If I was on the Bondi Tourist Board // 26 April 2012
Just found this gushing ditty, which I recall was written as part of a job application for a travel mag. I think they asked for a piece about ‘my favourite place.’ Rewind to 5th grade. Hey-ho, they didn’t get back to me.
It’s not quiet, it’s not remote, it’s not untouched. It’s not even wonderfully clean, nor is it buffeted from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s certainly not easy to find a parking spot nearby and ‘getting there and away by public transport’ merits a long, hard re-think by bus operators. It is fringed by a McDonald’s and a backdrop of badly-judged graffiti.
In its inimitable way, though, it couldn’t be more perfect.
Bondi beach, 2026, NSW.
A fingernail-like arc of golden sand curves between two cragged headlands in an achingly textbook-esque display of nature at its best. Waves roll onto shallow bars, flopping with graceful force onto sand that has been pounded by a billion indigenous soles, Chinese tourists, young revellers, sunburnt backpackers, strapping lifesavers and 6am joggers over the years.
Water that wouldn’t be out of place on a Caribbean picture-postcard – clear, turquoise, an exquisite foil to the city’s daily grind – keeps the nation’s (if not the world’s) favourite beach beating to its own rhythm.
Dawn and dusk surfers bob like sitting ducks, waiting for their few seconds on a crest, tumbling into surf at the very last moment. Straps whip boards back to tanned owners who by day, suited and booted, work minutes away in a glass tower block.
Ocean swimmers head to the depths, away from the hoi polloi, bright caps dotting the distance like a string of beads.
Snorkellers huff and puff and poke around the rocks towards Ben Buckler, searching for the mottled grouper they hear lives there, idling in the warm waters and minding his own business. Whether the grand-daddy of fish is an urban myth (or should that be marine myth? It’s hard to know at Bondi, where city meets sea in such unusual synchronicity) or not, snorkels waver and wobble, taking in the grey, green, blue, black and yellow rocks and unseen life, lurking below.
Bodysurfers zoom, Superman-like, riding a turbulent plane until tumbling, frothing water plonks bodies onto the beach. Fathers teaching sons to catch the waves, girls flirting with the idea – and with the boys trying to teach them – and everyone in between washing the city from their bones.
Children, families, chatting parents, three-wheeled prams with wheels that make deft work of the hot, cream sand. At one end, toddlers fall and scream in a calf-high ocean puddle, watched over by 100 pairs of Ray-Banned eyes. At the other, the aged, the strong, the one-piece clad locals tear through a crisp pool of fresh ocean water, lapping a chopping pool whilst diners eating wagyu burgers watch on. Early mornings see the sun rise in a misty film beyond Icebergs, merging sea and pool in slowly brightening light.
All along the beach unspoken politics plays out between lifesavers and lifeguards – blues versus reds, the Venn diagram of difference only overlapping to help where help is needed. Signs tell you the water is shallow, the waves dump, the currents rip and the waves may barrel onto battered sand. It’s a minority, though, who can resist throwing themselves into a breaking wave, absorbing and soaking in the sea. A toe, at the very least, is dipped into Bondi’s imperfect charms by most who visit.
And all along the beach, Sydneysiders, visitors, everyone walks the sand that has been trod for millions of years and will outlast everyone of us. Where one shallow footprint fills with rippling water and washes into the Pacific, another footprint soon replaces its five-toed, momentary imprint.
Bondi is a force – not just an acolyte of Sydney’s unique, enviable lifestyle – but a tour de force of geography, people and space: a gem, a gift, a beach to be shared.