My neighbour was first to divulge the news.  I saw him trudging back from the office looking glum and defeated. He’d seen The Forecast. Oh the revered forecast! The master of our fortune, the dictator of common morale. I didn’t need to ask him what was predicted. His face said it all.

At the time of writing, I’ve been camping at The Bluff for three days. Food, water, wood and fuel are plentiful. I haven’t quite slipped into the rhythmic cycle of surfing - that lulls and pulses with the swell and ebbs and flows with the tide - yet.  Hell, I haven’t even surfed. It’s been Nor-West ever since I arrived. 

I drove 1000km from Perth to get here in a day. The last 100km along a corrugated gravel track was longest. It was dark when I arrived, and luckily, I managed to find a good spot. My camp looks out at the towering red sandstone headland. If there were waves, I could watch the rifling lefthander wrap around the reef without even leaving my bed, but instead, I’m staring at a black horizon. 

The calm before the storm. Photo: Tom De Souza

The Bluff is an idyllic winter escape for many West Australian surfers. It’s as close as you can get to Indo without leaving the country. The weather is often warm, conditions clean, the waves long, groomed and plentiful; but occasionally it rains. When it rains, all hell breaks loose. When it rains, I’d rather be anywhere else but here.

There are varying degrees of preparedness for the storm: from luxury caravans housing a family of six; to the bloke sleeping in the back of his Commodore living off carrots and warm beer. My set-up is on the lower end of the spectrum. The howling gale rattles the flimsy canvas gazebo I’ll call home for the next month; if it makes it through tonight.  I’m doubtful it’ll see morning.    

I bought the gazebo from a bloke selling cheap household goods from the back of his van. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh the space, I thought.  3m tall, 3m high, 3m wide.  Standing up inside! What a luxury! When I set it up in the backyard it seemed ok. It’s a different story out at The Bluff. Mother Nature quickly sinks her claws into any inferior product. 

The rain arrives just on dark. It extinguishes the fire and announces an early dinner. I retreat inside and try and force the front door shut. The zip breaks. Rain floods through the open flaps. A gust of wind lifts the gazebo off the ground. I grab onto the frame, holding onto my home for dear life. It’s a terrifying ordeal. I wrestle a sandbag onto each corner and abandon ship. The back of the car is the only safe haven. It’s a long fitful night. 

Dawn. The rain has passed but the wind is still fierce. My belongings are scattered around the campground. Half the gazebo is flapping in the gale. Duct tape and cable ties hold together the other half.  The ubiquitous dust has now become thick mud and there is nowhere to run or hide.

The day grows old, clouds scatter, and the sun makes intermittent appearances. There are still no waves, and running out of ways to pass time, I trudge back up to the office to check The Forecast. My neighbour’s there again, but this time, he’s walking back with a grin on his face and a glint in his eye. The Forecast has changed.