Tasman bombing range
I had a feeling about this one.
Call it intuition or whatever you will, but when the ingredients for a significant and prolonged Tasman Low started coming together, it couldn't be ignored.
I penned an article explaining the catalyst for such an event, not expecting the end result to be quite so impressive. The early interest came more from a weather-watching perspective. The moving parts were described thus: a strong low off Western Australia moved through the Bight, advecting polar air up behind it, this cold pool then became cut-off as it meandered across New South Wales and the instability from the initial low moved offshore.
With an infeed of moist and warm air from the Coral Sea and cold air aloft, a deep and powerful low was forecast to develop. As the event neared, the significance and potential of the storm was realised. The low ended up 'bombing' in the Tasman Sea and then lingering all week owing to an upper level ridge effectively cradling the storm.
Also, it wasn't an East Coast Low but a long-lived Tasman Low.
The explosive cyclogenesis occurred through Monday evening and as often occurs with such rapidly deepening and strengthening systems, the increase in size seen into Tuesday afternoon was ahead of schedule.
The local reef came to life with raw and chunky 8-10ft waves pushing through. Standouts were Ollie Dousset who went wave for wave until dark, while Matt Dusmore held on to a deep and throaty one as conditions improved near sunset
The low reached a peak in intensity Tuesday afternoon, and with this the largest and most powerful pulse of south-east groundswell was expected to fill in overnight and peak the following morning.
With the low sitting out into the Tasman Sea, the Sydney region got to experience the maximum amount of energy but with the saving grace of offshore winds wrapping around the western flank of the low.
This culminated in 10-12ft+ surf on Wednesday morning which kept cleaning up during the day without dropping too much in size.
Training the lens on the horizon for the morning surf report, I captured Max Hyett taking on the outer bombora, nailing a couple within ten minutes though unluckily coming unstuck on this one.
With Ben on annual leave I charged through the forecasts all morning aiming to check the reef again in the afternoon. Messages flew in with screengrabs of Spencer Frost's footage of Chris Lougher's wave just before midday and I knew I had to see it with my own eyes.
Arriving around 3pm I luckily scored a car park and when the ocean came into view, I saw some of the biggest, cleanest, and heaviest waves being made. I eyed the rock-off spot for a swim with the camera, but the size, period, and direction of the swell, not to mention the high tide, rendered it way too dangerous.
Not wanting to shoot from land I came up with a plan. Paddle out on my mid-length and sit wide with a longer lens, hopefully looking into the end section barrel.
This sounds simple enough, but paddling out through the reverb and sweep from the inside beach with a water housing washing off the nose of the board isn't easy. It took a long while to reach my designated position, and when I did I fired off a test shot to check the housing.
I couldn't believe it! In all the froth and rush I forgot to put a memory card into the camera! I sprint paddled back to the beach, through the reverb and wash to then get the card and do the whole thing again. By the time I repeated the whole process it was 4pm, but I was stoked just to be amongst the energy of the swell and the lineup.
What you can't see from the cliff angle and long lens footage is how much water and volume there is in these waves. The freight-train nature of it and also the growing take-off wedge which needs to be paddled down and into as it continues to lurch up on the ledge.
The inside bowl was the heaviest piece of ocean I have seen and I'd compare some of the set waves to Shipsterns. Everyone charged but there were two standout rides that I luckily captured. A monster bowl by Spider-Man Sam Jones (at bottom), and the cool as cucumber ride by Chris Lougher.
There was one more and that was a 12ft double up that snuck through the pack. Seeing it come down the line was like witnessing 'that' wave at Cloudbreak, of course not the size or perfection but for this place, one of the craziest waves I've ever seen from the water.
This was a different experience compared to the last swell when Kelly was in town, but the vibe was similar with local underground chargers giving mind-bending waves a red hot crack.
The swell continued to provide slabbing waves for the next three days owing to the longevity of the low, but by this time I'd had hit the road to chase my own slice of the swell.
Post event I chatted to Sam Jones to get his account on what went down last week.
After getting the feet wet, slotting a few, and copping a couple of floggings Tuesday afternoon, I woke up at 3:30am on Wednesday when the bigger pulse was due, checked the buoy and it was maxing.
"Are you fucking kidding, we're gonna die here!" I checked the winds and they were west-southwest and I was like, "Wow, what the hell? I haven't really seen that before."
Rocked up and saw all the whitewater moving on the reef and thought, "Crap, I don't want a bar of this right now."
Ollie Dousett was the only one out, we watched him stroke into an absolutely psycho one. It was that raw and props to him, that was pretty skitz. I decided I'm not gonna surf. I didn't wanna blow it for the arvo cause that's when it'll be perfect.
I got roasted by the boys, especially Maxy for not paddling out in the morning, but I ended up heading for some burgers out the back of the beach. Then grabbed a big board and went for an ocean paddle for a warm up.
On returning I suited up and got out there about 10:45am and rocked-off pretty sweet. There were a few guys out, a few Narrabeen guys and a couple people I didn't know. Saw Chris (Lougher) out there. The vibe was epic, everyone was kinda cruising, Toby Martin was frothing out.
It was pretty gnarly cause the sets were so consistent - it's never usually like that. It's usually one big wave every hour but this was one every five minutes.
I was in the spot for quite a few mental ones but still just getting my head in the game and pulled back on a couple of absolute stoinkers. Just kept paddling into them but not getting under them enough and knocked by the wobble.
The boys let me have it which is fair enough, wasted a few good waves, but after that got a couple smaller ones under the belt.
I was riding my 6'3" Kirk Bierke, but a lot of the guys were on bigger boards, Chris was on a 8'0" which I thought that was too big, but clearly that was the go cause he was knifing the best ones of the day.
Those bigger ones were kinda going wide of the peak, off a chip shot out there - they had this little let-in above the whole ledge. Chris was off the back getting a chip shot into a run in above the ledge, knifing over it which is scary cause you're not under it but cutting through that transition which is nuts.
I never thought about approaching it that way, but it was really cool to see that and obviously it worked. Real awesome to see.
It was also good to see some of the guys I always surf with around here, including guys who haven't surfed it anywhere near that big before, putting their head down. Everyone out there was ready to have a crack and everyone who wanted a set could go and be 100% committed.
I wore a 6/5 mil suit cause I wanted to stay out there all day. I'd surf waves then take the chest zip off on the paddle back out to the top, then put the hood back on and just wait for the next set.
Oh, quick shout out to Max Hyett who got that one that went viral on WSL, I reckon that was the best dismounts ever. I reckon such an expert dismount, not to mention the bottom turn was mental but that situation could have been so bad but he managed to make the best of it.