October 30th, 2014
This past weekend I got to go surfing, something I’ve always wanted to do. With eleven other students, I went on a trip to Goolwa Beach organized by the Exchange Student Network of my university. We drove down Saturday morning, and arrived at the beach-side shack where we’d be staying. After less than two hours to get settled and relax, we were already putting on our thongs and heading down to the beach for our first surf lesson.
(Just to clarify, to Australians, thongs are not underwear, but flip-flops. While the term flip-flops refer to the sound they make, the term thongs describes the rubber component on the sandal that passes between the first and second toes of the feet. Australians do understand the confusion that can occur when someone says they are wearing thongs, and are quick to clarify what they mean to prevent awkward misunderstandings.)
After going through a short safety briefing and practicing standing up on our boards in the sand, we went out and tried it in the waves. It was much harder than I expected, and I kept taking my hands off the board before I was standing solidly, causing me to fall a lot. However, I finally started getting the hang of it and was able to ride some waves all the way back to beach before we went back to the shack for a late lunch. It was only a few hours until we returned to the beach, recharged from the food. I went for a slightly bigger board for our next surf session, and I also got a lot better at standing up. Since I also worked on catching my own waves without help from the instructors, I ended up paddling a lot and I was pretty knackered by the end of the outing.
(Knackered means tired, wiped out, exhausted, spent, or near death. I heard multiple Aussie friends use it after a long day of climbing or regaining. Supposedly a knacker is someone who renders horses who can no longer work, and that’s how the phrase came about and came to mean tired or spent. It seems to me like most people will still describe themselves as feeling tired and reserve the term knackered for when they’re especially exhausted.)
We all returned to the shack, craving a shower, food, and a nap. A couple of the others made a short trip to town to get booze since all they had was goon. (Goon is cheap wine that is packaged as a bag in a box. To drink, you tear away a perforated section to expose a plastic tap. This drink is popular because of how cheap it is, costing around $15 for 4-5 liters. I’ve noticed that it is especially common for uni students to buy goon since they often don’t have a lot of extra spending money.) During the surf trip, some of the other students started out drinking more palpable cider, saving the lower-quality goon for when they were already buzzed but still wanted to drink.
When our driver finally came back and started making everyone dinner, he and a girl from New Zealand started giving each other a hard time, although it was all in good fun. He referred to her as a kiwi, and the two of them went back and forth mocking each other until dinner was ready. (Kiwi is the Australian term for a New Zealander. A kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand and is the country’s national symbol. New Zealanders generally take pride in being called a kiwi, which I noticed in the exchange between the Kiwi and the Aussie.)
After dinner, most of the group went out to a pub/club in a nearby town, including our driver and our surf instructor, who claimed that the more hungover you are in the morning, the better the surfing. Despite this advice, I stayed and got a lot of sleep so I could go out early the next morning and surf.
The next morning, I went out about an hour before our lesson at ten in my bathers and wetsuit and got more practice at catching my own waves and riding them in to shore. (Bathers is an Australian word for swimsuit. I’m assuming it comes from the idea that you bathe in the water while you’re swimming. In my opinion, it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense since when you are actually taking a bath, you don’t wear clothes.)
At the start of the lesson, before sending us out to the waves our instructor also gave us tips on how to turn so we could maintain speed while riding the wave. All of us then spent the last hours at the beach trying to improve our surfing technique and attempting turns into the waves. I found that my prior experience from longboarding and snowboarding helped a lot when I tried to turn, as I had no problems turning both on my toes and my heels. My main challenge was learning how to spot good waves and catch them, something you don’t have to do in longboarding or snowboarding. With all the practice we got that weekend, I was able to improve a lot and by the end of the trip I could catch some of my own waves, turn, and ride across the wave all the way to the beach.
After this final surf session, our group returned to the shack, packed our stuff, and headed back to Adelaide just in time to miss the storm that rolled in. All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I got to surf for the first time and got a lot of sun from the time in the ocean. On Monday when I returned to school, I had three separate people immediately comment on how tan I looked. Sadly it was only reflected in my face since I was wearing a wetsuit while surfing. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some more sun before I leave Australia, and maybe even go surfing again.
On a more random note, aside from the terms included in this post, here are a few more Australian terms that I’ve heard in my time here:
This is a term used to describe someone who has an unsophisticated background or who demonstrates a lack of education and manners based on their clothing, attitude, speech, etc. Another common explanation is that the term is basically the Australian equivalent of what Americans call rednecks.
Describing something as daggy means it’s out of fashion, not stylish, untidy, etc. I first heard the term while climbing, as one friend commented that climbers often wear daggy clothes. While my friend said it in an off-hand manner, it was easy to tell that this word could also be an insult.
I have a habit of using the word sketchy to describe things that are unreliable, potentially dangerous, or of low quality. In Australia, the locals use the term dodgy. For example, I hear people describe the weather as a bit dodgy, or say that a particular climbing route looks dodgy. The slang seems to come from the British usage of dodge to mean a scam or a plot. This makes me realize that although a large part of Aussie slang is unique to the country, there are also many words and phrases borrowed from the British.
Footy is most often used to refer to Australian Rules football. The use of the term can actually be confusing because footy can also be an abbreviation for soccer, known as football in most countries except for Australia, Canada, and the US. I have noticed that quite a few of my European friends are actually referring to soccer when they use the word footy. Thus, to avoid any possible confusion I always clarify which “footy” someone is talking about when they use the term.
That’s all I’ll include now. Until next time!