Mia McCarthy On: A Perfect Sunday Surf When A Dolphin Sneezed In My Face
FEATURE // MIA MCCARTHY
I grew up on the raw, majestic and very surfable south-west coastline of Western Australia. The Indian Ocean feeds in swells that rev us up. You can hear the deep rumble of the waves early in the morning and you know it’s going to be on. Everyone is excited, there’s an energy in the air, you can feel it as soon as you pull up in the carpark. It’s the sound of fresh wax being ground side-to-side on a board, the ruffling of wetsuits being pulled back from inside out, a hum and buzz from the locals psyching up to head out into wild walls of water, sometimes up to 20 feet. We’re not afraid of a bit of size on the west coast, especially out front at Margaret River Main Break.
It really is one of my favourite waves. I love the power and the spirit of the deep open ocean, it makes you feel so alive surfing out there.
On the weekend of 25 November, I woke up and checked the swell buoy but it didn’t actually show a heap of swell. I had a feeling there was going to be more than was forecast.
When we turned up early that morning, it was set in at four to six feet and building fast. Even on the paddle out, you could feel the swell dredge in and out. It travels such a distance and gains so much force that it feels alive like it’s breathing in and out as it gets bigger and bigger.
The carpark at Main Break sits up high on top of a cliff looking down onto the reef and when you pull up you can feel and smell the swell as you get ready to head out. The staircase down to the beach is similar to Bells Beach, in that it features on placards, all the past winners of the Margaret River Pro on them, it makes it a special feeling like you’re descending through surf history. On the side of the main staircase is another that features the past winners of the Margaret River Classic (mainly western Australian surfers), held in November. This year I won the women’s division so will have my name placed here pretty soon. It’s a real honour and I’m so stoked
The paddle out is long. You hit the water and make your way through the reef on the deep, dark blue channel.
Throughout the day the bomb sets got more consistent, the wind stayed strong and offshore early before swinging to the south making the right-handers bumpier.
The waves have a lot of grunt and Margarets always has swell. On the right-hander, you can get more critical turns in with a steeper face. The right never used to get surfed until about 20 years ago. The left is a bit fatter but lots of the old guys who are part of the fabric of the place have surfed out there forever. They bring their big, BIG chunky boards out and dominate. They have a gravity and style that you can’t teach. It’s decades of development.
It’s a pretty tricky wave to get used to because of its power. It really isn’t like any other wave. With the lineup so far out and the big deep ocean, and constantly swirling currents, it’s tricky to find your spot, trickier to keep it.
The most unexpected and nearly unbelievable thing happened out there and wasn’t captured on film. I mean, there is an abundance of sea life out in the ocean in WA – whales, dolphins, fish, (big grey, toothy fish too), and there are always funny and weird experiences but this one takes the cake. A dolphin actually sneezed in my face! A large pod started cruising through the lineup. I glanced down and saw they were all underneath me, not unusual in these parts, but as I was having a good look a dolphin came to the surface less than a ruler’s length from my head and blew water out of its nose into my face. A group of guys were watching it just metres away and couldn’t believe it they lost it, laughing so hard. I couldn’t believe it either, it was so surreal.
FUN FACT: When humans sneeze it is involuntary, it’s pretty hard to block a sneeze when you get hit with it. But for dolphins, sneezing, or clearing their airways is voluntary. So does that mean the dolphin voluntarily chose to spit at me?
*Mia McCarthy is a surfer and artist from Margaret River in Western Australia. She is proudly supported by Billabong, Firewire Surfboards (She rode a 5’6 Firewire Slater Designs ‘Gamma’ model on the weekend) and Orgran.