How to judge wave heights when it gets big

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caml started the topic in Tuesday, 8 Dec 2015 at 9:42pm

Knowing how to call wave size correctly once the waves are bigger than you are familiar with . Theres no way of finding out without experience because photos & film make it look so much smaller than it really was . I have been learning my whole life how to make a call on correct Hawaiian size traditional . There are famous stories of everyone thinking Hawaii was the only place to find 25ft surf ( pre todos & mavs ) then they found out for real . Growing up in Margaret river the general call on a big day surf was 12ft and it was cool too say that but it was wrong . But I didn't know it at the time . Its really a negative car park surfer or something like this that started it . By learning the buoy & surfing the reefs off Margarets I started to work out formulas for the waves & reefs . Something about this , For example . [email protected] = 10ft sets , 3m @18 would produce 15ft sets ,
4m @ 18 will give 20ft sets .
5m @18 25ft,
6m @18 - 30ft . .
But in hawaii the waters deeper & the reefs focus swell better than margarets . Wave size will be bigger due to the bathymetry . Not to mention todos,mavs,cortes,nazare,dungeons ,& more breaks where the bathymetry is more favorable than Margarets for xxl waves . This discussion was inspired by my desire to teach craig ( my friend) & others how big the jaws comp was & because I see it regularly by the swellnet forecasts undercalling xxl swells & friends who look at pictures of big waves & underestimate the size . So the swell at jaws : wasnt it 5m plus @17 ,[email protected] etc ? Immediately that means about 25ft without even adjusting my scale from margs to Hawaii due to bathymetry ! All these swells around the world on average are 4-5-6 m with 16-22 sec periods that produce easily 25ft surf .

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thermalben commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:13am

thedrip wrote: And, referring to an earlier post, the buoys do go above 18. Some of the bigger waves we get consistently are driven by ramps in swell period and not necessarily swell height. I'm talking 6-10 rather than huge swells so 2-2.5 but with 18-20sec periods. That happens reasonably regularly over Autumn/winter.
I've watched almost every swell event via the buoys, and have never seen swell periods above 16 seconds (as per the DPI graphs).

Yes, I know that the periods are much higher - and you can technically see the Tp via the directional chart (the description on the DIP website says "The point of the arrow indicates the period of the sea and swell.") however the graph - and this is the best way to display swell data - is the "mean wave period in seconds", with three values: swell period, sea period and total period (note: "mean" = "average")

Interestingly, today's 'total period' is only 8 seconds while the 'swell period' is 11 seconds. Doesn't this just make things more confusing?

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thermalben commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:16am

thedrip wrote: Thermalben: I don't understand all the technical stuff you were saying, but that WA swell buoy is generally pretty adequate for me. Today's data tells me at one of the waves I regularly surf it will be 4-5 with the very very odd 6 footer. At another joint it will be 3-4. It's knowledge of what that data translates to at particular waves that Camel is talking about I believe.
How are you measuring waves? 6ft sets = double overhead? Margs looks 2-3ft on the surfcam to me this morning, shoulder to head high max. Yallingup isn't really breaking either.
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thermalben commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:25am

Avtually, it's bigger than I said - seems to have built since this morning. Been watching the Margs surfcam for the last 10-15 mins, and although it's very inconsistent, this set popped up (looks 3ft, almost 4ft to me).

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thedrip commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:54am

Yals doesn't pick up that much swell - on a 2m swell it will be around 2-3' and barely breaking/surfable. Swell direction does matter there too. West swells get in more. It needs to be 3m before anyone starts saying there are 6 footers wandering through.

Therd are multiple waves that would be throwing up triple OH waves on the bigger sets today. Double OH waves would be common on many of the exposed reefs. Like I said, most locals would call today a nice 4-5'.

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thedrip commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:55am

thedrip wrote: Yals doesn't pick up that much swell - on a 2m swell it will be around 2-3' and barely breaking/surfable. Swell direction does matter there too. West swells get in more. It needs to be 3m before anyone starts saying there are 6 footers wandering through.

Therd are multiple waves that would be throwing up triple OH waves on the bigger sets today. Double OH waves would be common on many of the exposed reefs. Like I said, most locals would call today a nice 4-5'.

Is that pic the Boaties reef? I rarely look at the cams.

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thermalben commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:56am

Triple overhead today? No way.

Yeah, the surfcam looks from Southside to the Bombie and the Boatramp. Looks head high, slightly overhead on the bigger sets. Based on the buoy data it is a fresh, building swell so Craig's forecast of 4-5ft seems possible, but I can't see there being triple overhead bombs. 

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Craig commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:57am

Yeah, some good size here on the sets.. 3x OH, surely not without some crazy wedging/focussing?

I had 4-5ft forecast for today and looks about that at swell magnets.

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thedrip commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:58am

thermalben wrote:

Triple overhead today? No way.


Okay. My mistake.
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thermalben commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 11:01am

Craig's images are the biggest I've seen, I'd call that 3-5ft. A foot to maybe two overhead. The image I captured before was 3-4ft. Looks fun under the offshore though at the right kind of reef.

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thedrip commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 11:01am

Craig, a few of the bombies around jut out like little underwater points from the ledges and waves around them and drag the swell in. They do focus the swells. For most of the truly open reefs double OH would be consistent on the sets.

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penmister commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 9:15pm

Thats a kite surfers wet dream...can you surf offshore on a kite?

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penmister commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:01pm

Teach me obi one konobi you are the only one...looks like 3 different waves..my maths is shit so have no chance of working bouys out cant do numbers...

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barley commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 10:20pm

I remember RCJ and TRAY taking n shippies and asked about the size RCJ said'mate don't put a size on it, why box yourself in?'...Its interesting to here Peter Mel and co. saying/calling in feet/faces now..makes more sense..do you reckon there is anything bigger than a 20ft barrel? and double triple quadruple gets confusing...to me its just fuckn massive
Is Mark Mathews wave @ jaws the biggest wave ever paddled? bigger than Jamie Mitchells or Sion Miloski's?

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wellymon commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 11:54pm

Haha
In the old days we just went to the beach and checked out how big or what it was doing?

Technology nowadays is becoming a spoiled piece of internet users.

Bring back the the Donkey and the newspaper with 3 synoptic charts please;)

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

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mikehunt207 commented Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 11:59pm

Well said WM

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:12pm

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thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 10:39am

Cam, you have misunderstood me. And, I've never tried to discredit you either.  I'm just giving my opinion as a forecaster who has looked at the data of every Australian wave buoy, every day since I started forecasting. I've also met with the owners and operators of each buoy network many times to discuss my concerns with their data, and offered suggestions  to improve the service.

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thedrip commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 12:00pm

So that's two WA guys who reckon the swell buoys DO go over 16 sec. And over 16 sec is reasonably regularl.Infrequentl, but regular.

I'm with you Camel. I live in Busselton so it's minimum 25 mins to the surf, generally 35-40. I don't hop in the car without checking the buoys. And I say buoys because I use the ones south too. I'm not too often surprised these days as 20 years of checking a buoy and then looking at the waves lets me translate. I still maintain a handful of waves would have had triple head high waves yesterday - I didn't say any of them were primo waves people flock too at that size though, but the discussion is about making calls about height from buoys, not wave quality.

If that right is where I think it is, then it's not that exposed and there are several waves very close by that are bigger on any given day.

I don't claim to be as measured or anything as Camel, but his basic premise about the possibility of building a chart that correlates to wave height for a particular spot I think is accurate.

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thermalben commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 12:08pm

Righto. Let me clarify things - if you re-read my posts, I said:

"My main gripe with the WA buoys is the lack of graphed Tp though. The CdC, Sorell and Nepean buoys will often record Tp of 20+ seconds, yet I've never seen any WA buoys higher than about 16 seconds (for their "swell period"). "

And...

"I've watched almost every swell event via the buoys, and have never seen swell periods above 16 seconds (as per the DPI graphs). Yes, I know that the periods are much higher - and you can technically see the Tp via the directional chart."

My point is that there is no GRAPHED peak period chart.

Yes, you can view current peak period data on the directional chart - which I stated above - however that's only useful if you diligently check the buoy charts each and every hour, on the hour, 24 hours per day. 

If by chance you miss a reading (i.e. you forget to check, or the DPI website goes offline), or if a new swell arrives during the middle of the night when you're alseep, then you'll never get a chance to see exactly what the highest peak swell period was.

That's why - as I stated above - "my main gripe with the WA buoys is the lack of graphed Tp". When forecasting it's much easier to be able to look at the previous 24 hours, in order to identify trends.

EVERY other buoy service (BOM, Port of Melbourne, MHL, DSITI, NOAA etc) provide at least a day of history for this very reason - the usefulness of the dataset. Individual data points alone do not mean anything without context. 

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thermalben commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 12:18pm

thedrip wrote: I still maintain a handful of waves would have had triple head high waves yesterday
And herein lies the difficulty in providing the service that we do. I watched the Yallingup cam for a period yesterday morning - yes, it's a sheltered location compared to most other spots - but it was perhaps a foot and a half on the sets. There was no-one in the water, which was a pretty good indication as to its surfability (winds were offshore, so if there were waves there would have been at least a couple of people for most of the day).

If yesterday was genuinely triple overhead across the Margs coast, then that's a heck of a size range to forecast for one region. And it's also not very useful either (just imagine this for a surf report: "Today it's flat across the sheltered bays and points, 1-2ft at protected reefs, 3-5ft at exposed reefs and occasionally 8ft at swell magnets").

By the way, this is a great discussion, I enjoy learning more about the way people use the various services (buoys, AWS, forecasts, surfcams etc) - so all information and feedback is most welcome.

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thermalben commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 12:21pm

Cam, here's the images you sent through showing the 22 second swell periods from Cape Naturaliste and Cape du Couedic (yep, that's def what it is).


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thermalben commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 12:34pm

Just back to my earlier question Cam - "what data were you looking at on the WA buoys?" - I can see you're estimating the period from the directional chart (i.e. the position of the triangle's apex represents the swell period). That's spot on.

Now, as I mentioned above - the problem is that there's no period history available (for peak swell periods). So if the buoy records Tp of 18 seconds at 10pm, and you don't check the buoy data until 5am, then you've missed seven hours of data, in which the swell period will have dropped considerably by this time.

Another problem, as highlighted in your Cape du Couedic image - see the area I have circled below? That represents around six hours of data, or 12 half-hourly data points.

See how there's an initial jump to 22 seconds, and then the next reading (half an hour later) it falls back to about 6 seconds, then increases to 11 seconds for two data points (one hour), then back up to 22 seconds, then drops to about 7 seconds before going back up to 22 seconds again?

This shows a faint, erratic peak swell period from its leading edge. But during those six hours of data, when the CdC wave buoy feed was updated 12 times, if you'd been reliant on this data as per the WA display, then half of those readings would have not shown the 22 second data. And unless you'd managed to check the data every half hour, then you may have very well missed it.

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mikehunt207 commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 1:22pm

I often wondered about Wa buoys. Sometimes on high period swell forecast very irregular sizes from swell to swell or no show swell at all compared to US buoys which are very reliable/predictable

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wellymon commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 5:59pm

Quote Caml "It all comes from observing every single swell episode day in day out . In fact I might be checking multiple buoys per hour for days on end during a big swell and those buoys are located to the west of me"

This is what Caml does Ben.

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

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wellymon commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 6:33pm

Quote Caml " Welly & mh go for it & drive to the beach every day , use fuel , its a lot cheaper & quiker to just look at a buoy graph . I never ever drive to the beach unless the readings are appropriate . Thats your choice "

Haha Caml that's all good champ;)

I was trying to imply in a sarcastic way! that without the internet with 10 day forecasts, buoy readings, forecasts from various surfing sites etc etc.
That I just used to load the old HK68 up with fuel, food, a few beers, big buds and travel 3-4 hrs sometimes 6 hrs to Mahia hoping on my own judgement call from reading synoptic charts from the Newspaper, that I was gonna score good waves? In the 80's that's what I did nearly every weekend religiously.

IMO all these sites and data from the internet have spoiled the fun of a journey.

I have noticed over the last five years living up here in fuck tard crowded surf land, that the numbers have shown on various days due to forecasting sites etc. Especially during winter months when a sneaky SSE or S swell would cruise thru Burleigh ,Stradie ways? 5-10 blokes out lunch time 3ft solid, 5ft Stradie and great waves! Now 30-80 plus people always.

Hey Caml you are in a different league to myself, you are psyched on big waves, where I'm just psyched on good waves much smaller than your realm;) I have never looked up buoy data as I find it irrelevant to my situation, I don't even look at SN's surfs cams if going to drive to have a surf! Usually reading all the hype on here I can judge myself with looking at at Willy Weather winds and go and try my luck.

The journey for me is the reward.
I live 20 mins west of Burleigh in the rain forest where I preside and love the bush with the perplexing Australian nature, so a drive to the beach is fuck all Caml, I can afford it (petrol) etc, I work and love driving around which comes another realm from where I live and it's a journey;)

I respect your knowledge continuously.
I have a great mate of mine who owns a few acres in Streaky who has meet you and talks highly of you:)
"Whitey" ...... dreaded kneeboarder? ring any bells, good cunt for sure.
Peace and big turns......

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:15pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:16pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:17pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:17pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:18pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:19pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:19pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:20pm

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Jamyardy commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 9:25pm

The drip, you must be thinking of a different right, there are no "waves very close by" bigger than here, unless very close by is 20 minutes drive, and in that case you are right, some other spots would be a bit bigger.

Good day (25th June) to pick for the latest chart, the next day, the big day along with the following would have been more interesting, I think the forecast back then was 5.5m @ 18 or 19 sec, it was three days to remember. I think you answered my question Caml when you mentioned the period graph was not supposed to accompany the directional graph as an attachment, it has different dates.

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:21pm

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penmister commented Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 11:51pm

Other side of the moon..half eaten seal on the sand

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penmister commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 12:01am

Merry xmas u animals

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thermalben commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 7:05am

caml wrote: You know what annoys me is when someone who has university degrees or higher education than me starts using a language that I don't understand & I think its so they feel superior to me . It is my problem ok but I reckon for the threads on sn everyone has to take into account there are some common surfers who read .
Fair point, and I'll take it on board - but what language am I using that you don't understand? If it's things like Tp, Hsig etc, then they're standard buoy measurements which are listed on every buoy website - so I figured they were common knowledge.
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tonybarber commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 10:18am

Great thread gents - well said. Given the knowledge and technology we have today, is there an agreed 'simple' way to define wave height. It seems at this stage that it depends on the wave location, that is Xxl on rock shelves as opposed to point breaks such as Burleigh. That also ties in with the Hawaiians define wave heights. My sympathies go with Wellym.
Appreciate the experience and knowledge displayed here. And yes, no one should need a PhD to understand it.

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:21pm

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:22pm

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caml commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 3:02pm

Dave wassell is calling waves were 60ft for the jaws comp . Face size I guess , does that mean 30ft traditional scale ?

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caml commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 3:06pm

Those who have seen the "thundercloud " documentary on cloud break ; kala alexander says that was a 20ft wave I dont care what anyone says ! It looks smaller than the other waves of the day & a standard case of the camera making the wave look much smaller than the truth .

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wellymon commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 3:24pm

I went to the cinema and watched that Caml.

Looked way bigger than 20ft to me;)

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

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Craig commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 3:46pm

Yeah, 60ft would be face, and 30ft traditional.

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penmister commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 5:11pm

Like sands through the hour glass guys...its like groms on a train talking wave size..but camel is the master..i can learn more watching him...

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caml commented Wednesday, 8 Aug 2018 at 7:23pm

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Blowin commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 6:11pm

wellymon wrote: Quote Caml " Welly & mh go for it & drive to the beach every day , use fuel , its a lot cheaper & quiker to just look at a buoy graph . I never ever drive to the beach unless the readings are appropriate . Thats your choice "

Haha Caml that's all good champ;)

I was trying to imply in a sarcastic way! that without the internet with 10 day forecasts, buoy readings, forecasts from various surfing sites etc etc.
That I just used to load the old HK68 up with fuel, food, a few beers, big buds and travel 3-4 hrs sometimes 6 hrs to Mahia hoping on my own judgement call from reading synoptic charts from the Newspaper, that I was gonna score good waves? In the 80's that's what I did nearly every weekend religiously.

IMO all these sites and data from the internet have spoiled the fun of a journey.

I have noticed over the last five years living up here in fuck tard crowded surf land, that the numbers have shown on various days due to forecasting sites etc. Especially during winter months when a sneaky SSE or S swell would cruise thru Burleigh ,Stradie ways? 5-10 blokes out lunch time 3ft solid, 5ft Stradie and great waves! Now 30-80 plus people always.

Hey Caml you are in a different league to myself, you are psyched on big waves, where I'm just psyched on good waves much smaller than your realm;) I have never looked up buoy data as I find it irrelevant to my situation, I don't even look at SN's surfs cams if going to drive to have a surf! Usually reading all the hype on here I can judge myself with looking at at Willy Weather winds and go and try my luck.

The journey for me is the reward.
I live 20 mins west of Burleigh in the rain forest where I preside and love the bush with the perplexing Australian nature, so a drive to the beach is fuck all Caml, I can afford it (petrol) etc, I work and love driving around which comes another realm from where I live and it's a journey;)

I respect your knowledge continuously.
I have a great mate of mine who owns a few acres in Streaky who has meet you and talks highly of you:)
"Whitey" ...... dreaded kneeboarder? ring any bells, good cunt for sure.
Peace and big turns......

Whitey from Narrabeen ?

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wellymon commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 10:09pm

Round that ways Blowin.

Champion is he.
Doesn't mind a good barrel and an ol shin kicking stomp on the dirt floor in the bush, that's for sure... ;)

Our brains are too small at the moment to comprehend the reality of what's happening in our forests . We're only just waking up so to speak . The big problem is we think we know everything, we are specks of dust on a timeline and we know nothing .

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yorkessurfer commented Sunday, 13 Dec 2015 at 10:50pm

wellymon wrote: "I have noticed over the last five years living up here in fuck tard crowded surf land, that the numbers have shown on various days due to forecasting sites etc. Especially during winter months when a sneaky SSE or S swell would cruise thru Burleigh ,Stradie ways? 5-10 blokes out lunch time 3ft solid, 5ft Stradie and great waves! Now 30-80 plus people always."

It's funny how even the most overrun places you can still score uncrowded perfect waves if luck is on your side? In spring I went up to the Goldy to get away from a long cold winter in SA.
One Wednesday afternoon from my balcony vantage point I saw Kirra suddenly turn on with an outgoing tide and rising swell. I took a few iPhone pics and hit it. There were 5 guys out? Scored some filth little 3ft tubes!