Gallery: All roads point north

Craig Brokensha
Swellnet Dispatch

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.

Comments

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 10:54am

Great pics Craig. My vicarious surfing life appreciates your travels. But I do detect a Natural footer bias with all those north coast right hand points.

mfatt's picture
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mfatt commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 10:56am

Epic stories and photos. Looks like you were in the right places at the right time. Did you get through all 7 boards?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 6:03am

Unfortunately the step-ups and mini-gun didn't get a run as the surf mostly didn't warrant it. Was keen as to get them out though, even in a bigger beachy but alas.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 12:00pm

Awesome.

Good old road trip/strike mission and scored.

Mission accomplished.

1173

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 12:43pm

Did you surf Sunday Craig ?

Craig's picture
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Craig commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 1:04pm

Yep. Twice. Checked a bit of rare sand but it was too inconsistent so surfed a burgery point as the tide dropped. Then the best worst point mid-arvo. 

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 3:32pm

There was a couple of very tasty barrels on the inside sand bank of that rare sand I saw you checking .

4 blokes out when I left . A few solid sets .

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 1:24pm

Sounds like it was the rare sand. Checked it late morning and when the sets came, yes solid, but looked a bit too east and sectiony. Potential though!

freeride76's picture
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freeride76 commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 12:45pm

anyone score a root?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 1:04pm

No time for any of that Steve. Unfortunately. 

angatta cool's picture
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angatta cool commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 6:30pm

I believe their partners got lucky back in Manly

Westofthelake's picture
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Westofthelake commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 6:34pm

What happens on surf safari...

surfstarved's picture
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surfstarved commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 1:11pm

That backdoor paddle-out at The Pass gets pretty hairy once the swell crosses a certain threshold and mistiming it can spell disaster - don't ask me how I know...

Did you happen to get a look at the next point south of Byron (no, not The Point) at all during your trip Craig? It was always my favourite spot growing up and used to hold consequential swells surprisingly well if the sand was in the right configuration.

Don't let the bastards grind you down

surfstarved's picture
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surfstarved commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 1:13pm

Just as an addendum - while you were surfing in my stomping grounds, I managed to snag a few nice little runners west of Victor Harbor this morning - a lineup I'm sure you're more than familiar with.

Don't let the bastards grind you down

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 1:22pm

How good, looked nice and glassy. And yes I did, day before the swell was great fun, after.. the sand had shifted and it was wide and washy.

anthony.olsen's picture
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anthony.olsen commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 2:18pm

Love these articles Craig - seems like you always score - I guess that's one of the benefits of the occupation. Any chance you could plan a trip to Vicco and bring some of that luck with you?

Craig's picture
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Craig commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 2:29pm

Thanks Anthony, will try my best to conjur up better surf for you guys!

And yes it's the best perk of the job, though in saying that I've spent years exploring, learning and applying my skills in ways that increase the odds of getting good, less populated surf.

bluediamond's picture
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bluediamond commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 3:24pm

Good pics, good read. Was good to see some old familiar lineups. Cheers Craig.

indo-dreaming's picture
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indo-dreaming commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 8:00pm

God i love and miss all these right hand points, love a wave where you have to do a walk around.

mr mick's picture
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mr mick commented Wednesday, 10 Feb 2021 at 9:25pm

Some names please......ha just kidding, nice photos & story.

Mr mick

t-diddy's picture
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t-diddy commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 2:13am

how's the turn in photo six ?! sic

gcuts's picture
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gcuts commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 6:42am

WOW, all that way and yet not quite there ... little tip for ya next trip, follow the bay and look for the little dicks. More swell, better banks, and lots less people. Just have to brave the, ah, elements ;)

GuySmiley's picture
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GuySmiley commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 9:15am

Great read and photos Craig, living it

Dx3's picture
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Dx3 commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 9:44am

Love these photos and stories Craig, keep them coming. I'm not even jealous, despite Vicco's horrid run. Just stoked that someone out there is living the dream...

dr-surf's picture
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dr-surf commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 12:20pm

Been hard to watch the Surf Action in SEQ, NNSW, even Sydney has been lighting Up, but watching Pumping Conditions in OZ is also a joy. Meanwhile in Vic, La Niña has been a Flat Out Dud apart from Rainfall. Worst Summer ever and it’s a Brave man that Crosses a border Right Now

greg-n.williams's picture
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greg-n.williams commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 1:02pm

GR8 to see the backpackers & kooks don't take on The Pass when it's really on! A well timed run gentlemen Myself & the handbrake did a similar run last Sept/Oct but avoided Boring Bay? Lennox /Ballina areas due to the crowds. Believe it or not scored Rainbow bay with only 20 surfers @ 3 to 4ft with waves running forever! Combined with several right-hand points & an out of the way river-mouth setup on the way home it was an awesome 6 days! Sometimes it all comes together!

big wave dave's picture
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big wave dave commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 8:53pm

yes - that was an entertaining read, but does Swellnet really need to promote the North Coasts right hand points? It's very "Tracks 1975.' Alby got away with it, but times have changed..
The crowds are already at breaking point. I don't think it's really necessary to further document, promote and photograph these waves.
I know its will sound like a tired old cranky argument, but I'd like to see my Swellnet use its powers for good, and tune in to the 2021 zeitgeist and move on from this style of story.

Hiccups's picture
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Hiccups commented Friday, 12 Feb 2021 at 10:29am

I didn't know that there were any waves at all around that area until I read this article! Now myself and ten of my mates are planning a trip, and shall be up there getting amongst it as soon as we can. Much excitement .

I focus's picture
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I focus commented Thursday, 11 Feb 2021 at 10:44pm

Hey Craig, late here, thanks for the words and shots thoroughly enjoyed as always cheers.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Friday, 12 Feb 2021 at 8:46am

Great lineup shots Craig, some good memories of those waves :)

Any 2+1 twin/trailer usage on this trip?

Particularly liked those first few pics, special place and wasn't regarded as the hell wave to 'must-surf' a quarter century ago when I first saw it - but have enjoyed the racing speed section and length of rides in years since.

Craig's picture
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Craig commented Friday, 12 Feb 2021 at 8:49am

Thanks VJ! And sure did, that was my go to mostly, went soo good on the racey, down the line growers. At one particular break it excelled, loves a bit of extra power and grunt to the waves.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Friday, 12 Feb 2021 at 8:56am

Awesome Craig, you'd be getting that - how to describe? - swoopy, drifty cutty feeling that they do. We've been messing around with twins of varying types down here in the schlock - although there have been a couple of good sessions amidst it all.

Craig's picture
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Craig commented Friday, 12 Feb 2021 at 9:09am

Yeah that swoopy feeling is the one. IE pump, up and racing in the top 1/3rd of the wave then as the section ahead slows down, out to the beach and then up and around into a big carve or snap. Love it, got me around a few solid sections as well!

As this board is more high-performance the cutty isn't that drifty, though drivey throughout. As I've said before, best of both worlds, thruster hold and twinny drive and projection.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Friday, 12 Feb 2021 at 9:24am

Yep. Now, photos - are you guys the ones riding in every pic? And if so, did you do a roster like "OK, I'll sit on the headland for the next hour, you get some turns in..."

Always difficult to achieve that perfect pic when there's a couple of you and the surf is cooking and you both want to be out there.

Craig's picture
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Craig commented Friday, 12 Feb 2021 at 9:28am

No photos of me as always. I'm the one who gets the quick snaps. Me and my mate were usually surfing the same time, but the sequence above is Blake (wetty believe it or not ha!). He had a work meeting while I paddled out and then after I was done he was still out so I got those shots of him.