorable trip, once the swell subsided, we then joined up with another local windsurfer who had a tinny (small aluminium boat) and he took us to one of the region’s many outer reefs. It was small that day, but was such a perfect setup that grew and became cleaner as it wrapped around the reef. Having recently just bought a little baby Zodiac inflatable for tow foiling, these outer reefs were also in the back of my mind when making the purchase. A little surf machine that wasn’t too heavy to tow, or get onto the beaches. So when a little window of opportunity to get up north opened, with Jaeger and Mathias also able to make the trek, I was pushing for “Further” because it’d been so long since I’d last been and now had the wee rubber ducky. There was some concern voiced by the boys saying they wanted to turn left, when I might have called them certain names in order to make sure they went the extra mile. Whatever I said must have struck a nerve and they followed through and stuck with the original plan to follow me up.”
Mathias – “Are we going?” – that was the 3 way question asked on our WhatsApp group called ‘frothers.’ In the end it was Scott that made the call. “Come on blokes, let’s try to do something different…” Something different it definitely turned out to be! I had just finished a 24 hour shift and Jaeger was waiting at mine to start the trek north. Scott had already come through earlier that day towing the boat, when we left it felt really stormy, a proper winter front, strong onshores and freezing cold. Well, not actually freezing, but cold enough to have to put some long pants on. We drove past Northampton and knew our regular spot would be pumping. It’s not easy driving towards the unknown, past a break you know will be firing. By about midnight myself and Jaeger had had enough. We had depleted listening to the heavy metal of Parkway Drive’s albums, dodged a dozen kangaroos and to keep going would be pushing our luck.
We pulled into some roadside parking, rolled out our swags and tried to get some sleep. What we didn’t realise was that this roadside parking was also home to some of the loudest insects in the world. By dawn we had both had enough and to add to the serenity we realised we had rolled our beds about 1.5 metres away from the long drop dunny. Hence the happy crickets, feeding on crap. When we arrived Scott was already there, fresh as a daisy after sleeping in a queen size bed in his 25 foot bus. Sign me up! Practically sleeping in a toilet the night before had fully changed my view on vans…I’m buying one!”
Scott – “I had left a couple days earlier than the boys and was just frothing to check out some outer reefs with the boat. Launch at a boat ramp, cruise around a US military radar base, cruise up the coast passing the posse of surfers at the town beach, before pulling up at an empty outer reef. Living the dream. A little while later they were up and we were following old mate Matty Ruthven (even further) who was able to help launch the boat, as I was in my van and not my 4×4. Tyres down to deal with the soft sand, we were soon launched and way out at sea surfing the pass until the wind filled in.
The last few surfing stragglers stayed out whilst it was still windy, but they soon departed to leave it to just us. The faces were really smooth due to the wave wrapping around the reef as explained before, and with more size than the previous visit, it surely was a treat. Jaeger was tearing the bag out of it whilst I was just enjoying coming off the super clean bottom turns with pristine faces to bury a rail. Being able to generate so much speed due to the angle of the wind to the wave.
You’re a long way out to sea, so it’s kinda nice to see the little zodiac sitting there just in case there’s an unexpected gear failure. Basically, you’re a long way from anywhere, but with a few mates it tends to soothe the isolation, but if you actually stopped and thought about it, it’s about as “further” as you can get. Then add in the other factor that you try to suppress thinking about – big tiger sharks lurking around this area. In 1987 or so, before myself and Mike Galvin went on our inaugural up north trip, we were shown some footage from previous pioneering West Australian wave sailors. They were in the area and weren’t able to surf due to a big tiger shark stalking the lineup. Obviously this wouldn’t happen in this day and age, but getting fed up with their stalker, they set up a drum line and caught the beast. Dragging it up the beach it was longer than their long wheelbase Pajero 4wd. With the boat out of the water and beer in hand it was a pretty good feeling to have shared Jaeger’s first session out there and everyone was pretty chirpy for the drive back into town with thoughts turning to the swell increase for the next day.”
Jaeger – “When we first arrived I couldn’t believe how far out to sea it was. I knew it was far, but not that far. Scott’s boat was already in the water and walking down with our surfboards, two girls asked if Matt and I were paddling out…it was a missed opportunity to sound like heroes and say yes. Pulling up to the lineup I couldn’t believe how perfect the setup was. I instantly knew that I would be making every effort to come back from that point on.
That first day of sailing was so fun, it took me 1-2 waves to figure out my timing and the speed and power of the wave, but once I did there was no question that the trip was worth it. It was the wave I daydream about. Nothing out of place, fast, powerful, clean and perfect bowls. I think my favourite thing was the way I could ride it. It was perfectly groomed and down the line but there was no need to race or straighten out to beat a section. It was short, sharp and fast allowing three turns that were completely top to bottom. Something I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced anywhere else.”
“It was the wave I daydream about.”
Scott – “Being further north, what the swell might actually do is always a bit of a question mark. Another question mark is how far the wind is going to make it down the coast. This day, the day of the swell, there were a lot of questions that needed answers. And we didn’t have them.The swell came and by lunchtime when the howling offshores had finally subsided I snuck out for some waves on the SUP and got a few before things all of a sudden became suspiciously quiet on the sets. Was it the high tide, was it just a lull? Well, this ended up being the least of our problems. It’s a peculiar piece of coast; we were sitting in glassy conditions but saw a wind line out the back. But it just sat there. After a while impatience got the better of us and we drove up the coast 15 minutes to find 4.7 with some jumping conditions. But!!!, had the wind filled in down the coast?
We drove back down again with the answer being no. I decided to get set up with a foil to go SUP’ing while Jaeger decided to head back up the coast to do some jumping. But… by the time he got back the second time the tide had gone out and the waves had disappeared. So he’d come back again and I was about to go foiling but noticed the wind had filled in enough for a light wind wave sail on my SUP 4-in-1 crossover board – “The Mongrel”. Jaeger followed me out and the wind actually filled in enough to go sail where we would have ultimately liked to sail, but it was too late due to it being a little way out to sea, so we ended up just sailing the inside. It was actually pretty good fun, but ultimately the swell had come and gone and what we came for didn’t eventuate. It’s hard to be disappointed after having a pretty fun sail, especially when you’re sitting on a veranda with one of the most epic views ever whilst having a beer with the bbq on, but there was this element of we just missed it. It was by no fault of our own, the stars just didn’t align this time. There was more deliberation by the boys as to what to do with work commitments etc. etc. for the next day, but in the end they decided to extend one more day and head back up the coast to where we were the first day.”
Mathias – “When we got up on day 3 the swell was still present. There was a stronger offshore though. Strong offshores fight the onshore and the wind line can sometimes stay out the back. Although this was pretty far out to sea so maybe it wouldn’t matter either way. Scott and myself went for a look to see what the setup was like, even at the back there was still no sign of a southerly wind whatsoever. There was also lots of water moving around once we reached the break and we saw some solid barrelling sets roll in. As we were driving around this set came out of nowhere and broke where we had just been with the boat. “Didn’t we just come through there?” Scott asked, “Yep” I said and we both laughed at each other. It would have put a damper on the day if we’d needed to use his EPIRB 5 minutes in. We went back to the beach and discussed if we would try go surfing somewhere or wait it out for the wind to come in. We ummed and ahhed and decided to wait it out. If it was anything like the day before within a couple of hours we would be out there. A couple of hours went by and there was still no sign of wind.”
Jaeger – “We didn’t want to miss a thing so some brainiac decided we should head down and get sorted at 0930. The flies and heat decided to arrive early too…good company. I passed the time by exploring the nearby landscape and sweating a lot, becoming more and more certain that this was how the day was going to play out as each hour passed. Like someone had flicked a switch though, at 2 p.m. the wind machine turned on! Within a couple of minutes I was sailing out to sea and 10 minutes later I was getting my first look at the break. It was big and at first it also looked sketchy and unpredictable. Nothing like the first day. I felt uncomfortable, but sailing with Scotty pushes me a lot and I took a set wave to begin my session, only to bottom out, hitting a piece of chop and lucky to escape without breaking my only 370 mast. I did pack a spare mast in the boat but somehow it magically fell out…so if you see someone fishing with a 370 carbon mast in W.A., let me know! That first wave helped me weed out which waves weren’t going to hit the reef in the right place and from that point on I felt like everything was in complete sync. There were so many waves that were absolutely perfect again, but with more risk and size. I kicked out of so many waves just laughing at how fun it was and what they allowed you to do.”
Scott – “Focussed just on windsurfing this day, we were ready for the wind, which held off and held off – a Mexican stand off between the offshore and the seabreeze, until the seabreeze won over with a vengeance. With the two Matt’s taking one for the team (Matthew Ruthven and Mathias), driving the boat and doing shots it was just Jaeger and myself on a wrapping point break miles from anywhere. Definitely a Corona moment. Another mate had took off down the coast thinking it was too big for where we were, ironically sailing at the place where we were the day waiting for wind as the wind made it all the way down there this day. If you were surfing it would have been too big. The wide ones would have wiped you out, but for windsurfing this wasn’t a problem and you could avoid the wash throughs quite easily.
The bigger ones weren’t all that good. They’d lure you in and then go fat as they went around the corner. It was the mid-size ones that hit right and wrapped properly through to the reef’s groomed inside section. Jaeger was on point. Every time I looked he was either boosting into an air or making it rain with spray and busting fins out. As for myself, I either got one that went through too far inside, or was a bigger fatter one. Just not really in sync, until late in the day when I found the perfect connector from the outer corner bubble to the inside peak. It was the most perfectly shaped bowl I’ve had the pleasure to stick my rails and fins into for a long time. No slide whatsoever. Just pure rail and fin engagement. Flow.
To be honest, my body isn’t doing that well these days. Hip replacement number two on my right hip has been giving me a bit of grief. The brain is now holding the body back from approaching a lip in certain ways with the landing from a projecting air creating too much pain and stiffness afterwards. So when your brain knows how while you’re watching Jaeger send it, but the body is saying you cannot…..acceptation of my debilitation I suppose was my lesson. It is how it is. But it was still an absolute cracker of a day.
Anyways; right place, right time, right moment. This was “further” proven when we just happened to run into my mate that owned the local craft brewery. After a few free rounds of their finest I noticed the raffle wheel. It was a $20 entry to either get skunked with a middie or hit the bonus with 6 pints. Destiny turned on the radio once again as it hovered on two middies, slowed, but just pushed through to the roar of approval for 6 pints. Synchronicity.”
Mathias – “We looked through the shots full of excitement and there was some absolute crackers. We all sent Ben Severne heaps of WhatsApp’s to add to his FOMO. He was on the way to Europe for work for about the 5th time in 6 weeks and had to sit this trip out.
So on this occasion I would like to say, “Ben, if you are reading this, I am afraid to tell you, you really did miss out!” I copped a bit of banter for missing Scott’s wave of the day to get Jaeger’s Gucci pose on the side of the boat, but within no time we were all laughing about it. This trip was a huge success. All the lack of sleep, wind and sunburn was overpowered by a huge dose of serotonin mixed with a little bit of pale ale. On the drive back home Parkway Drive’s heavy metal was substituted for something much calmer.
When we finally arrived home the winter weather we had left in had turned to summer. We sailed the next couple of days at home in perfect conditions. I think it’s safe to say we brought the summer back with us and the 2019/2020 season in Western Australia is officially on!”
If you want to see more of Mathias Moerman’s photographic work check out twogoatmedia on Facebook and Instagram.