I’m drunk. A mixture of Cooper’s sparkling ale and red wine has left me all fuzzy and giggling like a school girl. There’s 5 of us, crowded around, staring at the chaotic array of cards strewn across the kitchen table. You see, we’re playing a game of memory Irian Jaya with the Croker’s, which as card games go is an almost perfect reflection of our long time family friends. It’s tumultuous, quirky and eccentric but most of all it’s fun. It’s closest resemblance would be to the classic card game, “Concentration” in which two cards are flipped face up each turn. The object of the game is to turn over pairs of matching cards. Person with the most pairs wins; easier said than done when you’ve had a few drinks and the card pictures are of West Papua tribes and landscapes. We awoke the next morning with heavy heads and foggy memories but an overwhelming sense of times well spent. And so the tone was set on what would become a classic east coast road trip.

Tara and I had started out a week prior when we left my home town of Rainbow Beach on the march south. I’d arrived back from Ireland not long prior and before re-entering the workforce, decided to give Tara a taste of Australia after seeing so much of her country. And the idea was birthed; what better way to see this country than from the front of an 80’s series Landcruiser?

We relaxed in Rainbow and explored Fraser Island while in the area. If you ask most Australian surfers of the northern most reaches of consistent surf in Queensland, the response will generally be “Ah mate, there’s no waves north of Noosa.” And asking anyone from my home town would probably result in the same response, especially from my old man who can often be heard “debating” courtesy in the water with newcomers. It’s a beautiful corner of the world up there and gets more waves than most think. You just didn’t hear that from me.

Days were spent driving, camping and couch surfing with strategic stops for both ocean time and photo opportunities. I quickly worked out that it’s a delicate balancing act when your travel buddy is your girlfriend from a foreign country. Detouring to see the “Big Prawn” might end up taking longer than you originally thought and the afternoon surf you had in mind might not end up happening. I can’t complain however, with a few mid-week days on my lonesome at Angourie point and a memorable session near Port Macquarie, I was getting my fair share of waves. Our days became a routine of surfing, driving and sight seeing. It’s great rediscovering your native country after a stint overseas. I fully believe that we surfers, myself included, all too quickly jump on the airline sale tickets and forget what we’ve got in our backyards. It’s taken this trip for me to realise, and if I hadn’t fallen so in love with Ireland, I’d be exploring more of what Australia’s coastline has to offer. Alas, a journey for another time.

We drove through Byron and Ballina; Port Mac and Pacific Palms; South West Rocks, Sydney, and countless others until we passed through a small town called Berri. We’d been told a few days prior of the famed Berri Donut Van which lay claim to “the best donuts in the world”, an opportunity too good to pass up. A 6 pack on board and back in the cockpit, we had travelled barely 200 metres when I witnessed a transformation in Tara that can only be described as astonishing. Upon her first bite, the witty, cute Irish girl that sat alongside me mutated into what will now go down in history as the “DONUT MONSTER”. Deep fried batter flew, fingers came within millimetres of being chomped, and driving became a near impossible task. For the rest of the trip a “no donuts whilst driving” rule was adhered to strictly.

We reached our southern turning point of Ulladulla and spent a few days exploring the area. It was my first time on the south coast and with a vague mud map and a few tips from old friends, I woke on our second day determined to find some of the waves I’d seen in various clips and articles. After a 40 minute drive punctuated by a few half hearted coastal checks, we arrived at the point I’d been aiming for. In the dirt carpark, we were confronted with an empty slab-style right point. I tried to play it cool and took a quick walk with Tara but after a second consecutive 4 wave set I was freaking and tore back to the car and into the lineup. I was joined by 4 guys, one of whom I recognised from my competitive junior years, and we traded tubes for hours. I couldn’t believe my blind luck and it was surely the kind of day one only experiences when on the road.

After days of camping and another highlight in ascending Pigeon House Mountain we started the 1500 odd km trek back to our starting location. With a quick stop in Sydney for the Vivid festival we ploughed north and covered the distance in half the time it took on our way south. It was with weary heads and stiff backs that we arrived back to my parent’s house and over dinner that night we were quizzed with the typical post trip questions. “Where was your favourite place?”, “What stands out as a highlight?”, and it got me thinking about that night with the Croker’s playing cards. Quite often at the end of a surf trip, or any trip for that matter, I’m left with little memory of particulars and it all blurs into a mess of couches, campsites, and kilometres. I guess in that regard, I’m fairly hopeless but what remains is an overall feeling or emotion which defines the journey. Similar to waking after a night of beers and only fleeting fragments to remind you whether it was a good time or not; it’s an emotive undertone which summarises the people and experiences along the way. Some are better than others but like that hazy night of Memory Irian Jaya, this trip left me happily content, and while I may not remember all of the details, it’s certainly one I’ll reflect on fondly.