Deadman's: The View From The Cliff
It rolled in like a Winter’s storm for the local hellmen champing at the bit to get out there. From his vantage point on the cliffs at Manly, filmmaker Darian Woods of Surf 2 Summit captured Sydney’s biggest swell event of the summer at full force, at the seldom surfed ledge known as Deadman’s, just south of Fairy Bower, NSW.
Among the hardy souls who paddled out that day was Dayyan Neve, who jumped at the chance to surf his local slab on an unseasonably large SE swell. Dayyan and Darian spoke with CW’s Max Zagorski about the late drops and beatdowns that followed...
CW: What was the first indicator for you that Deadies might be on that day?
Darian: I saw a massive front coming from down South. At first, we expected it to be huge, but the swell was scaled down just a notch before it hit. I use Coastalwatch to look up the swell reports and forecasts, that always maps out my daily plan when I'm shooting surfing. This session wasn’t giant Deadies, but it was good enough for the wave to start doing its thing.
CW: Dayyan, Deadies is your local slab, is it easy for you to get a read on the conditions?
Dayyan: I have my indicators, but I’ll keep them under my hat. It’s not the sort of wave the most recreational surfers would be looking to surf anyway.
CW: Did Deadies as a training ground adequately prepare you for the heavier stops on the CT like Teahupoo or Pipe?
Dayyan: It’s a proving ground for sure. I think Deadman’s compares to most other heavy spots in the world through its intensity, ferocity or power. Especially in danger factor, because it breaks so close to the rocks.
CW: Does it get any easier with experience?
Dayyan: Not really. Deadies is full of surprises. You want to get over the step as early as possible. If you reach it early enough it’s not too bad, but the longer you leave it the worse it gets. It also depends on the swell - different periods and different directions really affect the size and shape of the wave, which is why I always jump on the forecasts to get a read on conditions. I try to pick the ones where you get an easy run into it, because it’s such a difficult wave. But if you surf it long enough, it’s gonna get you.
CW: Darian, what was the vibe in the carpark when you pulled up?
Darian: It was packed. Everyone was kind of rushing around, trying to get to the lookouts. People were grabbing boards and suiting up. Most people were surfing Bower, with only a handful out at Deadies waiting for big ones. Dayyan was definitely getting the bombs. You always get those guys who kick out early thinking it’s going to be a closeout. But Dayyan just went for it, and it’s good footage for me, because I don’t want to be wasting data on people just jumping off the back of good waves. You want to be filming those people who charge and keep pumping through them.
Dayyan: I just remember all this excitement. There weren’t too many out this day, but there’s a core group of crew who surf it. These days a few of the main guys are away overseas or have moved out of town. There’s a young 20 year old kid called Sam Jones. He’s the up and coming Deadman’s charger, right at that age where he’s got heaps to prove. He’s got balls and takes off on anything and he’s been on a stack of good ones lately. Then there’s the guys who have really dominated out there and made a name for themselves over the years. Kai Otton, the Mitchell brothers… Ben Serrano’s probably caught the best wave I’ve ever seen at Deadman’s. They’re the local crew.
CW: Talk us through that last wipeout from your point of view Darian?
Darian: That must’ve hurt! (Laughs) The most important thing is these guys are alright after a heavy fall and that’s what was running through my head. Wipeout footage is exciting to watch but you need to know the rider is ok first. I played back the clip in slow-mo and yeah, it looks pretty gnarly when he goes over the falls. He looked pretty rattled in the whitewater!
Dayyan: Setting it up, I was almost stalling to try and pull into the barrel. I got around the first step, and the second one doesn’t normally ledge out like this one did. I thought I was in the right spot, but the wave kept on dragging me higher, and then I looked down and it bottomed out. I released over the step to try make it but lost my grip. I slapped the water really hard and it knocked me senseless a bit. I felt myself go up and over the falls. Everyone thought I hit my head, but I just slapped it against the water. Luckily only my forearm hit my board. I went over and it was one of the most ferocious whippings I’ve had out there; and I’ve gone down on waves much bigger than that. It always gets you pretty good but this one was something else. I burst my eardrum during the slap and ended up underwater getting smashed. The whole time I was wondering, “Is this because I’m about to turn 40? I’m getting so towelled up here!” I could feel all this water flushing through my eardrum. It rolled me across the bottom and all the pressure made me delirious. It took me a while to find which way was up.
CW: Did it end the session?
Dayyan: I turned the wrong way at first and started swimming back towards the rocks. I was really confused. My head was aching, I had urchins in my feet from the rocks, and everything was just stinging. I ended up paddling down to Bower and one of the younger guys said, “Mate that looked really bad, I was gonna come over and help ya”, and I went, “Well thanks for thinking about it… dickhead!” [Laughs].
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