On Any Sunday (with eight foot of south swell)

Craig Brokensha
Swellnet Dispatch

Under the COVID-19 Stay at Home orders, I've spent a lot more time swimming in the ocean locally with my water housing. More so as an escape from the crowds and when the surf's not especially interesting. From sunset swims and capturing the full moon at night it's been a great outlet and a new form of creativity the last couple of months.

Then came the weekend, when an oversized southerly swell from a deep, stalling Tasman Low battered the coast, leaving only a few spots for the crowds to converge to. Any other weekend I would have hit the road, but instead with swell on the local reefs at home I thought I'd go for a couple of swims with the water housing instead of hassling at the marquee breaks.

A great upside of swimming on the inside taking shots is the feeling of surfing every one of your mates waves and feeding off the stoke they get. You get to see all the action from the best seat in the house.

After a large kick in size Friday, I hit the surf just before the sun rose Saturday morning and linked up with local grom (17yo) Lachie Meakes. It was slow but he got two back to back bombs within 10 minutes and stood tall and casual under heavy water.

Following a beach check that revealed uninspiring closeouts, I went back out for the late session at the reef hoping for a little more action on the low tide. While not ideal it still gave me another chance to get familiar with the very unforgiving rock ledge and rock-off while also nailing a couple of moody shots of Lachie again and Mitch Hardakar.

Sunday started a bit smaller swell wise, but raw and windy on the coast. I paddled out for a surf at North Steyne just as the swell started to jack late morning. Paddling out on my 5'9" and being met with rising 6ft surf, I quickly switched for the 6'8" and enjoyed some big drops that lead mostly to closeouts. Out in the surf the swell started to kick more noticeably as the local bombora roared to life, showing off consistent 10ft+ sets which wedged into Queenscliff at a roguey 6-8ft.

I got word that the local slab from the day before was starting to work and after a big lunch headed to the headland car park. The trickiest part was getting a spot, with the car park gridlocked though without too many surfers in the water. Lucking into a spot on the second go around I grabbed my gear and climbed the cliff to check the surf. The swell had increased significantly and there were now 8-10ft wedges doubling up and then slabbing off down the line across the boulder strewn reef.

I eyed the rock-off spot and it looked deadly as sets steamed through, sending shoulder high torrents of water across a 50m ledge which then reverberated below sea level next to the barnacle riddled shelf for the next minute or so. In between sets though it looked eerily calm and the perfect spot to enter the water. Unnerving. While on the cliff Sam Nolan chipped in easy as you like to an absolute cracker while Matt Chojnacki rolled in on his 7'0" McTavish single fin.

With the waves being beyond my capability, I made the decision to swim out and try and nail some shots. To be a part of the raw and powerful swell energy but also without putting myself in too much danger, besides that rock-off..

On the way down I noticed another photographer ahead of me. He took a dicey route along the exposed ledge, walking a tight line inside a massive boulder that if a set came, would funnel all the water out and over. By the time I got down to the edge of the flat ledge he was gone but no more than 30s later a proper 10ft set roared through. The sight of the very real consequences from stuffing up the rock-off and ending up in the 'key hole' (in truth a hidden shelf that surges dry, then gushing out towards the inside ledge of the reef proper) was terrifying. The set did as I saw from the cliff above, projecting shoulder-high water up and right into the corner I was standing in. Lucky I was prepared and held tight on a large boulder as the water washed over my head. Two more of these and the reverb started to settle.

Timing is everything, and sighting a gap in the ten metre seas from sea level is something I would only advise to the most experienced. I made my run and entry into the water swiftly and without hesitation, followed by a rapid swim south, against the sweep sucking into the 'key-hole'.

On arrival to the back of the lineup I was greeted with familiar faces but also the most raw mountains of ocean swell I've ever been in. The scale of it was mind blowing and to see the ocean swells with no attenuation, then abruptly lifting skywards on feeling the ledge was hard to comprehend.

I also got word that the photographer before me had cut across the key-hole and copped the 10ft set on the head, laying limp and needing to be helped by some of the boardriders. He wasn't in a good way and slowly made the swim back to shore, a kilometre away.

With the increase in size and energy I couldn't sit anywhere near where I was the day before, so I positioned myself just inside on the edge of the reef where I could get the wedging peak which would double-up and barrel on the best ones, and then launch into the next barreling section down the line.

After nailing a few shots I started to get more confident on my positioning in the lineup, just safe enough to dodge any wide ten footers. Knowing most of the crew in the lineup, someone caught my attention with a super late attempt at an inside double-up, only to pin drop from the lip.

When they resurfaced right on the take-off and not down the line I could make out an OuterKnown logo on the wetsuit. Not only this but a bald head and carbon strip Tokoro.. I couldn't believe it. I knew Kelly Slater was on the beaches and surfing around the local haunts, but to then have him out at a heaving slab and to be in the water to document it from such a unique angle, I was beside myself.

The next hour or so were a rush of adrenalin and joy. I had the GOAT taking off deep and late right in front of me and then, on the paddle back we'd be frothing on the locals pulling into these heavy slabs. The stoke was pure and the vibe chatty though busy.

Barrels, wipeouts and everything in between went down on a grey and showery Sunday evening, only to give way to an intense and burning sunset.

Justin Turk on one of the Waves of The Day.

The day ended with Kelly and the local crew in the car park, sifting through photos on the back of the camera, reliving all the rides we'd just seen go down. A Sunday evening and weekend to remember.

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 9:20am

Great article, got my heart racing reading the first bit.

Well done Craig, you could have been a deadman walking out there.

1173

ken.vincent's picture
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ken.vincent commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 9:39am

Nice summary of a weekend in Steak & Kidney. I was waiting for the roundup, thanks.

jshe35's picture
jshe35's picture
jshe35 commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:01am

Great article, really created the mood in an understated way.. thanks

Montygoesbananas's picture
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Montygoesbananas commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:06am

Awesome photos Craig, i was watching from the Manly line up and so bummed when i found out i had missed seeing Kelly at Bower. Great weekend of waves

channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:21am

Epic photos, epic words, epic waves. Great job all round Craig.

willibutler's picture
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willibutler commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:31am

Glad you got out alright epic story

the-u-turn's picture
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the-u-turn commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:34am

Fabulous writing, Craig. Enjoyed that recall immensely.

But the best, and most important, part of the article was this commentary,

'With the waves being beyond my capability, I made the decision to swim out and try and nail some shots. To be a part of the raw and powerful swell energy but also without putting myself in too much danger',

If only more of us were honest with ourselves and acknowledging this risk we put to others when we venture out beyond our own comfort zones. That's a responsible Waterman. Thanks for the honesty, Craig (and from a very capable and competent Surfer).

I sat very wide a few hundred metres down from you and realised this was a day for patience, and possibly, a day for taking it all in rather than taking it all on.

The U Turn
...a little Aloha goes a long way.

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:37am

Gutsy work mate and great photos!

Fucked if I'd wanna be swimming round in those conditions dragging camera gear around.

Thegrowingtrend.com's picture
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Thegrowingtrend.com commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:50am

keep the stories coming Craigos

Nicko

Bob Sacamano's picture
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Bob Sacamano commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 11:09am

Good photos and story Craig. would have been a blast to be in the channel hooting ya mates and showing the shots in the carpark.

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 11:30am

Great write up and even better shots Craig. Sounds like a story to tell the grandkids.

He who hesitates is lost

PeteH's picture
PeteH's picture
PeteH commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 12:52pm

Great work Craig, made my lunch break reading it and checking the awesome pics!

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 12:56pm

Hey Craig,good stuff,i used to do a bit of filming years ago with home made water housing with super 8 film at lennox and a Nikonis 3 for a while,so i can appreciate your effort.I never did it in sizey surf and never wanted to.How was the current? Take my hat off to guys that do that for a living cause its not easy at all,ya got to be fit to keep swimming and being in the right spot.Found that i had to be closer than i thought to get the shot otherwise looks to far away and also tends to lose impact...keep up the good work mate.....howd ya get in...drift around to the beach or swim it?

simba

Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython's picture
Tim Bonython commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 1:00pm

Great story Craig. I know the feeling when your in harms way. The frigging heart starts to pound as you say to yourself every things going to be okay but really your shitting yourself as its you and mother nature gets ready unload its unstoppable energy all over you. My problem is i have a box of bricks weighing 12 kilos that make my escape a little slower than with a DSLR in a Aquatech housing and being 61 years of age doesn't help. But fuck its fun when your in the perfect spot & nail a nice shot of one of your bro's.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 7:49pm

Thanks Tim, yeah with the rigs you guys are running, I've got a much greater appreciation of what you do and how hard it is to be consistently in the right spot to nail the gold.

ojackojacko's picture
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ojackojacko commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 1:01pm

great story and pics craig

memlasurf's picture
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memlasurf commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 1:07pm

The coin finally dropped on the still in Swellnet - Mountain Goat, you know KS duh. I am getting older.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 2:18pm

Haha, no way!

radiationrules's picture
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radiationrules commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 1:40pm

Craig > awesome photos' - I used live in Bower Street - you've captured the vibe of the line-up perfectly; in all its imperfections + bonus issue GOAT! Jeez what a late take-off & make. > RR

jfs's picture
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jfs commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 2:03pm

Deadmans is scary when those swells come in at you. It is a whole new level of surfing compared to a beach break or normal point break so the commentary was fitting. I was in the water and in awe of these young groms charging. They are really nice young guys to boot. They will be stoked with the photos. How is that drop from Kelly ? Seriously is that guy human ?

Bnkref's picture
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Bnkref commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 2:13pm

Love it Craig. You really put us in the spot with the write-up (and pics).

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 2:34pm

That was truly epic Craig, top stuff. Now I understand the swimming out there, after a couple of months of a lot of ocean swimming.

And hats off to the local crew there & KS - great surfing of a pretty ferocious looking - and beautiful - wave. If Vic's righthanders & WA's mad heavy reefs had a love-child...

Westofthelake's picture
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Westofthelake commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 2:35pm

Unreal Craig, thanks for sharing the stoke.

Roystein's picture
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Roystein commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 3:29pm

Well done Craig great record of a cool part of an awesome run across the east coast

GODS QUAD's picture
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GODS QUAD commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 3:36pm

Epic pics Craigo. Had goosebumps reading about the sketchy rock off too. More of this please!

blackers's picture
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blackers commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 3:39pm

Great work Craig. Your writing puts into perspective what goes into the water shots we are used to seeing from heavy water spots. Full credit to you for having a crack and getting some fantastic shots.

bluediamond's picture
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bluediamond commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 4:18pm

Sensational read and pics. Thanks Craig

Seabiscuit's picture
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Seabiscuit commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 4:36pm

Love it Craigos. Great shots and words

Solitude's picture
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Solitude commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 4:43pm

That was excellent. Fantastic account of the swell. Would be so good to hear similar accounts from different parts of the country when there’s a special couple of days in future.

jimmyrwilson's picture
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jimmyrwilson commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 5:33pm

Great work Craig, top photos and the article was spot on.....

shoredump's picture
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shoredump commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 5:53pm

Well played Craig, loved it

H2O's picture
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H2O commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 5:59pm

Great yarn and photos. Put us all in the spot -dry hair.

H20

Ronson's picture
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Ronson commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 6:17pm

Great job. Some superb photos there.

One shot had me thinking that it wasn’t that long ago than there were only 3-4 blokes max on an eight foot + deadman’s session. In one shot there’s ten on the shoulder! And does slaters wetsuit look like it doesn’t fit that well? Is he in fact compromised by that?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 6:41pm

Yeah every time it breaks now there's a decent pack taking it on, reached about 30 or so this day!

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 7:04pm

yeah, that crowd surprised me too.

good stuff Craig, hows that feeling of relief when you do get in the water after a sketchy rock-off?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 7:53pm

Thanks for all the great comments crew. Love sharing more than just the images, and providing a vibe and feeling for the session.

Elliedog's picture
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Elliedog commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 8:12pm

Awesome Craig. Have you done much water photography?. Sounds like a new hobby maybe?. If so you’ve done a great job of it. Out of interest what are you using?.

Luba

Winki-outlier's picture
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Winki-outlier commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 9:51pm

Thanks Craig,
A great read, and I trod same path, got a little traveller straight up from inside DMs to W, then sat up top, and watched DMs while waiting for a bomb that pitched me and broke my board.
The powerful swells are a teacher of focus & commitment...

69longboarder's picture
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69longboarder commented Wednesday, 27 May 2020 at 10:20pm

Good one Craig.
Played hard. Run strong.
Appreciate the effort. Thanks.

Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
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Halfscousehalfc... commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 9:37am

Good to see king slater mixing with the peasants

Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfcockneyfullaussie's picture
Halfscousehalfc... commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 9:44am

Would like to see how the average punter goes out there..... would be some carnage

loungelizard's picture
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loungelizard commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 2:25pm

all said above but great article and pics, capped off by a smiling, pin-dropping slater!

Christopher Eden's picture
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Christopher Eden commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 7:46pm

Great work Craig. Was watching from the headland and saw you hop off the rocks. You looked cool as a cucumber. I would have been bricking it. Big respect and epic session!

Chris Eden

redclement.'s picture
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redclement. commented Thursday, 28 May 2020 at 9:43pm

Captivating read and pics. Thanks. I swam around taking pics once. Not easy.

Patrick's picture
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Patrick commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 7:01pm

Great read and pics, cheers.

"Timing is everything, and sighting a gap in the ten metre seas from sea level is something I would only advise to the most experienced. I made my run and entry into the water swiftly and without hesitation, followed by a rapid swim south, against the sweep sucking into the 'key-hole'."

Do photogs where fins? Crikey, are you doing that rock run in flippers?

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 9:50pm

Was wondering the same thing Patrick! Hold the fins then jump in and put them on?

Patrick's picture
Patrick's picture
Patrick commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 10:05pm

That sounds dangerous too.
Maybe he has webbed feet?

Screenshot-20200529-215931

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 29 May 2020 at 11:35pm

Fins yes, totally! And walking across and then jumping off that ledge to then put fins on with that current dragging you inside to the death zone. No way.

The flippers are short and so not too bad getting across the shelf, even for me who isn't used to them.

Patrick's picture
Patrick's picture
Patrick commented Saturday, 30 May 2020 at 7:49am

Thanks Craig, it's been really interesting to get an insight into the process of getting those shots.

hamishbro's picture
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hamishbro commented Saturday, 30 May 2020 at 6:11am

Did anyone ask Kelly how he got to Australia and when? Has he been here since before Snapper was called off? I suppose he has at least one property and connections galore here but he’s lucky as being in Florida or anywhere in the US would suck right now given how badly they are faring with the virus. Would be interested to know when Kelly arrived. And if after virus breakout, how. Did he do his two week quarantine?

lostdoggy's picture
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lostdoggy commented Saturday, 30 May 2020 at 9:09am

Yes he was here for the ozzy leg of the tour.
He was on the goldy for a while before moving down to Sydney.

Daltz007's picture
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Daltz007 commented Tuesday, 2 Jun 2020 at 2:27pm

First time I saw Kelly surf Deadies, it was quite the revelation. Being an avid winki surfer from a grommet, deadies always tempted with its mystifying pits and ledges. Initially learning that getting as close as possible to the dreaded boil (the thing resembling neptunes tongue) was the first step, then as confidence grew, rolling in and over the ledge from further out was the next step. Then years and years later watching him attack it from inside the whole thing, while sitting on the ledge, with under the lip take offs, it makes you wonder. Sometimes he was coming from the southern most part of it breaking (what resembled a left) and bottom turning around the boil, rather than freefalling for lobsters from the boil. Blew my tiny mind. Maybe its an easier option, but shit...the consequences would be more painful.
My last time out there was years ago, being to cocky, freefall on the first wave, three on the head with a leggy snap. Swam back out for a rest on a mates board, then ran the gauntlet to the winki rock off, rather than swim to Shelly. Got pinballed to Bower through the boulders, with a fingertip between getting sucked through to surge, managed to climb out of the washing machine. Found a near new shooter in three pieces across the rocks below the lookouts, much to the amusement of the onlookers. Humbling place the old deadies. Definitely one of the northern beaches most challenging.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/nhZzYJqiE6PvL4j27

billie's picture
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billie commented Wednesday, 3 Jun 2020 at 6:53am

That’s epic. Thanks for sharing. I got 30 stitches in my foot and a night in hospital when I got pinballed through Bower once. Ironically, I was helping a guy with two broken ribs at the time.

Last Monday I got washed through Winki 4 times! Flogged.

Billie

Daltz007's picture
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Daltz007 commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 1:32pm

Nice one Billie, not many would risk that to help someone else. It’s a credit to you.

Daltz007's picture
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Daltz007 commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 1:32pm

Nice one Billie, not many would risk that to help someone else. It’s a credit to you.

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie commented Sunday, 7 Jun 2020 at 5:22pm

It was my third and final night in Manly hospital before it closed. I miss having a hospital up the hill!

Billie

Patrick's picture
Patrick's picture
Patrick commented Wednesday, 3 Jun 2020 at 11:35am

Great stories, keep 'em coming.
Surfing ~ the challenges, the pitfalls (pinballs!), the glory.

bluediamond's picture
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bluediamond commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 8:23pm

Yeah unreal recall and feedback on the place. Could really picture alot of what you were saying. Thanks for sharing. Yew!

kahoona's picture
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kahoona commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 10:00am

Nice story and pics. Thanks for taking the time to document.

Kahoona