To say it's been pumping on Australia's east coast is kind of an understatement. Days upon days of back-to-back swells has set the coastline alight and you'd be forgiven for thinking it was all a bit of a mirage. But now, as things begin to return to some form of normality it's time to take stock of just exactly what has gone down.
Earlier, we bought you images from Kirra. Much wow. Many barrels. After that though, and much further along the coastline, Sydney began tightening lockdown restrictions on July 9 (that's a Friday afternoon, folks) and the waves kept coming. And into Sunday, then Monday. By the time most people had lapped up their fill, some were secretly hoping for the wind to swing onshore.
And even last week, NSW was going off -- days of bliss amongst the chaos.
Spot guide: NSW
Anyway, reporting from Aus, Nick Carroll is here to walk us through the latest bout of swell from the weekend:
On Saturday, it rained like hell, adding to the feeling of Zombie Boredom Apocalypse settling over greater Sydney. That is, unless you were within 10 k’s of a surfing location — all of which were showing distinct signs of a seriously building swell.
On Sunday, well, boom. Ace photo contributor Mark Onorati caught the mood. Onorati sent his photos from the day in a folder named “Sunday morning at Bunnings”. This was ironic, because you know a lot of people did indeed spend that morning at the hardware and home goods chain store. It was one way out of the lockdown.
Another way was, paddle out into crazy bombing surf and get some. This was the preferred method for Kobi Clements.
In another year Kobi, son of great-surfer-in-his-own-right Steve Clements, might have been making himself famous pulling into very big Teahupoo or Desert Point or some such location. As it is, the 16-year-old has been jumping off massive ledges at South Narrabeen. It’s been going on for two winters now. On Sunday he went a bit next level with it.
Kobi’s weekend started on Saturday with a Southy session he describes as “pretty clean”, surfing with Ollie Dousset and Jamie Thomson. “I’ve been surfing every day,” he told us, sounding like most other Sydney surfers during this long intro to winter-time.
On Sunday: “I rode my bike down to check it while it was still almost dark. A lot of people had been talking about how it was going to come up. It looked a bit messy, but something happened when the light hit it, it cleaned up and got organised. I rode my bike back home and got ready as quick as I could.”
Kobi had a new-ish 6’10” Chilli he’d had made off a similar board he’d ridden last winter. He started his surf around 7am, and was done by midday. By then the new-ish 6’10” was in pieces. “I snapped it on my last wave. I wasn’t thinking about catching it but Matt (Dunsmore) pulled off it and I turned and went last minute. I thought I’d be able to make it, then when I landed, my leg went straight through the board, so that was that.
“I’m stoked I’m OK actually.”
Other than that, he did five run-arounds, ending up 800m down the beach each time and having to jog back up to the paddle-out point, a feature of all big South Narra days: “It was shifty but there were some good ones. The air drops were pretty fun. Got the blood pumping and the adrenalin flowing.”
Dad Steve was videoing all this from the beach. We asked Kobi what Dad thinks of all this air dropping 12’ closeouts malarkey. “He’s OK with it. I think he freaked out a bit watching my last wave. He came surfing with me today (Monday) riding one of my boards, it was cool.”
There were several ski teams out: “Matt Grainger and Captain were around, I saw Captain whip Matt into a pretty sick one.” Kobi says he was offered a few tows, but didn’t go there. “I don’t really take anything too seriously,” he told us. “I just go out to have fun for myself. Not speaking for others about it, but I’m more of a paddler. Paddling, you have more of a rush — make a good barrel from paddling and it’s worth way more, that’s how it is for me anyway.”
For Grainger, though, it was a definite tow day. “We were greedy,” he says of himself and Captain. “There’s three peaks at Southy and they’re pretty spaced out, With the ski you can get to all three. It was just Captain and me, old sea dogs, out with all the young pups.” These supposed young pups being Ollie Dousset, Dunsmore, Casey Twight, Jamie Thomson, Jordy Lawler, Laura Enever, Joey Keogh, and a few others — within 10k’s drive, of course.. And Kobi. “He’s out there every swell, charging, coming in and changing boards. It’s coming from inside him too. It’s good stuff.
“It was a good crew. The same heads always pop up on those days.”
Grainger’s prep was pretty much opposite that of Kobi’s. On Saturday he says: “I just basically made myself sleep all day. It was shitty weather anyway. I’d been surfing for the past two weeks straight, I needed to re-set.” As a result, he spent six hours in the water on Sunday, including “multiple poundings.”
“It was a big rolling swell. But it wasn’t like every wave was barrelling. You could get two or three good big turns in coming in, then it was hammering people. One wave, I got clipped trying to ride through the barrel and I got washed to the shore. Captain was driving around going ‘Where are ya?’”
Only a handful of other spots were coping with the full muscle of the swell, Newport Reef, Queenscliff Bombie, Winkipop, and Cronulla Point among them. But the relatively good winds (moderate SW turning light later) meant there were a lot of great waves at more sheltered spots.
By Monday, with the swell backing off to maybe half the size, there was surf for anyone, not just the young at heart. By then at South Narra, Kobi was out mucking around on a wacky little 4’-something quad his Dad had dug up from years back. “We’re lucky to have waves at home right now,” he says.
And after the past two weeks, with the Bunnings swell on top of it all, half the rest of the pack was wishing it’d go onshore or something. Grainger says: “We were paddling around like grumpy old men, going, ‘Argh it isn’t as good as yesterday!’”