WA’s Kael Walsh will have to leave home to take on the world.
It’s little wonder that Margaret River has produced some of the most exciting surfers of a generation.
Taj, Jay Davies, Jack Robbo; they all cut their teeth on the throaty waves dotted around the surf rich coastline. But while the entire region is classified as ‘Margaret River’, an overwhelming percentage of these surfers don’t actually hail from Margs itself.
A few kilometres up the coast lies a quaint little town called Yallingup, and while most of the world’s best were fine - tuning their acts around the contest venues, local up and comer Kael Walsh has been showing those keen to escape the crowds around his own little playground.
Kael’s visiting comrades have been relying on his local knowledge to score the region’s best waves, including electrifying Quiksilver teammate Mikey Wright.
“Mikey’s been frothing,” Kael says.
“We’ve been surfing Rabbits a bit and Mikey couldn’t believe how sucky and powerful the wave is. It’s definitely sick having these guys come over and showing them round. It pushes you to go heaps harder in the water and not hold back at all.”
WA is a far cry from the high performance centres and training camps of the East Coast; instead, grommets like Kael rely on natural resources to hone their craft.
“Back home is a way different style of surfing to over East,” Kael says.
“There’s way less surfers in WA and the waves are definitely what produces so many good surfers. We definitely have an advantage at home, surfing the bigger stuff and testing yourself in varying conditions.”
Kael spent his formative years in Perth before moving down to Yallingup at age 11 with his family. While he’s grown up alongside the likes of Taj and Jay, he says having the tour come to town is just as beneficial as surfing alongside his senior compatriots.
“Taj and Jay and all those guys never give too much away. A lot of the time they keep the best banks to themselves, so I don’t always get to surf with them,” he says.
“Having everyone in town’s been sick. With all the guys down in Margs and me being up in Yalls we’ve pretty much had the whole coastline covered.”
An abundance of waves means surfers in the region rarely leave their locality. Venturing beyond shire boundaries is known as ‘crossing the border’, and while Kael doesn’t do it often – usually only when North Point’s breaking ¬– he admits he’s gone behind enemy lines in recent weeks.
Kael spent the weekend in Kiama, competing in tiny waves at the Subway Pro Junior. He made the semis and is now sitting at number seven in the Australasian junior rankings, but admits he found it hard to leave when he saw the weekend forecast for home.
“It sucks having to go away and you see photos of North Point or somewhere going off while you’re grovelling in shitty beachies,” he says.
“Over here it’s way less top to bottom surfing, you’re just looking around and trying to throw spray. Back home, it’s proper surfing. Definitely world tour sort of surfing.”
Historically the west coast of Aus has not been as well represented on the world tour as the east coast. Kael may have to endure a few miles to locations with lower quality waves than home, but hopefully one day we will see his raw approach unleashed on the WSL. The west coasters certainly love having one of their own to cheer for.