The Great Escape

The Great Escape
30 July 2021

O’Neill team rider Arch Whiteman and his good mate, photographer Cody Marr, escape the lockdown and explore our great land.

So, fellas, tell us about your idea for this trip and where you’re headed?

Arch: It’s my first year out of school and I was planning to spend some time overseas in world class waves like Hawaii and Indo, but because of Covid I had to pull the handbrake on that idea and get a job lifeguarding over the summer instead. I realised that I’ve only ever explored waves on the east coast of Australia, so with some money I saved up and the mates I’ve met through lifeguarding, we’ve started an extended road trip travelling to the best waves in SA and WA. We’re currently on the mid-west WA coast after about almost 2 months of travelling. We’re soon heading north into the desert to hopefully score some big heavy tubes. 

Cody: Arch and I had the exact same unspoken idea throughout the last half of the lifeguarding season. Having not spoken about it, it only took meeting each other at the end of season, all-you-can-eat-pizza night to exchange plans what we wanted to do. After copious amounts of red wine, we realised that this was a no brainer. Arch would surf his brains out and I would try my best to expand my photography journey and further develop my skills into the daunting world of cinematography. We would make the most of this opportunity, all while experiencing the world class waves this insane country has to offer and having a much fun as humanly possible. 

Arch, you had to juggle sickness and COVID lock downs, tell us about that.

Arch/Cody: About a week before I was supposed to leave, I broke my hand, and then about 2 days after breaking my hand I got really sick with glandular fever, so my plans for leaving were put on hold. It took about a month or so before I recovered from glandular fever (thanks to my mum for helping me get better- full legend). While I was healing my mates started the trip and headed down to Victoria. Right as they arrived, they got caught in the Victorian Lockdowns and SA blocked them from entering. After months of planning, my mates were stuck in Victoria with no sight of when they could leave. It was another 3 more torturous weeks of waiting before I finally got to meet my mates on the SA/VIC border, and we got to start the search for waves.  

Where did you guys meet up?

Arch/Cody:  I met with Cody and his Girlfriend, Mia on the SA/VIC Border at the beginning of June. We met the rest of crew down in The Yorke peninsula a week or so later. 

How’s the been trip so far?

Arch/Cody:  The trip has been mental. With the Victoria lockdown, our timeline has been pushed back a little bit, so we missed the best time for SA and south west WA but, we still had a couple of really fun days in between the rain and onshore winds. As we’ve travelled north through WA, the waves and weather have been continually improving and we’ve started to score some really consistent, fun point breaks. I’ve been surfing 8+ hour days freaking out on the quality of waves, even though the locals have been saying it’s nowhere near its potential. 

What did you have to do to get organised gear wise?

Arch/Cody:  Gear and set up wise, I’ve got some 4/3 and 3/2 Hyperfreak steamers, Defender Booties and Gloves sorted from the guys at O’Neill to combat the cold waters of the south. My boards are Town & Country, from Onboard Store in Mona Vale, which have been going mental in the more powerful waves in the West. About a month before I left my car broke down so I’m borrowing my mum’s car, it’s going so well. My travelling partner in sorted me out with a trailer that has a small pull-out kitchen in it with heaps of storage, so we have got a really good set up going. 

Tell us a bit about the wild weather and adverse situations

Arch/Cody:  Weather has been absolutely wild. In Margaret River we were copping 100km winds for about a week straight, and as we travelled through SA it rained for a large majority of the time, so the Swag has been getting pretty worked. We are fairly north now so the weather has been mostly 20+ degrees and dry for the last week or so, the locals keep saying this is most rain they have seen in the area in decades, so overall it’s been pretty wild conditions. One night we woke up in the Yorke Peninsula in SA with ice on the whole outside of my swag and car. 

What have been the surfing highlights?

Arch: Highlights have been surfing uncrowded waves with just my best mates, camping right on the Great Australian Bight, exploring amazing national parks in WA, and getting to surf more than 9+ hours a day for multiple days straight. There’s also a Bakery in Kalbarri that sells the best pies and pastries, I’ve been there a ridiculous number of times so that a is major highlight.

Cody: My top highlights have been 1) Arch finally arriving across the Vicco border and being in lockdown at a house in Victoria with 10 people with pumping waves that rarely work. 2) Having a crack at surfing a nearly impossible slab in Esperance. 3) Surfing a magic day at Lefties in Gracetown in between a wild period of weather. 4) Finally feeling some sun on the skin in Kalbarri, scoring some epic tubes followed by multiple bakery feeds and epic WA water sunsets.

Cody, tell us about your incident?

Cody: That incident kind of rattled me. I thought it was something that wouldn’t happen to me and I’m still amazed that it happened. I remember turning around out the back and scratching for one. Mia was on the outside to ride with me. The next thing I remember I was waking up in a hospital bed with a full oxygen mask on my face and only seeing through one eye. I’m still unclear as to what exactly happened, apparently, I smacked my eye/cheek close to the rail of my mal quite hard and knocked myself out. Mia saw me floating face down, quickly paddled over and ripped my head up and got help from some locals to paddle me in. I was breathing but bringing up a lot of salt water. I was taken by ambulance to Busselton hospital where I came to and spent a night on oxy with a fat headache. I was let out the following day with my Psycho One wetsuit cut up buy the docs. I immediately started looking for online for a Gath helmet for the waves up north.  I’m so grateful for what my girl did and the locals that helped. I was very lucky in the end. 

Where does the trip end?

Arch/Cody:  The trip ends around the start of September (hopefully missing the Covid lockdowns at home right now) and our final spot will be up north in the WA desert. We’ll be there for about a month or so. The waves up there look insane, and we’ll be there at a really good time in the season so I’m praying for waves and tubes. 

For more, follow Arch and Cody here:






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