Spring School Holidays Surprise

30 Sep 2011 0 Share

Words by Ben Horvath

Wednesday September 28 was a pretty gloomy day on Sydney’s beaches. The surf was OK, there were some peaky little two-to-threefooters about, but by mid afternoon it was cool, wet and as dark as it gets in Sydney and surrounds during daylight hours.



Solitude south of Sydney in the middle of the spring September school hols. September 29, 2011.

Solitude south of Sydney in the middle of the spring September school hols. September 29, 2011.

A thick cloud mass moved in from the west mid afternoon, driving most indoors for an early dinner, and some form of plug in drug (TV or idiot box) entertainment - leaving Sydney’s beaches deserted.

Thursday morning dawned similarly grey. Overnight storms and fresh northerlies ensured just about everyone prolonged their doona time before work or whatever duties beckoned. The majority of surf checks were made via web cams, venturing down to the beach was generally brushed by the masses.

The few that did brave the early surf though were rewarded with clean, strangely deserted peaks wherever you paddled out. There were two swell trains in the water, some short–period east-northeast peaks mixed in with some longer-lined south sets - a combo that delivered two-to-four shories on pretty much every open beach from the Central Coast to Southern New South Wales.

Lunchtime lefts south of Sydney on Thursday September 29, 2011.

Lunchtime lefts south of Sydney on Thursday September 29, 2011.


Pre-dawn north-northwest winds shifted offshore northwest at around 6.30am and the cloud began to clear from the west. The mid morning high tide disguised the strength of both swell trains, but by lunchtime the east-northeast swell cleaned up, kicked a foot or two and became the dominant force. As the tide dropped after lunch, the wind shifted west-northwest, the sun came out intermittently and four-to-five foot cylindrical sets were blowing out everywhere you looked.

Empty Coal Coast perfection on Thursday afternoon September 29, 2011.

Empty Coal Coast perfection on Thursday afternoon September 29, 2011.


Not only was the surf absolutely cracking all afternoon, but it was strangely deserted.  I deadset surfed a quality right bank on a suburban southern Sydney beach solo for an hour and a half in the morning, and then backed up for a second session in flawless, hollow four-to-five foot drainpipes mid afternoon with only three or four crew that I knew at a southern Sydney point break. It was an epic, memorable afternoon, one of those sessions that remind you of exactly why you put lifestyle before bucks to be a surfer.  It was a local’s only kind of day, one of them days when you have to be right onto it to take advantage of a short–lived window of opportunity when all the elements align.


Reports of similarly uncrowded experiences filtered in from up and down the mid to southern New South Wales coast. Coastalwatch contributor Clarrie Bouma shared tales and sent photographic evidence of near empty lefts running down every second Coal Coast beach break. Same deal on Sydney’s Northern bBaches (except Avalon where scores of groms were contesting the final rounds of BL’s Blast Off).

All this and it was smack bang in the middle of the school holidays. So where was everyone? Admittedly the water was cold – barely 16 degrees on some Sydney beaches and yes, the wind was chilly and the odd rain shower lurking, but who cares when it’s pumping right?

- Ben Horvath

Did you score some uncrowded urban perfection in the midst of school holiday madness? Let us know…


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