By Tom McNish
EAGLES Nest is known by surfers as the last hope when no other breaks are working.
For most land-lovers, it’s an iconic rock formation, but for anyone travelling the Bunurong Coastal Drive, it’s a jewel of the coast.
Surfing the Nest
“You wouldn’t call it the best surf spot on the coast but it’s a staple,” Darren Martin said.
“It’s the sort of wave you either love it or you hate it, it’s got about four or five takes of waves and it’s got some really slow sluggish spots. The best part of it is called the ‘boneyard’.
“You’ve either got to be a lightweight surfer or have a bigger board to surf it, it’s a very tricky wave to surf.
“It’s one of those waves where experienced surfers will go out because they’re desperate and beginners will go out because from the top it looks pretty tame – that’s what actually causes a lot of chaos out there.”
Paddling out, there’s a choice you’ve got to make.
“There are two ways you surf the Nest, you either paddle out from the bottom, or you jump off from out the back,” Darren said.
“Jumping off from out the back you can get caught really bad. We call it getting tea-bagged.
“Your leg rope can get stuck and you’re basically hanging in mid-air.
“You’ve got some guys that have been jumping for years that still come unstuck.
“Where you jump off out the back is right where the main pack of usually the experienced surfers, you’re standing there and you’ve got to wait for the sets to come through.
“You’re waiting for a lull. And some people turn and walk back.
“That’s an entertaining part of it. It’s fraught with danger,” Darren said.
Eagles Nest was the site of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in June.
Boon Wurrung Traditional Owner and leader in the Australian Indigenous surf community, Steve Ulala Parker, performed the Welcome to Country before some 300 people paddled out to show their solidarity with the BLM movement.
“The nest is quite significant culturally. We chose the location because we had plenty of room, restrictions-wise,” Steve said.
“The BLM movement is happening all over the world. We’re highlighting that we’re a minority in the community, but we have the highest rate of deaths in custody and incarcerations. This is happening in our backyards,” he said.
The iconic rock formation features on the front cover of Debbie Rielly’s book ‘Just Because’.
People said their final goodbye with a ring of honour joining together hundreds of her friends and family.
A testing break
Former Surfing Victoria CEO Max Wells ran his first surf contest at Eagles Nest in the early ‘80s, as part of a Wonthaggi Technical School event.
“The Nest is one of the hardest waves in Victoria to surf. The best surfers stand out here,” Max said.
“The natural amphitheatre makes it a great location for a competition and it’s where I learnt from Greg Hogan,” he said.
Part of the Bass Coast’s second generation of surfers, Greg said the break was iconic for working well when nowhere else is working.
“It’s surfed a lot when it shouldn’t, when nowhere else was good,” Greg said.
“When it lines up and breaks properly it is good, I enjoy it thoroughly.
“Certain parts had different names, there was one section called boneyard, one section called whiplash.”
Growing up between Inverloch and Wonthaggi, Peter Connelly was part of the first ‘long-haired’ surfers.
Pete remembered sliding down the hill to surf the Nest in the early ‘70s.
“Our standard joke was if it was hailing, then it would be good at the Nest,” Peter said.
Pete remembered surfing with the Cape Paterson Surf Life Saving Club.
“Peter and Max Kavanagh, the Stevens brothers Phil and Kenny, and Dale Chapman were all club boys,” Pete said.
“If you were lucky enough, Chapman would give you a lift. Otherwise, we’d hitchhike.
“Back then our boards were so heavy we’d leave them at the surf club, and if the club was fed up with us, we’d bury them in the sand and come back the next week,” Peter said.
“The coast was pretty quiet back then.”
The best at the nest
Eagles specialty surfers include Peter Bateman, Peter Galati, Luke Kewming, Darren Martin and Simon Olden, with Paul O’Connor being the one who reads the place the best.
The next generation of surfers is being led by Alex McEntee, Allison Sharples, Lucy Cousins and Jack Hutchinson, with the ‘Grom Pack’ being Sonia and Sarah Seuren, Maeve Wilkinson, Lily DeBono, Willow Carr, Lucy Cousins, Sam Patterson and Oscar Hughes.
Located on the eastern side of the Bunurong Coastal Reserve, diving and snorkelling around Eagles Nest features some amazing reef formations and is teaming with fish.
Conditions – south-westerly, right round to northerly. You can have conditions like a south-wester, in those conditions you can have surfers come over from Phillip Island when they’re desperate.