Alas winter has passed here in Sydney, however it certainly wasn’t without some big southerly swells which luckily (for 9 to 5’ers like me!) delivered over weekends so I was able to get in and amongst it.
I have started to move away from surfing slightly and into bodyboarding. This is mainly because trying to get a surfboard on to city public transport is an absolute pain (I tried to fit a 7’6 on a train and bus, the looks I got!). I’ve got a rucksack bag for the boogie board and the fins fit in there too, and it’s absolutely no worries jumping on to a bus with that lot.
Another reason is that I feel a lot more confident being out in the lineup and hitting big waves on a bodyboard than a surfboard. This is mainly because I’ve been clattered by a surfboard a few times whilst in the washing machine, and trust me it is not fun! But also bodyboards are made from foam, so are incredibly buoyant but also surprisingly easy to duck dive with because of their lower volume.
So I thought for this post rather than giving you an elaborate description of the perfect rides I’ve had (not many), I would instead talk about how smashed I got about a month ago off the back of this huge swell. Yes, that would make for a much more interesting read….
To set the scene, a solid southerly swell was anticipated to hit Sydney and Hunter on the Friday night/Saturday morning, and increase in intensity throughout the weekend. It was predicted to be 7-9ft with offshore winds and around 12-14 seconds between waves. This had all the lads on the WhatsApp group rubbing their hands together! but I can tell you as the weekend drew closer I started to seriously brick it as the forecasts weren’t backing down, and it was looking like it was going to be monstrous!
A few of the guys decided to drop out but I had committed, so there I was in my friend’s car at 7am Saturday morning heading down to Maroubra to get in early.
As it was a heavy south swell, exposed south-facing beach breaks like Bondi would just be closing out and a bit of a mess, so we headed down to the south end of Maroubra (east facing beach) as the strong swell would hopefully wrap around the south headland a bit and deliver some manageable waves.
It is a bit of a saying that waves always look smaller from the beach, and you can only really gauge their true size when you are out in the lineup. Well they looked like absolute beasts as we drove along the seafront, and you could tell how big they were just by observing the time it took between the wave breaking and the lip hitting the water below.
Imagine three or four good sized bungalows on a giant conveyor belt coming towards you, and that is kind of what it felt like being out in the lineup that morning. There were a good few people out, but I’d say only a couple of people were actually going for it. There were quite a few rogue sets coming through too which were breaking bigger and deeper than the regular sets, and my friends and I got caught inside a couple of times but just about managed to scratch over them to safety.
So on to my pasting.
I had caught one wave already, which had settled my nerves a bit on the size of the waves coming through. But then this monster set came in!
I had recently read that in big surf, it is better to leave the first couple of waves of the set to pass, because if you wiped out on the first wave you could be taking another two or three on the head after it. This kind of jumped to mind at this point, so I punched through the first wave, only then to see a massive one coming right for me. I swivelled and kicked hard, looking over both of my shoulders to try and work out which way would offer a longer ride. I started to be sucked up the face of the wave and I was preparing to take the drop and cut left, when I heard a shout of ‘noooo!’ from one of my friends directed at me. I then saw what he meant. It was definitely going to close out, but I realised way way too late! I tried to pull my board back and around but I got caught with the lip, and free fell all the way down to the surface.
I’ve read about and watched documentaries on taking wipeouts and what it’s like, but honestly you get pushed so deep it’s hard to describe. It is really dark and really chaotic down there! I was spun around so much that my leash wrapped around both of my arms, pinning them to my sides which honestly was so unlucky. It was pitch black and I was getting absolutely slammed.
Another wave hit and I got chucked around some more, and by that point I had been under for about 20-25 seconds, which may not sound a lot but is pretty sketchy when you haven’t had a chance to properly hold your breath before it. I eventually untangled myself from my leash and made it back to the surface, to find much to my relief I had been washed up close to the beach. Because the current was so strong it still took me a couple of minutes to get onto the sand, but when I did it I just crashed out next to my board to recover.
In some ways I was shaken by that, but in others I was like ‘mate that was sick’ and once I had caught my breath, I paddled back out to rejoin my friends and have a laugh about it. They were rinsing me because apparently my face was priceless as I was going over the falls, and I made a mental note to try and keep a chilled ‘I meant to do this’ face next time I am getting body slammed by a couple tonnes of brine.
It’s funny though that there is literally no other sport where you can get absolutely destroyed and in some serious trouble, and be happy to do it all over again a couple of minutes later. For some people i.e. big wave surfers, that’s just the mentality of it. I think I have established my limit off the back of this though, and all I can say is I am glad it was a sandy bottom!
I have since seen lots of pictures being posted across the internet from that day (22nd July), and it even made the front cover of Tracks Magazine. If you want to see some pictures of people surfing it perhaps more successfully than I did, I’ve popped a link below for Coastal Watch which have some crackers.