The World's 10 Best Cities for Surfers: Sydney
From Stab issue 58: Stab reveals the metropolises where a man can lock down a satisfying occupation, be entertained in the most degenerate manner, where he won’t be vilified for his free expression and where a hunk of fiberglass can be put to exceptionally good use…
Number two is: Sydney, Australia
By Derek Rielly, Designs by Shinya Dalby
Think about this. In what city can you bounce off an international flight and be holding the reins at an eight-foot ledge 30 minutes after you’ve scooped up your bags? Where else will you be earning 150-large and surfing before and after work, in trunks, in the sun-washed summer months? What other city has hundreds, I ain’t kiddin’ ya, hundreds of weekend options, north and south?
Sydney is a geographical phenomenon. Split in two by the world’s most spectacular natural harbour and part of a coastline rimmed by what seems like an endless stretch of sandy beaches and boastful headlands, if you want to surf, be a degenerate in the offline hours and take down gals that certainly ain’t wildebeests, Sydney is your town. It ain’t a coincidence that of all the cities Stab could’ve set up shop, it chose Sydney, specifically its eastern suburbs, and even more specifically, the beach suburb of Bondi, seven clicks from the CBD.
Why you’ll wanna live there: The thing about Sydney is its two primary beaches, Bondi and Manly, a couple of nautical miles apart if on a dead reckoning on a boat, face in opposite directions. Therefore, y’gots Bondi’s mouth swallowing any kinda south swell (and offshore in summer’s predominant nor-easter) and Manly (protected from winter’s southerlies) taking in the north with plenty of beaches in between takin’ a piece here and piece there. Sydney is Australia’s biggest city (four-and-a-half mill) and is the country’s fashion capital. What’s that equal? Gals! Every model, would-be-model and never-going-to-be-a-model-but-she’ll-have-a-swing anyway is hanging around looking for a job and a good time. Oh, the vulnerability! Ain’t no shortage of creeps praying on the helpless thangs, too. It’s what makes Sydney great! And, if y’cant get a job in Sydney and take home at least 60 gees, y’aint trying.
Bondi beatniks in full regalia. Photo: Billy Morris
Where to stay: Unless you’re into a one-hour commute every morning to your big money gig, you’re going to be staying in Bondi Beach. Now, it’s important if you’re checking rentals or cribs to buy that you specify Bondi Beach and not Bondi or else you’ll end up among the Russkis and the deeply religious near Bondi Junction. If you’re sharing a room near the beach expect to pay $250 plus a week or $500-plus for a kinda grim two-bedder a few hundred metres from the sand. You wanna buy? Dive into the world’s most overpriced market. Start at half-a-mill for a two-bedder, a mill for an unrenovated semi (half a house) and two mill for the dream of a freestanding house. But, guess what, salaries here can be stratospheric.
Getting out: Three pm on a Friday afternoon, the finely attired gals have slid outta work early, biz lunches have drifted well beyond three hours and the bars are really lighting up. You’ll find Stab, post-surf, at the Bucket List, Bondi’s only beachfront bar. Soon, we’ll be up at Bondi Rd alighting at Panama House, Flying Squirrel, maybe a little Corner House, then howling with pleasure and pain into our Machetes at the Anchor on Campbell Parade (owned by Jon Lauro, cat who started Electric sunglasses). Later, dinner at the newly opened The Hill Eaterly (owned by the same dreamboats who run the Porch and Parlour Café) on Ben Buckler. Once turned onto kites, Stab taxies into the Cross for pizza and drinks at Hugos Pizza then Hugos f’reals upstairs afterward. We ain’t night owls, howevs, and are rolling around some kinda bed at two am, latest.
Grinds: Breakfast at Porch and Parlour at North Bondi, Gusto (South Bondi) and Katipo (way up Bondi Rd). Lunch is kinda tough if it ain’t a formal situation. Plenty of high-end restaurants, but y’think we can find a lovingly prepared salad sandwich on old-school multigrain bread with slabs of avocado? Three Steps, an old-school greasy spoon up Bondi Road (and near Katipo) does a remarkable job and they do it with a smile, with speed and it don’t cost the earth. Ask for Mohammad!
Violence: It wasn’t that long back when y’pals at Stab were wandering down a Cross alleyway to Lady Lux (now called The Back Room) and a gun fight took place, bullets fizzing back and forth and making that weirdo pop sound that’s nothing like the bang y’hear in movies. Yup, violence is a part of life here. It ain’t Cape Town or Rio, but when you venture outside the 2026 (Bondi area code) the wrong clothes might get y’pounded by lonely boys shouting a word that actually means a bundle of twigs or shot in the leg by the bikers suddenly enjoying their renewed love affair with hand guns.
Summer days radiate Bondi Beach. Photo: Billy Morris
Cultural hits: Apart from the accident of a Danish-designed Opera House (an entry into the contest to design the Opera House by Jorn Utzon in 1957 had been tossed away by the Australian judging panel and was only rescued by guest judge, modernist legend Eero Saarinen – if it wasn’t for Mr Saarienen, we would’ve had a square box) and the not-so-unique Harbour Bridge, ain’t too many physical cultural delights. If you like movies and over-the-top acting and the occasional brilliant show, the Vivid Festival excites, Mardi Gras has run outta gas, the Brett Whitely studio in Surry Hills is cute enough (check out more Whiteleys at the Art Gallery of NSW including Stab fav The Balcony 2) and the MCA at Circ Quay is moderately interesting.
Work detail: Finance, media or creative. Or maybe you’re smart enough and motivated enough to start your own biz. In the little office of the magazine we started nine years ago there’s a big cat called Miro who runs Fashion Week and who has his own underpant label (Miroslav), down the road there’s a ton of bars all started by guys in their twenties, plenty of cafes and there’s Eugene Tan who startedaquabumps.com. If you’ve got an idea, ain’t a bigger place in the country to make it work.
Water: From December until March, trunks and a vest, April to July it’s a short sleeved two mill and for those brilliant offshore days in August when the wind is shooting straight off the snowy mountains a three mm long-sleeved steamer with excellent taping is recommended.
One more thing: The quality of Bondi’s surf takes half-a-lifetime to get used to, to appreciate, and to eventually enjoy. But, Maroubra’s 15 minutes drive away (and gets epic) and if it’s a weekend or a day off you can head to the northern beaches (one hour) or Cronulla (45 minutes).
The Good and the Not-So-Good:
– The proximity of rideable waves to the CBD and its openness to swell. It ain’t Barcelona.
+ The volume of honest-to-go breathtaking women, mostly of the giraffe form.
+ Business and personal opportunities.
– What ain’t so hot is the quality of waves, day to day.