Solid swell lights up South Eastern States
Words by Ben Horvath.
Video by Mic Simpson
The last two months have delivered consistent, quality swells on the East Coast. The run began way back in mid April, but in late June the swell train transformed into a trickle. There were a few fun two-three foot days in the fortnight since the last swell event on June 19, but nothing worthy of a Coastalwatch feature that’s for sure.
The situation changed on Tuesday June 5 when a clean three-four foot easterly groundswell delivered some incredibly hollow cylinders to exposed spots in South East Queensland, including some epic days at South Straddie. If you haven't seen the video featuring Mick, Deano and co. threading numerous perfect pits on Wednesday, June 5.
The easterly pulse barely made it to Sydney and surrounds as a fresh weather pattern made its presence felt in the southern states. The blocking high moved aside, and the previous fortnight’s light winds and mild weather were replaced by gale force westerlies and freezing temperatures.
Snow and ice caused havoc across Tasmania mid week with widespread snowfalls above 400m, and numerous reports of snow just 200-300 metres above sea level. Massive windswept 30-40 ft west-south-west swells traversed below the mainland. The Hobart Points pumped on Friday and Saturday.
In Victoria snowfalls were more modest, at around the 800-100m mark. Carlo Lowdon reported solid 8-10ft waves at Bells and Winki all weekend and fun, but crowded three-four foot Fishos in Torquay.
Southern New South Wales also received more than a metre of snow last week. Snow even fell in the central tablelands at Oberon. The gale force westerlies eased on Friday, but not before Belambi just north of Wollongong recorded a 100km/h gust on Thursday.
Tuesday June 5 delivered the first small lines of a south swell affecting the East Coast - a swell train that doesn't look like easing until late this week at the earliest. An incredibly active Southern Ocean storm track began affecting our south swell window early last week and its influence delivered several long-period south pulses.
Coastalwatch chief swell forecaster Ben Macartney said, "This favourable broad scale synoptic pattern was characterised by a high pressure system anchored off Western Australia opening a corridor extending out of the Southern Ocean beneath the Great Australian Bight to a large, complex low pressure gyre that set up beneath New Zealand."
Tuesday June 5 was a magical day on Sydney's south-facing beachies. Clean two-four foot lines were groomed by light-to-moderate westerlies turning on some incredible small waves. By Wednesday the westerlies were howling, limiting surfable options and keeping much of the southerly swell visible only on the horizon well out to sea. Late on Thursday July 7 the wind eased substantially and soon after the lines grew in size and volume.
Friday morning June 8 dawned clean and chunky. Solid four-to-six foot southerly lines refracted into most beaches. Select south facing reefs and offshore bombies were firing in the six-eight foot range brushed clean by favourable offshore north-westerly winds. At first light on Saturday the swell was smaller in the three-to-four-foot range, but by mid morning it built to a thick four-to-six foot as the swell period lengthened to 14-15 second intervals.
The wind blew offshore westerly steadily all day, grooming some incredibly round and thick cylinders right up and down the east coast. Steve Hare, Gerry Manion and Scotty Yealland scored some perfect four-six foot drainers at Cronulla Point. It was as good as it gets at that mid size. Dee Why Point, South Avalon and the Long Reef bombies were firing too, as were most open beach and reefbreaks. A lot of beachies were churning out chunky stand up barrels particularly on the afternoon high tide.
The Central Coast and Newcastle were bigger again - up to six-eight foot at exposed reefs like Merewether and Forries. Coastalwatch Head Reporter, John Charlton said, "Swell lines made it all the way to The Spit, Straddie and beyond. Lennox was solid, so much so that quite a few kids competing in the Rusty Gromfest on the Lennox beachies were struggling to paddle out at times."
The swell was packing so much power for its size, there were significantly large volumes of water in every set that exploded. I took my eight year-old son for a learn to surf session within the sheltered confines of South Cronulla Beach (a popular beginners option similar to Kiddies corner at Dee Why or South Palmy, but had to call him in when some thick, chunky two-three footers exploded 20 metres from shore).
Sunday June 10 was slightly smaller, the swell was running parallel to the coast at an acute south, almost south-south-west angle. The Hawaiian length swell period of 18 seconds (incredibly rare on the east coast) ensured the lines were refracting into most beaches, reefs and pointbreaks and still delivering three-five foot quality.
As I punch out my final few words and reflect back on the last few days it seems like Winter has been reebooted. New South Wales surfers enjoyed an incredible weekend of perfectly groomed mid-size juice. From Straddie all the way down to Vicco it has been pumping. At first light on Monday morning June 11 it appears to be slightly bigger in Sydney and surrounds again and the forecast for the next few days remains positive.
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