You can surf all over the world, you can score dream sessions at even dreamier waves, but nowhere will shape you quite like your local. It’s the place you come to know better than any other, that you love and hate and learn from constantly, and it leaves an imprint on the salty side of your soul that can’t be erased. In this new series, Tracks talks to a number of prominent surfers about their relationships with the waves that made them the shredders they are.

First up, Chippa Wilson and his beloved Cabarita back beach.

Tell me about Back Caba, what makes it such a special place for you?

Just being a goofy-footer, growing up on a right-hand point, you’re always searching for a left. And that was the beauty of Back Caba, you could run over while everyone was going out the point and jag a left or two. It’s definitely my favourite wave around home, just because of the crowd and the locals that surf it. When I was growing up it felt like we owned the place. We were checking it every morning before the point. Some of my fondest memories are surfing out there with the same people that’re out there these days if it’s good, like Gibbo, Chicka and Chad Harvey.

It’s scary sometimes because you’ll be the only one out. Those south-facing corners along the North Coast can be scary by yourself. My mum was always freaked out about me surfing Back Caba. I think something heavy went down there when we were younger.

Do you know what it was?

No, I still don’t know. I just remember getting yelled at not to go surf there. I can probably guess now that someone drowned because what happens is the south swells get sucked all the way to the point and then it creates this crazy rip next to the rocks. It gets really strong from the beach all the way out. I’ve known two kids to drown there in the time I was growing up. I’ve saved at least five kids in that rip … and a dog (laughs).

Give us a rundown on the intricacies of an average wave out there?

It depends on the sand. There’s so much more sand nowadays, but years ago, when I was like seventeen or eighteen, there was no sand there so your average day would be like a fairly solid shorey. Like a wedgy, bounce-off-the-rock kind of shorey. Nowadays it’s more out the back. It gets this backwash off the headland, enough to make it run a little bit, and you pretty much take off and it either closes out really quick or you can get a few turns in. It’s fast. When it’s good it’s pretty heavy. The last time I burst my eardrum was out there.

800_IMG_1841 Devoid of colour but not spice. Photo: Andrew Shield

Tell me about her moods?

She doesn’t like a south swell. It runs up from Hastings Point and just runs right into the rocks. East swells are good. Nor-east is the best. The tide just varies. If it’s a shorey you want high tide, if it’s an out the back bank you want low. It’s all about the swells and the wind. Westerlies or nor-west are the best. She’s a temperamental bitch (laughs).

How’s the wave helped shape your surfing?

It’s shaped it heaps. That’s where I learnt to tube-ride before I started going away. Obviously I learned a lot more going away, but even watching the kids nowadays they’re at that age where they’re all improving so quick and watching them surf Back Caba, it’s made them improve a lot quicker. So I guess it made me improve a lot quicker, too.

Why?

Just because of the steepness and how fast it is. You’ve got to learn faster to keep up with the wave when it is good.

What about in terms of aerials?

When it’s onshore at Back Caba, it’s pretty hectic. There are some big ramps. I think I pulled my first front-side big-spin out there. I’ve done a few tricks out there I’m pretty stoked on.

Best ever session out there?

One stands out when I was a kid, like sixteen or seventeen. I think it was a dead east swell with maybe a little north in it. Westerly winds. It was honestly like a six-foot shorey and was just perfect. From all the way out the point to the beach, just solid pits. I think I surfed for eight hours that day. And I wasn’t even that good a tube-rider. I just remember getting a few little ones and tripping out, I couldn’t believe it. And I can still remember that day so clear. It was fucked up. I’ve never seen it break like that again.

Worst ever?

Too many of them. It probably happens twice a week. I had a session where I broke my board duck-diving on the way out, that was pretty shit. But those bad ones happen much more than the good ones, so when it does get good or even just half decent it makes it so much more special.

Just a hop, skip and a jump. Photo: Andrew Shield Just a hop, skip and a jump. Photo: Andrew Shield