An insight into Australia's most famous playground
My first encounter with the world famous Bondi beach was in 2000, when I was a typical British backpacker making my pilgrimage to this legendary shoreline. Saying that out loud makes me feel very old. My first impressions were that Bondi was a tourist infested, over rated, sandy suntrap. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Over the past 17 years, I have lived in Bondi, I have worked in Bondi and I'm lucky enough to call some of the real Bondi locals friends. I now have an understanding of its quirks, its charm and its character. For those lucky enough to really get to know Bondi Beach, it is in many ways a local's beach, with a strong sense of community at its core. Many of those locals have grown up together and they consider themselves incredibly lucky to live here. Of course, Bondi is also a tourist mecca and it draws a fabulous fusion of cultures. Each segment of this vibrant community stakes their claim to their section of this beach. From surfers to skaters, hipsters to backpackers, locals to tourists, they all find a place here to call their own. If you really look at the crowds on Bondi, you can glimpse many wonderful worlds in one giant playground. Believe me when I say that the vibe at the north end of Bondi Beach is very different to the south end, which is again different to the middle.
Here's a rough insight in to the wonderful world of Bondi Beach.
Early morning is the time when the locals enjoy their piece of paradise, before the circus comes to Bondi. As the sun rises and paints the sky various shades of oranges and reds, it is arguably the best time to quietly soak up this iconic beach at it's serene best. Each morning, you will see the lap swimmers swimming across the bay; you can spot the clubbies out training; watch the soft sand runners pacing up and down the long beach; see the nippers out learning about the surf.
As the day breaks and the heat builds, the beach goes from the sublime to the insane. But how does this crazy beach really work?
The south end of the beach is generally where the backpackers hang out. The theory goes that once they have slept off their hangovers, they roll out of the hostels at the south end of Bondi and collapse on to the closet part of the beach. There is a rip here named after this tribe of travelers: 'backpackers rip'. Backpackers are famous (infamous?) for hanging out here, heading in to the water for a swim and getting caught in this rip. It's certainly worth avoiding going for a swim here, not only because it's dangerous, but because you will really annoy the local surfers out trying to catch a wave. The waters at the south end are largely for the surfers. Bondi's huge skate park is just behind the south end of the beach too, and is home to many talented and aspiring skaters.
In the centre of the beach is the lifeguard tower, the pavilion and a few cafes, like the wonderful Bucket List. It feels like the central hub with large staircases welcoming the crowds on to the beach. There is usually a set of flags in the water here too, so it's always busy with tourists and Sydney-siders. Most days during summer you can spot groups of fully clothed, camera wielding beach tourists who have come to experience Bondi at its best. Even in the rain, the tourists are here, sheltering under umbrellas as they take in the view.
The north corner has a locals feel. It is generally the safest area to swim so this is where local families tend to gather. At this end of the beach is Flat Rock. This is a spot that tends to be populated by local kids who jump off the rocks here (not advised unless you know what you are doing) and dog walkers.
This all too brief overview only scratches the surface of Bondi Beach's wonderful melting pot and inimitable character, but it will hopefully give a small insight in to the mechanics of Australia's most famous beach.