Gallery: All roads point north
It's been a busy start to the year across the East Coast with a steady diet of surf from the east and south. Warm water, a touch of wet weather and generally light winds have provided plenty of options in this summer that is La Niña.
After keeping an eye on the charts since January, an extended run of trade-swell started to firm up for the northern NSW and south-east Queensland coasts. Add in a larger pulse from a tropical cyclone (Lucas) and plans were made to drive north with my mate Blake to capitalise. I also wanted to lay my eyes on and surf the sand bank that had developed at Byron Bay over the last year.
The only issue was board selection and with a couple of sessions likely in the 6ft+ range across various beaches and points, there was no real solid decision made with everything from a 6' foamy to 6'8" mini-gun rammed into the car, not forgetting my mates 7'6” single fin.
Seven boards in total, two mates and the long road north.
We timed a south-west change perfectly with a building pulse of trade swell on our first stop over, 4-6ft out the back and 3-4ft down the inside on the 400m long right point. The thing is with these swells it that the south-west to south-east wind regime produces the best options, that being rights reeling along every southern corner of the north coast. Consistent sets provides plenty of options but fitness is the key to hunt the inside double-ups while copping wide wash-throughs on the head.
The swell eased a touch overnight and we headed further north to a wave akin to a skate park. Fast down the line wrapping bowls with a bit of a crowd, but nothing too hectic. With the smaller size we continued towards Byron Bay and surrounds.
It's quite a scene when pulling into Byron, and that's saying something coming from Manly. Very beautiful, fashionable and fit specimens parade the beachfront but looking beyond this, one can't get past how beautiful it is. Lush, green rainforests, turquoise, clear waters and sunsets over a calm bay, nestled perfectly out of the wind.
Add in a ruler edge hard packed sand bank and you've got the ingredients for quite a special place.
Our first surf was out behind at Wategos, empty and fun, but we then drifted around the corner onto the sand bank proper. The swell was only 2-3ft, but the sets were heaving and doubling up on the low tide, slabbing hard onto the shallow bank next to the rock and then running down the point, into the bay.
I ran into a few friends in the lineup and the vibe was mellow with constant paddling and steep, wedgey drops keeping people honest. The leash-less mals and longboards I spotted in the car park were nowhere to be seen thankfully, though likely positioned further down the point.
The next couple of days were spent around the Byron region, but on the biggest day, The Pass was the only option holding the larger swell pulse from Tropical Cyclone Lucas. Getting first eyes on the lineup late morning, the incoming tide and peak of swell produced saw rifling, empty 3-5ft sets growing down the line.
But there was the first hint at what lay ahead.. it was empty. Why? The sweep. The swell and wash-throughs pushing in from Wategos was producing a current and sweep like nothing I've experienced. Also the infragravity waves (read more about this here) were producing surges of water that swept you off your feet when trying to time your paddle out next to the rocks. It was a patience game, but with non-stop sets you can only wait so long before rolling the dice.
I was mostly successful but then once in the lineup, holding position is all you could really do. That and hope a wide double-up would hold off right were you were sitting. It was too hard work to try and duck inside to sneak one, and doing the run around from Wategos each lap was unworkable. There's also the rock cove paddle out, which I took on once, but opted out of when getting unluckily worked in there by a 15 wave set.
Not much reward for effort but there were moments. A drop in swell Saturday and check of a spot we surfed a couple of days before revealed a shift in the sand, so after a short session we packed the car and headed back south. More rights presented themselves with much less effort for more reward, capping off a great run of swell. Recounting on the waves surfed, the only thing that I clearly remember is that I went left twice, and that's a great thing being a natural footer.