Byron Bay || Film photographs and words by Birralee Hassen

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I started clicking away at this roll of film in my first week of moving to Byron. Situated on the North coast of New South Wales, Byron Bay is a surfing and yoga haven, and living here has been on my life to do list for a couple of years. The past year consisted of a lot of moving around for me, which don’t get me wrong is absolutely wonderful and generally when I feel my happiest, but I was feeling excited at the prospect of getting settled in the area.

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A sure-fire way to get settled is to get involved, so I jumped on the Internet and searched upcoming events in the area. Disabled Surfers Association was holding their last event for the year, and it happened to be the very next weekend. I have participated in Disabled Surfers Association events in Gerroa and Palm Beach, and was super stoked to be able to join in on the fun in Byron also. This event is one of my favourite days of the year. Helping people with disabilities catch waves is extremely humbling and rewarding. The excitement and smiles are contagious, and I don’t think there is anyone involved who leaves the day without a feeling of satisfaction and joy.  

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Tina, a girl who I jumped on the back of the board with to catch a wave, told me “the bigger the better”. Duly noted, we let a couple of smaller waves pass before being pushed by the other volunteers onto one of the bigger waves. For someone who doesn’t surf and isn’t in the ocean all the time, I was so impressed with Tina’s reaction as the white water crashed around us and carried us with quite a bit of momentum towards the shore. The smile on her face was contagious and her laughter mixed with the sound of everyone clapping and cheering for her as she was helped back to her crutches, which aid her in walking.  

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I feel humbled to be a part of the disabled surfers association, an association that prides itself on giving equal opportunities to those who would usually not be able to participate in ocean activities. I take my wide brim hat off to those who organise these events, people who volunteer their time, effort and energy to a cause bigger than themselves. It goes without saying that this day wouldn’t be half the fun without the incredible participants, who are all absolute chargers who get out there and give it a go. It can be daunting to get pushed around by the ocean, especially when it is not something that you are used to. 

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It is something truly special to give the participants an opportunity to feel the power of the ocean, to be immersed in the sea, to experience laughter and friendship and nature all combined, just some of the positives that come from surfing and that are all too often taken for granted. 

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One of the great things about moving to Byron is the awesome people I have met. This place is a hub for young inspiring creatives, and making friends has never seemed easier. I met Maja and Kimberly whilst working in a permaculture garden at The Yoga Centre. On days off we have done what most people seem to do in this area, which is take advantage of the incredible natural surroundings that provide endless entertainment and activities. The photos from this roll of film next move on to an afternoon spent at the Tea Tree Lakes. This area is sacred to the indigenous Bundjalung women of the area, and is traditionally used as a birthing and healing space. One of my favourite things to do at this tea tree lake (other than make art on it’s banks) is dive underneath the water, immersing myself in the amber liquid and open my eyes and gaze up at the sun. The beams of light intensify as I move closer and then fade into darkness as I sink further from the surface. Ahhh happy place. 

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It should probably be a lot cooler than it currently is in this region, with scientists predicting the hottest May on record due to global warming. The winter chill will surely come and with it the delights of wiggling into wetsuits still soggy from the previous surf, but for now we will continue to enter the water in Solsoya, protecting our legs from the ever increasing burn from harmful sun rays. An early surf produced the last couple of photos on this roll, a morning where hot air balloons rose in time with the sun, and silhouettes of humans danced past me on surfboards that seemed to glide effortlessly along the waters surface. 

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Moving to Byron has been such a fun adventure, I feel excited at the prospect of having no plans, of just seeing what will unfold in due time when I simply just let it. The people are great and the environment is divine, and I look forward to documenting my time here with more film and words in the future. 

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Birralee Hassen