It’s a shimmering Sunday afternoon in the sovereign nation of Western Australia. The East Coast sneezed, the borders are up, and this faraway stretch of coast feels a long way from the world’s problems right now. Beau Cram is in the car park at Jake’s, contemplating a surf. It’s his day off. A chippie by trade, he’s picked up work in Kalbarri rebuilding the town, which was hammered by Cyclone Seroja back in April. Like many Australian surfers, he took the opportunity of the Great Lockdown to get out and explore the fringes of his own country. He took off from his home in Avalon last year and has been living in his van for months, a “chippy gypsy”, the travel giving him new perspective on this wide, brown billiard table.
SW So, tell me about how you ended up in Kalbarri.
I ended up in Kalbarri a few months ago. I was down south, and the plan was to get out for the winter. It’s been horrible down there. I did a trip up north with Drifty [Tom Pearsall] and while I was up there, I spoke to a few crew who said there was work after that storm smashed Kalbarri. I’d bought all my tools with me and had everything I needed and within a few hours I met some lads down at the bakery. Soon I was working for a guy in town doing insurance jobs.
SW Do your tools go wherever you go?
Yeah, I got all my tools with me and all my boards. I sleep in my van on top of my boards with the tools next to my head. Everything’s pretty tight at the moment but it’s good, man.
SW Have you been sleeping in the van the whole time you’ve been away?
Yeah, the whole time up until last Sunday. I’ve just moved into an apartment.
SW How was that experience?
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome going from a van back into a house again. You appreciate it. It’s only a little place but it feels so roomy. It’s got a washing machine, running water and a toilet that flushes so you don’t need a shovel. I like living in the van. I’d recommend it to anyone young; drive around and check the place out. It’s an important thing to do once in your life if you can.
SW How much damage was there in Kalbarri?
I didn’t see the gnarliness when it first happened, but it sounded like it got smashed. The storm squared up right off the coast. Like, every house basically has got some form of damage. If it wasn’t the house getting ripped off its footings, it was like another roof that flew into the house from one side of the town to the other.
SW What sort of what sort of work have you been doing?
A bit of everything at the moment. It’s pretty straightforward work. They’re mostly pretty simple little houses but a lot of people are struggling quite hard as the insurance companies are not really wanting to pay up, trying to find loopholes. It’s pretty fucked. Yeah, we just get given jobs, a couple jobs a day maybe. I’ve got a pretty cool crew of lads at the moment. Boys from Vicco and we’re similar ages with similar interests. They got their dirt bikes and a fishing boat. We just go and meet all the locals in town and help fix their houses and for the most they’re pretty stoked to have us around.
SW Does that good vibe extend to the surf?
[Laughs] Fuck no! Our little building crew have had some funny situations. We got this local guy we’re working with now; at the start he was a bit off us. He was like, “I’m working with the gypsies.” My mate Darcy was down at the car park chatting and some grumpy dude drives past and goes, “Fucking gypsies!” We got creative and decided to call ourselves the “Chipsies”… the chippie gypsies. There are some really nice people in town, but I get it. It’s a little town and it is what it is.
SW I suppose there are gypsies everywhere over there with Covid right now.
Yeah, it’s pretty hectic. It’s quite unfortunate that Jake’s car park is the sickest place to pull up in your van and just hang out all day. But a lot of the local crew are saying it was the busiest they’ve ever seen it. It’s a hard one right now for a lot of lot of famous waves that people want to check out. There’s a lot a lot of really cool travellers around and they want to get a get a slice of paradise. I understand why they want to come and hang out. But it’s slightly conflicting for the community and I can see both sides.
SW How was the camp up north?
Pretty packed, man, but it was functioning. I had a really fun 10 days with Drifty and the crew. I was lucky enough just to pull up on their block otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get a spot. West Oz is basically its own country at the moment with these lockdowns and all those crew that were going to Bali and partying in Canggu need an outlet. The clashing of all different types of genres of surfers who usually go and do Indo, they’re all going up there now. It’s a bit sad for the for the crew who are there every year and that’s kind of intertwined into their lives. But Drifty geed me to come up and I was stoked I did, because that first little run of swell was awesome. We had some really, really nice sessions and met some met some cool cats in the water. It’s the sickest zone. It’s kind of like South Oz with coral. It’s pretty special.
SW Is there any plan to go home?
There is kind of a plan to go home, but I’ve also got a partner who lives in the States. Her name’s Dahlia. I think I want to go back home, then try and get a work visa and go to the States. The Australian government border security is pretty radical at the moment. It’s a pretty hard discussion to have for a lot of people. I feel for people who have families overseas and dying parents and all that. It’s ridiculous.
SW When was when was the last time you saw your girl?
Right before Covid, so it’s been almost two years.
SW How’s the separation been?
It’s been pretty heavy. You know, she finished up college in the middle of the year. It was a bit hard for me to get over there, then the plan was to try and get her here. But it’s just too ridiculous. Too much paperwork right now. I think the best option is to try and go to the States and get a working visa. That’ll be the next adventure. But it’s been good, man. I got to come over here and I’ve been meeting a bunch of really cool people and the work in the southwest has been really nice.
SW So, the original plan was to get over west and find some work?
My German buddy, Mo he’s a really talented architect and he’s got a really groovy way of looking at building and designing. I met him years ago at North Av and we just stayed in contact and then we all got locked down in Sydney last year. He was staying at a friend’s place in Avalon. We kind of ended up just hanging out a bunch and working together. We just found little jobs in town and did a bunch of time down the South Coast then he had some jobs over in Margs and said, you should come over with us.
SW And you guys did the road trip over?
Yeah, we did the road trip over. I’ve got two other friends, Luke and Jenny. Luke’s also German. He’s a boilermaker and his partner Jenny is Aussie. Luke wanted to keep travelling and didn’t want to get stuck on the East Coast so the four of us kind of crossed the country together.
SW How long do you take getting across?
We took about six weeks. We crossed into South Oz just as there was a case of COVID and we ended up getting locked down out at Sheringa for a few days. We literally didn’t see anybody. It was quite spooky being locked down in rural South Oz. It’s quiet at the best of times. It was pretty eerie. We had to wait 28 days for there to be no local transmission. Then we got to the border and there was an issue because we were going to do quarantine in our vans, and they wouldn’t let us. By then there was like nine more days until the border was going to open back up to the public. I was speaking to the cop at the border, and he said your best option is wait nine days and then just come back. So, we backtracked six hours and camped up for nine days and then drove back out to the border again. We got to the Nullarbor Roadhouse to get coffee and the woman was like, “There’s actually been another case in Adelaide this morning.” We were tripping, thinking we’d be stuck there. It was like one in the morning, and we were in this huge line of traffic trying to get into West Oz. We eventually crossed the border early Christmas morning. The police lights were our Christmas lights. It felt like we were going into another country.
SW I’m interested in your take on the the difference between the vibe of surfing on the East Coast and the West Coast.
Yeah, it definitely feels like a different ocean in the west, for sure. Those types of big waves in Australia, like on the East Coast it happens every 40 years. Over here it kind of happens half-a-dozen times a winter. It’s cool. To go surfing you’ve got to hike for a mile or paddle out a hundred metres to the wave and drive around quite a bit more. Instead of Sydney, where you just drive up to the car park, walk down and drift out in the rip. You definitely surf different over here.
SW Has the west been good for your surfing?
Yeah, for sure, man. You got to ride different boards. Everyone’s on bigger boards a lot of the time. It’s enjoyable. These waves also allow you to ride like a huge variety of boards. You can ride your little shortboards, and then you can also ride big guns. You can be pretty diverse with your equipment.
SW Did you pick up boards in the west or take them across?
I took a couple big boards with me. I took an 8’2” over, a 6’8” twinnie and a couple of guns. I lugged like 15 boards over with me from the East Coast. I actually have a pretty good little way of packing boards in my car – I got a couple of boards on the roof, seven under my bed, a couple down the side. I packed like I was going to be gone for a couple of years.
SW How do you sleep in there?
Yeah, I got 15 boards, enough tools to build a house and enough food to cook for a family. But it’s good.
SW You were back home on the East Coast last winter for all that swell? Were you amongst it?
Yeah, I got a bit of it. Had some pretty memorable sessions at home last year. It was a pretty awesome winter at home actually. Like when I think about, it’s actually pretty ridiculous how good Sydney gets in a big, clean swell, and how close and concentrated all the waves are.
SW Did you kind of surf Avericks?
Yeah, we had one fun session at Avericks. That was my first session out there. It was a classic with all local crew and some of the groms. It was a bit of an event. There was a couple of the local guys getting some of the rides of their lives. In the last five years or so everyone’s been getting bigger boards and paddling out to bommies and trying to get off the main peak. Seems like everyone’s kind of ready for a big swell and a life-changing wave. Everyone kind of wants that now. There are a lot of fucking chargers around the area. That big swell at Deadmans, I was out that session where Chris Lougher got his wave. I watched one of his tubes from the channel as he came flying through. That was one of the most special things I’ve ever seen in Sydney, getting to witness someone like that kind of just muscle his way through a big, mutant tube.
SW A good warm up for West Oz this winter.
Yeah, but I’d be just as nervous surfing Deadman’s again than any wave over here to be honest. Hearing the whistles of all these people on the cliff, drinking their lattes from The Boathouse. You just come over these walls of water and the see this trippy, big, thick, black thing of water, and you’re scratching around. You don’t know where you are. But a good, fun winter.
SW How did you end up being a chippie?
Man, I was clueless knowing what I wanted to do after school. I was pretty just in a surfing mentality and didn’t really apply myself too hard at school. Dad wouldn’t have a bar of a gap year idea at all. But it’s kinda happened to all us brothers – Bades my oldest brother is a sparky, Dylan’s a plumber and Jed’s a plumber as well. And lo and behold, I become a chippy. But I’m stoked to be a carpenter, man. It’s a pretty awesome, flexible gig. I like being able to jump in and help out and it’s crazy how many little jobs people don’t really know how to fix themselves. You do some simple carpentry work, and they think it’s magic. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really good tradesmen recently like my buddies, Luke and Mo. They’re talented dudes.
SW Are you a perfectionist? Do you prefer the high-end work?
Doing that sort of work is the cream. Working with people that have that kind of vision and can draw it up and know it’ll work perfectly. Guys who can use expensive materials and pull it off every single time. It’s super impressive. It’s really refreshing hanging out with dudes like that too. Surfing has never been a part of their lives and their trades, and my trade is where we are able to connect on the job site. It’s super refreshing hanging out with people who don’t surf.
SW Get out of the Avalon Bubble.
Yeah man, the bubble of all bubbles.
SW You missing home at all?
Yeah, for sure. I got little nephews and nieces I’m yet to meet. That’s probably the hardest thing. The family is getting bigger and they’re all doing well. Got some good mates and stuff at home too but yeah, I think when I speak to people at home at the moment, they’re pretty envious that I’m over in West Oz.
SW You’ve been away for so long now, has your sense of home changed?
Yeah, I don’t really consider Avalon to be where I’m going to be kind setting up. It’s too expensive and I don’t really have an interest in working just to pay a great fucking big mortgage for the rest of my life. Housing prices and how popular Avalon got all within a couple of years has really changed the place. There’s a lot a lot of new faces and some cool new faces but unfortunately a lot of people who’ve lived their whole lives there have taken the opportunity to retire early and go find some place up or down the coast. It’s a different Avalon to what it was 10 years ago.
SW It feels like that’s a pretty common story around the Australian coast at the moment for young people… and the reaction from young people has been to just do what you’ve done, jump in your van and make the whole place your home.
Yeah, exactly. Man, it’s hard because we want to move down to the South Coast. I’ve got a couple of friends who’ve done that, but it just pushes the price up down south. The housing value goes up down there and the people down south have to move out elsewhere. Where does it end? For me all I know is it’s impossible to live in Avalon if you’re a chippy in your mid-twenties [laughs]. My opportunity of buying in Avalon is far gone.
SW When was the last time you surfed with your brothers and your old boy? [Beau’s dad is the legendary Richard Cram]
Last year. I got some real good sessions with my dad and my older brother Bades and Jeddy. I haven’t really been on a family trip in a while. We actually had a plan to put a bit of money away for a strike mission to Cloudbreak last year, but Covid popped off. I was looking forward to that trip because Dad’s always talked about how good Cloudbreak is. I always wanted to watch him surf Cloudbreak.
SW What’s the vibe like with you guys all in the water together?
The last time that we all surfed together was at North Whaley and it was pretty rampant. That’s a lot of hungry Crams in the water at one time. It was pretty funny. Dad still gets the good ones, so he’s stoked.
SW Your old boy still surfing good?
For sure. He still rips more than a lot of young guys. Still cuts some nice lines. He’s really fucking fit. He’s looking after himself real well. He goes running most mornings, stretches and he’s been getting really into meditating as well. He’s doing a lot of good holistic living and it’s showing in his surfing. It’s inspiring. I want to be surfing like that when I’m his age. It’s good to have a dad who wants that of himself too.
SW Your Dad has always had a good
approach to life. With his surfing and his work in the surf industry, he never got too swept up in it. He’s always seen it for what it was.
You know, it’s funny. He’s not actually the biggest frother. I don’t think he even checks the forecast.
He just takes his board down the beach and goes for a surf, and it’s funny how it always works out for him.
He went down to Bendalong caravan park recently with
Mum, it’s like this little thing they like to do. He didn’t even look at the forecast, he just takes this board down and he scored the day of days. Dad just stumbled down there and ended up scoring all-time North Bendy. He’s been going there since he was six years old, and he called me after and he’s like, “Yeah, it’s the best I’ve ever seen it.”
SW You’ve seen a lot of Australia over the past couple of years, during a strange point in history. Has your perspective of the country changed?
There’ve been moments that have been a little unsettling to see, how gnarly some people are to travellers and people from out of town. I’ve heard stories of travellers being called out, told to fuck off and go home. It’s been pretty gnarly. I’ve had some awesome experiences, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been hard kind of hearing about Australians doing that. Australians get royal treatment everywhere we travel, so it’s hard to be an Australian and see good people get hassled. It’s been a little sobering. There’s been a lot of people doing it tough, and I think losing some of that self-entitlement and taking your ego mask off and trying to understand that that person could be struggling hard is important. They could have a relative that’s sick or maybe they can’t get home. You don’t know a stranger’s story. There’s a lot of people currently displaced by what’s happening and being told to fuck off by someone’s probably the last thing they want to hear.
SW I noticed that you attended a rally in Perth supporting the Sri Lankan refugee family that was being deported. How did you end up there?
I was actually in Perth watching my friends Luke and Jenny get married. I was drunk, having a good time walking down the street and I saw a flyer taped to a telegraph pole advertising the protest. I didn’t know what had happened, that the family had been on Christmas Island and the little girl was sick, but once I realised, I was all of a sudden, like, fucking hell, what’s going on in this country? So, with the protest I just wanted to stop by and support them. There were a lot of really good people down there showing up for this poor family. It’s probably the most touching protest I’ve ever been to. That poor family. My partner in the States, her family are Iraqi, and I’ve heard her stories and her struggles with her family. Being a young Australian man, it’s pretty easy to just not have those kinds of perspectives. You’re caught up living the dream and it’s easy to ignore stuff like that going on in the world. A lot of people are just actually struggling out there. It’s not as easy for everybody.
SW I suppose what’s happening to the Sri Lankan family, on a national scale is the same thing happening locally with travellers getting vibed out on beaches.
For sure. They’ve been living for years in a little town in Queensland who’ve adopted them, and it’d be the easiest thing for the government to just say, no worries, you can stay. But I don’t know what fucking goes through Peter Dutton’s head and those kinds of politicians. They jump to those radical conclusions of authority. We’re already pretty multicultural and we can learn a lot from a Sri Lankan family living down the road I reckon.
SW The Lucky Country needs to share some of that luck around.
It’s a good life, man, and to be able to give that to other people… it’s a big enough country and we’ve got resources to give people a chance. Give them a life. How good would it be for those little girls to be surfing one day… hassling old dudes out at Snapper!
SW What’s next for your surfing? What’s the next challenge for you?
My next challenge… I don’t know if I look at my surfing as challenges anymore. Maybe just go faster? I don’t know. I’m just more stoked to get in the water these days. I’ve been working a lot recently and I look forward to the daily rinse after a 10-houry. Nothing better.