Eternal sunshine and endless swell

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

“Man, you guys really missed it, you should’ve been here yesterday.”
- Bruce Brown, Endless Summer.

The Endless Summer can be credited for popularising the surf world’s most enduring trope: the search for perfection. You know the story, Bruce and Robert and Mike, with John Whitmore in tow, stumble onto the perfect waves of Cape St Francis. The “funny looking waves” become the centrepiece of the film and their discovery puts a pointed focus on surf travel. You’re not on a holiday, you’re on a search.

Another theme popularised in the Endless Summer is that things were better before you were here. The quote that opens this article is repeated multiple times in the film, adjusted for patois and accent. In the fifty-something years since the film was released the idea that things were better yesterday has grown, it’s aged, the surf wasn’t just better yesterday, it was better last decade, last century. Yeah, you really missed it.

You’ve only got to visit online spaces where old guys hang out, vintage board sites and the like, and you’ll see this line trotted out again and again, that the surf was better back in the day. But here’s the thing, no matter who’s saying it - even when it’s you - it’s almost certainly wrong. The surf wasn’t better back in the olden days, we just think it was.

To make sense of that we’ve got to understand how memory works.

Despite what we think, most of our lived experiences are forgotten, not remembered. No-one has a photographic memory, the ‘R’ button in their brain permanently depressed taking in all they see, hear, and do, recalling it later with perfect clarity.

To be sure, we’re continually taking in information, but we’re also discarding most of it too. Tossing it in the trash file. What neurologists now believe about memory is that information only gets committed to storage when it has an emotional component. When we’re emotionally aroused - excited, happy, angry etc - the adrenaline or dopamine flows, imprinting the memory with substance and telling us it’s something worth holding onto. Thus it bypasses the trash file for the hard drive - our long-term memory.

Let’s take a look at a real world example:

Kid gets up early in the morning to check surf, there is none, so kid goes back home.
Kid gets up early in the morning to check surf, it’s small so kid has an inconsequential grovel.
Kid gets up early, again and again with numerous variations of the above happening.
Finally, kid gets up early in the morning to check surf, it’s pumping, so kid surfs for hours in a state of heightened excitement.

Compared to every other scenario, the last one involves an emotionally significant event and will be assigned to memory, available for recall throughout the kid's life. The rest lack emotional significance and will fade from memory as if they didn’t even happen.

Our memory, therefore, is selective.

You often hear the term ‘selective memory’, it’s used as if people choose what they want to remember; that they’re constructing the past to their own design, always rosy and, of course, always pumping. Neurologists use it in the opposite way: what we consign to memory is involuntary. We can’t help what we select for memory.

The implications are clear in terms of long term swell patterns. Those classic days when the senses are firing and the emotions flow like a southerly sweep at Kirra, they get laid down the like the tracks of our lives, while periods of low swell and bad banks are devoid of any emotional component so they get forgotten, again, as if they didn’t even happen.

Those old guys aren’t lying when they say the waves were better back in the day, they just don’t have any memory of the all those small, flat, and onshore days. Their memory is tricking them and creating a false past - "a foreign country" as L.P. Hartley called it. It’s a delusion, yeah, but it's not deliberate. Just a glitch in our biology.

And at least those old guys have an excuse for thinking things were better before you came along. Unlike Bruce Brown who knowingly fabricated his version of events at Cape St Francis. It was a beautiful lie, but a lie nonetheless.

Comments

The MIDdleman.'s picture
The MIDdleman.'s picture
The MIDdleman. commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 1:44pm

They remember in a relative sense at the very least.
The days could have never been good if they were never bad.

The stoke some guys show no matter the circumstance is a result of repeating the above mantra.

Shit is on the shore.

Signature.

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 4:35pm

I always think of every surf i have as "the best surf I've had today".

knB

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
daisy duke kaha... commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 1:56pm

Points added for the kaufman reference.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 1:59pm

The waves might not have been better , but the crowds definitely were.

It’s crowds that define your ability to access good surf. Remove the crowd factor and my quality wave count , chance to appreciate conditions and overall enjoyment of surfing would be off the charts.

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 2:05pm

Something that is not always imaginary is the sense that the sandbanks were better in the old days.
In some places, the sand was better before constructed shorefronts, beach grading, marram grass etc.
Better sandbanks => better surf.

Billyw's picture
Billyw's picture
Billyw commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 10:17pm

spot on, the Nulla - what a tragedy

B Dub

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 2:06pm

yeah, but.

I've kept detailed daily swell diaries since '99, with more but less detailed going back further.
And if they need buttressing you can access the BOM synoptic archive.

So, data trumps memory.

many-rivers's picture
many-rivers's picture
many-rivers commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 2:18pm

Perhaps fundamentally missing the point that crowds are always increasing and the atmosphere among surfers in the water was better back in the 70s and that even allows for aggro places like the northern beaches of Sydney.
A strange segue then but anyone capable of shambling along needs to get to Crescent Head this Sunday and join the protest march against the rezoning of land use along and the surfacing of the gravel road leading to Point Plomer.
Not that the Kempsey Council is actually going to go past Limeburners Creek , they cannot rezone any land south of there I believe so the argument that is for the benefit of the tourists is facile.
This Council is highly dysfunctional, is the most complained about in NSW and that takes some doing as there are only 28,000 residents!
So before the grubby Nationals get the heave ho at the next election they are going for broke with all the rezonings they can cram through.
The powerbrokers up here are just like the Obeid clan in RMs and with slightly more arrogance.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 3:54pm

Not missing any point, fundamentally or not.

I often hear, see, and read that swells - commonly cyclone swells but often swells in general - were better and more common in the old days. I've always been wary of those statements. The only evidence is memory and that's a shaky foundation to work off at the best of times.

Swellnet is a surf forecasting site, we're science based, so understanding how swells have changed (or otherwise), and why people might believe that, is of interest to us on a professional level.

barrytheblade's picture
barrytheblade's picture
barrytheblade commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 2:17pm

Watched Endless Summer 2 last week for the first time since the mid-nineties when it was on repeat for a summer as a grom. Brought back some good memories...

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 3:00pm

Strangely, a lot of the spots and areas I surf have become less crowded over the last 20 years. Spuddups will back me up on this.

I'm not complaining at all.

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 3:42pm

Yep, pretty much anywhere involving more than a ten minute walk is uncrowded round here these days. Especially places where you can’t check the spot from where you park up. Also anywhere that requires a bit of effort to figure out is basically empty.
I think this is possibly due to the effect of internet based surf reports and web-cams. A lot of people rely on them a lot and are not prepared to put in the yards like we all had to back in the day. I’m not complaining.

BTW, I kept a pretty detailed surf diary for a few years in the early 90s and also for the last ten years. Based on this I can tell you that the quality of the surf hasn’t changed. It makes interesting reading!

shoredump's picture
shoredump's picture
shoredump commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 4:08pm

Sadly, it’s true. I’ve been on the old kirra was better bandwagon in the past. One day I dug up some old photos, and watched a couple of the older vids that I frothed over, and the evidence was clear as day. We used to video ourselves back in the day as well, and some of the “magic” days look so so now on the vhs

totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum's picture
totem-of-scrotum commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 4:25pm

Give me an old guy's fake past than the fake present of Instagram.

lost's picture
lost's picture
lost commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 4:42pm

Had a surf last night at a popular spot in very average conditions using a lot of foam and only one other guy out. We got chatting and both came to the conclusion for certain spots (like the point we were on) we actually cherish the average days where you get more waves and few people. And as if huey was listening our stoke was rewarded with a couple of surprise fun little ones as well.

knB

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 8:00pm

Really liked this and can relate to it. Sometimes the lesser days are so much fun.

geoffrey's picture
geoffrey's picture
geoffrey commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 4:51pm

my observations: there was no mentawais in the old days and breasts seem to have grown larger since i was a raging 18 year old.

both cases for the now.

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 5:00pm

I had a trip to Sumatra last year that came with a surf guide and photographer; one of my mates was gagging to look at, and analyse, the resultant photos every night and remonstrated with me over my lack of enthusiasm; so after 5 nights of his baiting, whilst I was trying to enjoy a quite Bintang and sunset I told him A) I didn't care what he or anyone else thought of my surfing vs. his, B) I didn't need a "living memory" of every wave from our trip and C) (most importantly) why would I ruin the perfect memory of my Sunset Bottom Turn today by looking at a picture of me on the same wave bogging a rail tonight. Nah; I told him - drunk and reflectively later in the night - some waves need to be saved as memories, polished and exaggerated based simply on the feeling they gave you in the moment, not based on facts or what others think. Had this article been published before then, I would have quoted Stu and said my opinion was supported by the latest in neuroscience.

joesydney's picture
joesydney's picture
joesydney commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:03am

Dane Reynolds summed it up in his board review vid -"who cares what you look like, as long as it feels good."

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:36am

joesydney > totally agree; it would be nice to return to these values, instead of surfing being continuously sucked down the KPI pathway of life on land. I'll be doing my bit to make change happen in 2019.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 3:26pm

Epic comment .

Fishy's picture
Fishy's picture
Fishy commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 10:11am

You did the right thing.
Personal experience.
1st wave of 1st surf on Mentawais trip . Icelands, solid 8.
In head - feeling like a man who'd conquered a beast.
In photo- standing like a man who couldn't get a Tally Ho paper between his arse cheeks.

spencie's picture
spencie's picture
spencie commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 5:19pm

From the perspective of starting surfing in 1963 I can guarantee that all we were looking for in a wave was good shape, especially with the boards around at the time. Hollowness was something that was occasionally experienced, usually with unfortunate consequences or injuries. "Making the wave" from take-off to the end was considered good surfing back then, and with the boards around at the time it was relatively easy to glide across dead sections right to the end of the wave at the shore. Many of my recollections of great surfs have been on waves which by modern standards would be considered a bit lame, but also tempered by the fact that mid-week it was possible to be the only one out at good quality Noosa, Crescent Head, etc. I agree with Blowin that the old days pre leg-ropes and the dole meant much more enjoyable surfs without the present day crowds. It was quite possible to be the first surfer to find a particular spot and the excitement of discovering new places meant that there was excitement on every trip away.

easterly

Agitator's picture
Agitator's picture
Agitator commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 5:32pm

@stunet swells were better pre 80's and sand banks were as well.

A friend of mine, Peter (won't say his full name as he might not want it mentioned here) who is a professor of Marine Science and a surfer has heaps of data from decades back attesting to this + he has a good memory. E swells of size and sustained duration were way more common back then and that swell direction for longer durations favours better sand formation in the Sydney area thus delivering better quality beach breaks.

Fark as a teenager in the 70's I remember surfing consistently bigger waves of better quality than any time after the 80's kicked in.

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 5:43pm

Stu, I agree with the point re rosy memories plus comments about lack of crowds but I reckon climate change is also impacting on the East Coast.
Pretty sure reducing cyclone frequency has been discussed on these pages before which results in less ENE swells.
In addition the last few dry and windy summers with average waves also seem to be grading to a distinct wet/dry season rather than a more even subtropical climate but that would need a bit of a weather study to prove.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 8:41am

Warmer oceans further south should equal cyclonic activity further south and a better window and a larger area for cyclones to form.

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 8:31pm

ID, you would have thought that warmer oceans would mean more cyclones, but for some reason the modelling suggests otherwise, at least for east coast Oz.
http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/climatology/trends.shtml
The BOM link doesn’t explain why there would be less cyclones, curious to what the reasoning is.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 7:23pm

Fewer cyclones is documented fact.

Also agree with Distracted : summers hotter and drier with less Tradewinds and more extended northerly episodes which last all summer.
This is part of the now, not memory.

Common Tata's picture
Common Tata's picture
Common Tata commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 10:21am

Funny, my mate asked me this same question to which I replied, nah we probably just thought it was better in the 70's. He then pulled out a stack of SW mags from the 70's, The waves seemed to consistently have an oily glass that is not seen today. There was no photoshop back then, so I believe there were better waves and I have watched some great breaks disappear to high rise and breakwalls and changing weather patterns over the past 50 years, there are still good waves in the modern era but development and pollution is killing our oceans. Back in the day the ocean was cleaner, less crowded and no internet, sure you got skanked travelling through Indo with nothing but a sense of adventure from time to time but when you got it there where no resorts, boat charters or surf schools or is my memory just playing tricks on me.

Fishy's picture
Fishy's picture
Fishy commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 8:21pm

Agree,
I know my 50 years of watching weather and surf isn't exactly a Long-term example, but I'm certain the 4-5 day-and-night, non-stop NE winds you get in Sydney nowadays never happened in the 70s, and were only common up around Coffs and further north

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 8:26pm

Curious. I'm down at Thirroul but grew up in Cronulla and the last two seasons, potentially heading into a third, have had less NE winds than the average.

Generally we get around 22 days per month with NE winds through summer but the last two were below that (15, 17, 18).

Fishy's picture
Fishy's picture
Fishy commented Tuesday, 15 Jan 2019 at 9:48pm

Hi stunet. I'm sure your numbers are more accurate than my memory. So am i just imagining that NE winds seem to now blow for longer with less abatement overnight than they used to? I grew up in the Nulla as well and remember ( I know , memory) realative stillness prior to afternoon NE sea breezes. Cheers.

Elliedog's picture
Elliedog's picture
Elliedog commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 7:50pm

surfing is...…….better than not surfing. This is what I tell my 13 year old boy regularly. and its what I tell people when they ask me "whats it like" when they are looking at the same shit surf i'm looking at.

Luba

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 8:07pm

Memories of sandbanks being better before have some evidence of truth - the Swellnet Marram grass articles show proof of this. And also, there are a few precious gem spots that serve to show the difference between today and yesterday, to us, today.

Also, much of the building of groynes and marinas, and resultant sand starvation or diverted flow has impacted on the surf. I think Apollo bay was on the telly today, really obvious sand starvation upflow from the marina. Spokesman apportioned it happening to other causes. We could actually make things better in the future with some intelligent coastal design...

pigman's picture
pigman's picture
pigman commented Friday, 11 Jan 2019 at 10:56pm

agree with u, agitator have a mate with a book of surfs from 72 /89 heaps more east coast lows that spun off the coast for days with a lot of rain.not like we get now 1/2 days if your lucky . climate change ? fuck knows

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 7:00am

The Bureau has records of ECLs dating back to '73 and there's precisely zero change in the trend. There's as many now as there was in the mid-70s.

Eugene Green's picture
Eugene Green's picture
Eugene Green commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 12:08am

Less crowds, less sharks, less entitlement, less competitions, less sups, less brazzos/clueless backpackers, less dune protection, less groins/breakwalls/marinas, less instagram, less text messages, less internet, less surf schools , less adult learners, less hype, less fucken bullsheeet!

Eugene Green's picture
Eugene Green's picture
Eugene Green commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 12:03am

And in the south west, Less fucken southerlies!

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 1:58am

My memory was waves broke closer to endless intricate contours of the shoreline.
Allowing Pointbreaks/Creekbanks/Reefs/furrowed beachies to peel various shapes

Council buried all in 5m of Sand & stringlined/ironed the lot Tweed - Nerang Rivers
All aboard the 9am Gidget closeout Party wave.Wow son! Modern waves are fab!

You're right! I won't forgive nor forget the bastards for destroying the Gold Coast.
I am midway penning a letter to council- Privatisation of WSR Burleigh Rockbreak.
Sadly it could be Last Bombie at Palmy or Last of the Tugun lefts or That Gutter.....

Dream on sons of Hippies!
More Sea change > More Sand > less shape > less breaks unless Pro becomes Mayor!

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 8:45am

Although i do feel like everyone else in that everything was better back then, i think the article is correct.

Also so many other factors:

For instance age and ability fitness, as a very young grommet i remember having the best sessions at certain reefs/points it all seemed so good, now those waves i don't even bother surfing, or i check all the time trying to catch but they never do it like i remember.

In all honestly nothing could have changed, it's just my physical size and ability and experience, it just takes a lot more to give me stoke, back then a 1.5ft wave i could get barrelled on or i only had to see the lip throw to think i was barrelled anyway.

Another factor is what we have experienced, Indonesia has really ruined surfing for me back home, having surfed perfect waves almost everyday the bar is risen.

Still my local banks don't seem as good though...but i don't know.

I was talking to my local shaper a while back about this, and he seemed to think nothing had changed just cycles and that we view waves differently now with changes in board design, we surf faster so seek faster waves etc

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 8:44am

It's an interesting topic isn't it. You can't argue with the pure science. You also can't deny that the science only includes the weather patterns and resulting storms and excludes the myriad of variables which effect surf "enjoyability" likes crowds, sand quality etc.
I have clear memories of epic days as a grom - the summer/autumn of '86 when it pumped for almost 3 months straight, my first trip to Indo in '89, and more recently the summer of '16.
I also surfed last week in junky 3 footers and got my first ok waves after a month of northerlies and busy family/work commitments and came in so stoked.
I reminisce and bullshit like the best of us about the past, I track swells and plan for the future like a madmen, but it's really about right now.
Like the 1 hour I just got in the water with that little pulse of E swell before the wind got into it and the tide filled in and I had to run home to take my son to the toy library.
It was that one late drop, just setting the inside rail, driving behind the section and the exit into the channel.
It was the "one last good one" that turned into a rushed bottom turn taking a too flat line and mis-timing the section into a slow and boggy and totally unsatisfying final turn which ate at me the whole drive home.
It's just going surfing.
It's just the love of it.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:22am

I really like your post. Many things I can relate to in there.
I kind of wonder what everyone is waiting for? I suppose it depends on where you like to surf, but if you’re waiting for those perfect point days more often than not, surfing will leave you with nothing but frustration.
I guess I like those less than stellar beachie days and as a result have had a ball in conditions such as the east coast has been experiencing of late.
I walked down to my local the other evening and the only surfer out came in. I asked him how he went and ina downcast manner he replied, ‘oh ok, pretty straight, it’s just closing out’.. Meanwhile I’m looking over his shoulder mind surfing. Went out and got about 20 fun waves in an hour and came home stoked. Ones man’s trash is another’s treasure. Another thing is for sure, those ‘epic’ days will come.......in the meantime I’ll crack on with what we’ve got

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 10:14am

Back in the day you had a multitude of empty or very uncrowded waves to choose from so instead of having to share waves with the pack you got pretty much all the bombs to yourself or a couple mates so consequencly it seemed like it was pumping.

simba

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 10:18am

But i can remember a lot of corduroy swells and strong west winds thru winter more times than not.Cant think of the last swell lined up all the way to the horizon....but maybe its selective memory.

simba

CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 10:34am

You’d think you’d... but nah.

Coz, it was really stup’e, and stupe’s boys!!!?

‘Don’t you bring no fucked up shit twinny out here you fuck’n kook!!! And don’t you even think about that one crypshit, coz I’m way inside and I’ll be doing some evil shit on you boy!!!’

‘Please don’t get no blowy to do evil shit...’

Every day, we just was having bad memories but really, ‘‘hey stup’e wuz shreddin’... again!!!’

‘It’s nw, I’m heading to x.’

‘Stup’e ain’t told us where to surf yet... again!!!! He’s gunna be there for sure wiv his bad arse boyz!!! Blowy be getting all red mist evil on your arse... he bin feeling mighty fraggy, bin in some terrible shit... again... and again... and again...!!! Anyway he’s all fraggy and shite, so don’t you be going there!!!.’

‘Oh no look it’s stupes boyz, they already on it... again... and again...’

‘Back orf you mutha’s, I bin through some bad shit, and I’m feeling me mighty fraggy today, or I be tellin’ stup’e on you!!!! Again... and again... and again... Don’t you be fuck’n wiv no indo eever, coz he already bin sending some evil arse eemy’s on you!!!’ Stup’es rulin’ here man... he dun big bad time west dude... he got buttons!!!’

‘Goofer got a new craft!!! Goofer’s going... well, maybe one day!!!!’

Yeh. Remember, but don’t forget now. The science says, it wuz the stup’e and his boyz show. Again. That’s all. Bad arse shredders. Who could forget stup’e and his boyz ridin’ hard, ridin’ big, ridin’ bad!!! In the desert!!! Banning twinnies too! That’s just science.

And don’t ever forget pulling up, thinking you’re the only one here... then seeing that evil arse... that scientific fuckin’ labradoodle... in the desert...

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 10:57am

new year, same flog.
Yawn

uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:02am

Too many secret herbs on the abalone

CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:02am

Keep flogging. You know you won’t go. You never did. Except on here, scientificly. Get a bigger craft maybe?

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:13am

Nar man the craft I have is big enough for the waves I want to catch. I’ll meet you there one day???
This’ll be my last reply to you on here. See you there next time :-)

CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight's picture
CryptoKnight commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:07am

The boyz are back in town!!! It’s scientific... who could forget... I like it... carry orn swillnuttin’

Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68's picture
Rabbits68 commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 11:13am

“then seeing that evil arse... that scientific fuckin’ labradoodle... in the desert...”

Haha! Classic :-))

Crystal Clear

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 12:08pm

Like FR (but half as long), I've been recording surf daily for almost 10 years now. It's definitely been worse the last couple of years for whatever reason, I'm sure we'll get good years again. Be interesting to hand it over in 30 years time.

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 1:44pm

Also applicable is the peak-end rule.

In any experience or series of experiences the peak points (high or low) and the final ones tend to be the most memorable.

But, dig this: not only are they most memorable moments, they shape our entire perception of that event or series of events. They are weighted far more heavily than the other moments, and in our memories, serve to represent them all.

For example, when remembering two seperate surgeries, a short, mild dental surgery with a brief but intense spike of pain will seem more painful OVERALL than a surgery with quite a high level of pain, even if it lasted twice as long, as long as the pain level didn't reach as high as the first at any time.

Similarly, a mediocre surf with one killer wave and nine average ones will be remembered as a better session than one with ten pretty good waves.

It's also why the band plays their best song at the end of the set.

Got that one from Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 3:29pm

These surf diaries that are kept .....how are they formatted ?

Are we talking data entry into a relevant ledger or synoptic charts with opinions or daily written summaries ?

Interesting.

mezkal's picture
mezkal's picture
mezkal commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 4:13pm

Yeh some areas def used to be better. Anywhere that relies on sandbanks has potential to change, as we can't deny the weather is getting a touch more "extreme" and sand flows depend on those. Hey there might be the odd place that works now that never did. That's what I kept telling myself when our local beach stopped breaking...just stopped...that was in 89 and it's still [email protected]&?#d. It never broke again and it was one of the finest, heaviest I've seen. And slowly the main ones around town have gotten VERY inco to the point some will go a whole year or 2 without breaking. I remember in the 80s all the old boys used to tell us we really missed it too. Some places just aren't what they used to be. I'd happily go back to home made boards in diving wet suits to get those banks back. Aah well, still a few little nooks and crannies around though hey. My 5 cents.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 5:51pm

Sounds a very similar story to what I heard, and what I experienced metro WA. I remember surfs having real A frames before the suburb went in in the early 90s - even have a few pics in an old memory box. Now it breaks very differently. The old boys used to tell us about what Leighton was like before North Mole, what Scarb was like in the 1960s. Sand starvation in Gero impacting foredune well north after the Marina was put in in early 90s too. Happily, some more sand must have shifted as surfing a northern reef last year for the first time in maybe 20 saw a new keyhole to paddle through, and a better connection or sand distribution between the outer and inner peak.

hamishbro's picture
hamishbro's picture
hamishbro commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 9:02am

I’ve heard plenty of eco conscious old timers talk about development near or around coastlines which have affected sand replenishment by impacting the depth of dune structures. Therefore the wave does break “like it used to” as often, which has nothing to do with swell consistency.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 11:41am

Of course, the opposite is also true at a few locations - such as South Straddie.

https://www.swellnet.com/news/swellnet-analysis/2018/01/22/south-straddi...

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 7:50pm

I kept a surf diary in about 1976. Looking over it there were a couple of big southerlies over winter but much of the rest of it is chasing around for the usual mix of good and bad. But as a grom i chased and rode anything. By 1980 i had decided the 70s were the good old days. Younger surfers said the same about the 80s.
What is definitely true is that fewer people were onto the classic days - more people had inflexible jobs, fewer had cars, forecasting was primitive, fewer people surfed, groms struggled to get to the surf, few people over 25 surfed, fewer hot surfers around etc. So if you picked a good dsy at a primo spot you surfed yourself silly. These days peak days at peak spots are a circus.

So thank you surf industry for your efforts to "grow the sport" and former pro surfers setting up surf schools. You have made a few bucks but worsened the day to day experience for your fellow surfer.
On a positive note, today's surfers are fussier and spoiled by experience in indo and by videos. They have way more alternatives to going surfing so if you can ride equipment to suit smaller and junkier days or avoid the good forecasts it can be less crowded.

Frogg

frog's picture
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frog commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 8:04pm

Interestingly my best surf this summer was on a day rated by swellnet's observed report as 3 out of 10. Clean, sunny good bank and a right all to myself. On a 6 out of 10 day i had a crap surf with ridiculous crowds by 6 am for an inconsistent spot.
Say no more....

Frogg

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 3:18pm

Yeah, me too. As good as the SN models and reports are - and they are very good - some of my best sessions last year have been when an onshore has unexpectedly died down in the afternoon after everyone has already written the day off, or a sudden pulse comes a little earlier than forecast.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 9:55pm

1970's Gold Coast had less surfers but as many boardriders lived close to the surf.
(Pre Pumps) We had 100% Point capacity/bombies/creeks & seasoned beach banks

Few had wetsuits so mid winter offshore & South wind crews were halved.

With few leggies the Bombs were anyones + very few dropped in to steal your ride.
If hero drops in late & Wipes Out. Penalty being a swim ashore costing hotdog 4 sets.
Think twice about dropping in on the points or near flags. Take your board back then.

No Grip Pads! So full rub down ensured wax was sparse for Groms 10% less crew.
To be fair boardz never snapped or fins never fell out so that balances out.

1970's had 3 x the surf breaks with half the winter crowds.
Locals enjoyed 4 x Bomb set selection without leggies.
You had 10x more chance of hooking a perfect wave.

Forgot '70's custom handed down to us Groms from Age of Aquarius crew...
Share as many good waves as you get."Hey Grom! Wanna go another set wave!"
When did you last feed your Grom? What! 'Never enough good waves to go around!'

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 10:05pm

Well, my swell diaries tell me this time January 1988 we had twin cyclones doing a Paso doble in the CS/South Pac, Anne and Agi.

8-10ft Big Groyne Kirra was the result . My notes say Wayne Deane and Al Byrne (both deceased) were dominating on Hawaiian equipment.

My notes from '92 tell me we had cyclones Betsy, Daman, Esau and Fran in linear succession, all of which provided pumping surf.
Swag, Snail, Bugs, Butto, Reg, Big Bird Hodge were all deep tube riding classic Kirra.

And so far this Summer we've had 3 cyclones and close to a month of onshore E'ly gurgle and barely a wave over 3ft. The closest thing to a tube I've had is skateboarding under a pandanus palm.

Don't need amateur psychology to tell me this summer is comparing very badly to good or great ones.

dazzler's picture
dazzler's picture
dazzler commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 9:08pm

I have missed the last 2 summers through injury & now back in the water, this summer looks pretty good to me so far!

My recollection of 15-20 years ago was simply a lot less people in the surf therefore set waves easier to come by.

Filthyboy's picture
Filthyboy's picture
Filthyboy commented Saturday, 12 Jan 2019 at 10:18pm

Great article Stu!!

mezkal's picture
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mezkal commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 3:06am

Great article and comments too...I actually agree with nearly all of them ( now there's a first!) I know I've forgotten the long flat spells of years gone bye, but clearly remember the feeling of sprinting to empty perfection, being incapable of anything but hooting and laughing at the top of our lungs. I know what we've lost due to either natural cycles, human interference and climate change too. And yeh...a big fuck you to short sighted surf industry cunts and their dream to crowd the world with surf jocks so they can get paid to go surfing FUCKHEADS ! I'll surf the newest retro rockered rocket in my comfy super suit whilst talking of swell graphs and long rangers (even though I still just check the synoptic to be sure). I'll use them because they're there, but do I feel blessed to have them? Not really, I'm blessed I got to grow up in our sub culture anti establishment community and surf beachies that don't exist any more and still be able to do it and love it just as much. I remember my mate, only 20 odd years ago saying to me, and it still rings true today, "mate the good old days are right now!"

mundies's picture
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mundies commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 6:30am

Freeride - data trumps memory pretty much every time, eye witness testimony in court is now regarded as the lowest grade testimony and there are many many examples of people either charged or acquitted unjustly due to a witness mis-remembering, the weight of the memory testimony often allocated due to race, gender or occupation. I've done a fair bit of medlegal work over the years and I wouldn't dream of rocking up to be cross examined with only memory to fall back on.
It's worth noting that data can also be corrupted or manipulated. I can't see any reason for someone to break into your home and find your data trove of past epic weather systems and johnny-on-the-spot diarised descriptions and modify this for nefarious purposes, but in the info age many other forms of unidentifiable or massageable data must be considered suspect.
Going back to eyewitness testimony, or in this context, memory of surf quality and quantity of past years - people are prone to rewriting memory. A conversation with old mate about how good it was in '95 may just be that they shared a few good surfs together, remembered it was that year, and extrapolated that that year was amazing.
I work in neuro rehab and see regularly how often memory can fail, and fail with an absolute certainty that they are accurate. So - low corruption risk data in my opinion far exceeds the reliability of eye witness testimony.

mundies

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 7:00am

I hear you Mundies.

But in this case, it's incredibly easy to corroborate my accounts with TC track maps, BOM MSLP archived maps etc etc.

I have training in science........I'm confident in the strength of the data.

Of course, that doesn't discount the variation in the subjective experience of actually surfing those waves.
In that case, perspective is everything.

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 7:18am

Freeride76, what's your science background, if you don't mind me asking? This has turned into a very interesting discussion, and it's great to hear from so many different surfers with very different backgrounds and approaches.

I'm off to work this arvo (meteorologist), and will have a look at TC tracks for last few decades, if time allows.

My surf friends and I have a little discussion group, and we email photos of good sessions between us. I recently went through my email and deleted old stuff taking up space, and it was interesting to compare photos to one's memories of certain swells and sessions. In the short term, I have been surprised both ways; some days have paled a little, while others look really good all of a sudden.

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 9:31am

marine biology/ oceanography.

Only a bachelor degree so I claim no specialist/expert knowledge but a science degree, if you are paying attention teaches you the scientific method and how to evaluate data with respect to a hypothesis etc etc.

The rest is 40 years observation and recording of the natural world.

I'm an amateur naturalist with a science degree who reads as much as he can about things that are interesting.

daisy duke kahanamoku's picture
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daisy duke kaha... commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 8:03am

Past cyclone tracks mean pretty much nothing because the cyclone needs a cradling high if the east coast is going to get a worthwhile swell and that's not shown on the Bureaus site. There was a cyclone last season (I cant remember names) that dropped from north to south without a high and the swell from it was small, patchy and short-lived. I'm sure its track will look unreal.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 9:28am

Yes and no.

For any sustained surf you need a cradling high, but for certain TC's if there is a retrograding W or SW track, especially if the fetch is well aligned with the circle paths in the swell window you can get amazing swell generation.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 9:00am

Photos can also depict a false history.

A well timed hoax photo does not illustrate the quality of the surf.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Sunday, 13 Jan 2019 at 11:20am

It's also not that simple for example.

Victoria:

A year with small swells and east wind patterns equals good banks and waves for the beachies.

In a year like that the West coast has a bad year.

A year with solid swells and more west winds means good waves on west coast but destroys the beachie banks.

Same deal for areas of Tassie, west coast gets good in years with smaller swells and more east winds, but other areas of Tassie thrive when bigger swells.

Cp's picture
Cp's picture
Cp commented Monday, 14 Jan 2019 at 7:44am

One thing I don’t miss from the 80s growing up in Sydney are the turds, tampons and stench in the water pre ocean outfalls.
I was reminiscing with a mate about our days as groms recently. It didn’t take long to recall our sessions at south maroubra in a southerly - at the time it was the done thing, normal, now I would never dream of going out in those conditions.
Maroubra, Bondi, Cronulla and Manly now with much cleaner water. And there was always a crew in the water too, navigating the turds and breathing through clenched teeth.

chook's picture
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chook commented Monday, 14 Jan 2019 at 10:15am

yeah, CP, it was (and is) disgusting...raw sewerage is still discharged at diamond bay.

maybe the waves were better back in the day, maybe they weren't. but a listen to "astra wally" by rose tattoo never lets me forget how fucked bondi was in the 70s and 80s. no nostalgia for those days at all.

AndyM's picture
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AndyM commented Monday, 14 Jan 2019 at 11:38am

What are you saying Chook, rough scene back then?

Looked up that song, rocking music but a live gig would have been interesting.

https://youtu.be/tuqs0vMP7cg

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chook commented Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019 at 2:04pm

a bit of rough and tumble, i guess...but it was all mostly all fun.
i just get sick of my mates "it was better back then" crap that seems to completely ignore the bad stuff in society then.

great footage from that rose tatoo gig. angry used to live on birrel st back then.

GM's picture
GM's picture
GM commented Monday, 14 Jan 2019 at 6:44pm

I live on east coast NSW
I've always been a believer in the "It was better back in the day" syndrome.
The reasons for my opinion are based on the following 2 underlying assumptions/anecdotal observations/make beliefs;
(1) there has been massive physical disruption to the immediate environment
surrounding the breaks I haunt. No need to go into them in too much detail but
here's a list of the things that I'm sure every old fart is familiar with;
- Sand mining starting
- Sand mining ceasing (different spot to the one sand mining screwed)
- "Dune care" stabilising foredunes
- Breakwall extensions
- Local council draining a land locked lake at multiple different locations
along the beach. (Fishos used to do it from the one location everytime but
councils know better than 150 years of history)
(2) A belief that southern low pressure systems have over time;
(a) Gotten fewer in number, and/or
(b) Once past Tasmania have more often than not turned southeast when
they used to track east northeast.
Reading the comments I reckon it's time I got off my arse and did some reading to check the veracity of my old fart's opinion on the low pressure system changes.
Here's what I've found so far:
(1) In the 7 year period from 1983 to 1989 inclusive there were approx 10% more
"cut-off low pressure systems" than in the 7 year period from 1990 to 1996
inclusive. (ie) 10% more possible surf generating systems (amounted to an
extra 1 system per month)
Source: Qi, Leslie & Zhao, "Cut-Off low Pressure Systems over Southern
Australia - Climatology and a Case Study" 1999. Royal Meteorological Society.
(2) Between 2002 and 2008 there has been a decreasing trend in the total number
of maritime low events off the NSW coast.
Source: Speer, wiles & Pepler, "Low Pressure systems off the New South Wales
Coast and Associated hazardous weather: establishment of a Database"
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal 58 (2009) 29-39.
(3) You can get historical daily synoptic charts from BOM starting from
01/12/1999.
If I can maintain enthusiasm I'll bring 'em up & check out if I'm right about the
change in direction of the low pressure tracking. If I do I'll tell you if I'm right. if
I'm wrong I'll keep it to myself. As my old man always told me "never let the
truth get in the way of a good yarn"
OR, you can find your owns truths and rip mine to shreds if you want, totally possible I reckon, and all cool with me.

tworules's picture
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tworules commented Monday, 14 Jan 2019 at 8:14pm

thanks Andy, so strong , by the end of the 70's we'd finished a decade of pumpin NE summer swells, things were full on and I was on north bound trains with a stop in central and a short walk to Chequers, thought I'd seen it all until that band in that venue,

Distracted's picture
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Distracted commented Monday, 14 Jan 2019 at 8:30pm

Sounds great GM, looking forward to some facts and/ or yarns!

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted commented Monday, 14 Jan 2019 at 8:30pm

Sounds great GM, looking forward to some facts and/ or yarns!

kneepete's picture
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kneepete commented Tuesday, 15 Jan 2019 at 1:42pm

Winds are getting stronger and waves are getting bigger.

"The study, published today in Science Express online, uses 23 years of satellite altimeter data taken from 1985 to 2008 to show that wind speeds over the oceans have been steadily increasing."

"The study, published today in Science Express online, uses 23 years of satellite altimeter data taken from 1985 to 2008 to show that wind speeds over the oceans have been steadily increasing."

"Extreme wave heights have increased by an average of seven per cent over the last 20 years."

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/03/25/3172755.htm

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Tuesday, 15 Jan 2019 at 1:49pm

But, it's all relative to the storm track, and its alignment to your local coast.

If we see a negative SAM with strong westerlies over the southern part of the continent, this invariably means bigger waves through WA, SA, Vic and some parts of Tas (western, southern), but - depending on the storm track (and the synoptic in the Tasman Sea) - could result in tiny conditions across eastern Tas, NSW and SE Qld.

As such I'm dubious on such broad sweeping statements, as there's no way to quantify it at a local level.

chook's picture
chook's picture
chook commented Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019 at 2:08pm

were the banks/waves better when the storm-water pipes were on the beaches?

i think there are still some pipes in the water at manly.

Brickwalls's picture
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Brickwalls commented Thursday, 17 Jan 2019 at 3:29am

There was a peiod in the 70s where SEQ lit up in Cyclone season year after year. Them was the days when the Tweed River breakwalls extended sure, but depletion of sand had a lag. Kirra was awesome and ther was no groyne, Currumbbin Alley was just that before the tin/ zircon mine was removed and someone thought a groyne joining Currumbin Rock to the mainland would be good for boating out of Curumbin Creek. Jellyfish were abound but the surf was awesome.

Remove the Kirra & Currumbin groynes and just watch it improve - not a shadow of its former self. I have 1918 family photos of Tweed River when the walls only went as far as the Rocky outcrop by the clubhouse & the surf was just fine.

DDT, Asbestos & Groynes post war legacies we all bear now.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog commented Thursday, 17 Jan 2019 at 8:11am

I looked up rainfall data on the BOM site a while back. The mid 70's had a peak period which coincided with the good stretch of big southerlies and east coast lows some of us remember as the good old days. The morning of the earth filming period.
Over the longer period throigh 1960s to 1980s this 70s period was not a trend it was just a good stretch.
A book by Ruth Park desribes a winter in the 1950s where Sydney beaches were pounded by huge storms over and over. So cycles come and go.
But way back in the long board era a 3 foot peeler was a hot surf. A point break at waist high was Malibu come alive. So memories of the 1960s are very distorted by this factor.

I do suspect small shifts in the long wave thingo around antarctica and where the latitude of the low pressure systems are would have a significant impact over time.

The truth is out there in the BOM data though if someone really wanted to study it.

Frogg