The West

Waving hello to surf queen
Luct Gibson with Layne Beachley and another member of the "chicks on sticks" in Yallingup. Picture: Lucy Gibson

The South West of our spectacular State is known primarily for two things: wineries and waves.

More South West:

As a resident of this sunburnt country for more than a decade, I can proudly say I have become an expert in the former - let's just say I enjoy a full-bodied red with the best of them.

Waves, on the other hand, now that's something I haven't quite yet developed a taste for.

And so it is, with a mix of trepidation and excitement, I find myself in Yallingup Bay, (wet)suited up for a morning's surfing lesson with a group of fellow "chicks on sticks" - the daggy name we give our group of wannabe surfer girls.

Yallingup, in the local Wardandi language, means "place of love" and as we survey the rugged coastline and crystal-clear waters, it isn't hard to see why.

The question of whether we will fall in love with surfing has yet to be answered but as we stand there in our wetsuits, surfboards under our arms, pointing at the swell pretending we know just what to look for in the perfect wave, we are certainly ready to be introduced.

Heading down to the beach we draw a fair bit of attention, the four of us in our regulation Yallingup Surf School wetsuits.

I can't work out whether it is our confident swagger or perhaps, in some odd way, we just look like your typical surfer girls from Yals (as the locals call it).

Sadly though, I think it is more to do with the fact we have a superstar in our party, in the form of eight-time world surfing champion Layne Beachley.

As the ambassador for Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific - the Dunsborough resort is our home away from home for the weekend - Layne can't resist the urge to show off one of the world's most popular surfing spots first-hand. Not to mention, we hope, pass on some tips that will see us well on the way to qualifying for the world tour - or at least standing up on a wave.

Having spent two decades breaking down barriers in her sport and ensuring women enjoy the same opportunities and conditions in surfing as men, there could be no one better qualified, not to mention more fun, to hang out with in the surf for a couple of hours than Layne.

She delights in singing INXS songs to us while waiting for waves (her husband, Kirk Pengilly, is the band's sax player and guitarist).

However, it's testament to the expert knowledge of the team at Yallingup Surf School, which runs lessons for individuals and groups of friends and corporate colleagues, that for all her world titles, she is more than happy to step aside and let our accredited instructor Katie take the reins.

No doubt nervous at having her hero in the audience, Katie is a true pro as she takes us through the compulsory on-sand training: learning how to lie on the board (easy enough on land), paddle and of course jump to our feet, determining whether we are "natural" (left-foot forward) or "goofy" (right-foot leading).

Transferring these skills to the ocean proves somewhat tricky - however, Yallingup Surf School's philosophy is "You'll never know 'til you give it a go".

And if there's one thing the instructors can guarantee, it's that by the end of your lesson, you'll be standing up on your board (gracefully or otherwise).

However, we do all manage to catch a wave or two thanks to Katie's expert guidance, her calm presence alongside us in the water helping to quell our fears.

Now none of us is going to pretend we became experts in a couple of hours - except of course our resident pro, who is caught on occasion staring longingly at the bigger waves breaking out the back.

Certainly, we find our true calling when, after our surfing lesson, we sample the wine on offer at some of the cellar doors in the region, including Wills Domain, which has earned a reputation for its fine wine, food and breathtaking view across the rolling hills of the Gunyulgup Valley, and the equally impressive Saracen Estate.

And the shiraz certainly tastes that much nicer after a morning in the surf.


• For information and room rates, visit or phone 9756 9777.

;bull; For more information on Yallingup Surf School, visit or phone 9755 2755 or 0429 881 221

Lucy Gibson stayed at Dunsborough as a guest of Wyndham Vacation Resorts.

The West Australian

Latest News From The West

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Travel Latest

Follow Us

More from The West