2021: The Year in Pictures
2020 was always going to be hard to top across the East Coast. But what 2021 lacked in regards to sizeable, back-to-back swells, it made up for in consistency. Across southern NSW there was barely a flat day all year with some sort of surfable wave found across the swell magnets. Having the right equipment was the key though.
After an active end to last year, January started slow as we fell in between Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) phases, but this all changed into early February.
The MJO shifted east into the Pacific, bringing with it a great prolonged run of easterly trade-swell, supercharged by Tropical Cyclone Lucas which originated in the Gulf of Carpentaria before tracking east into the Coral Sea, then due south across New Caledonia.
After monitoring the sand setup at The Pass through the second half of 2020, I was interested to get a first hand experience of the so-called superbank. So a mate and I packed the car and headed north, surfing various point breaks while working remotely as the swell slowly grew stronger and larger.
During the peak of the swell The Pass was a strong 4ft and the bank firing but the sweep and current were almost impossible to counter. It was a game of luck and runarounds, trying to snag a quick set upon entering the lineup, after holding next to the rock in between wash-throughs. Sometimes you'd link up with a good one while other times you'd end up down the bay with little reward for your effort. In all honesty better waves were scored at other regional breaks.
The surf remained plentiful through the rest of the month (below) and March, all the while record rainfall fell across most of the East Coast.
Wide-spread major flooding was experienced from the North Coast to Sydney with the Mid North Coast and north-western Sydney regions hit hardest. Nambucca/Macksville/Taree/Port Macquarie were all under water as atmospheric moisture streamed in from the north-east and north-west, converging along the Great Dividing Range.
Warragamba dam reached maximum capacity, a remarkable turnaround from the record lows seen at the start of 2020 after years of drought. The release of excess water flooded the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers with properties in Richmond, Windsor and along the Hawkesbury going under. The near-shore waters across most East Coast beaches turned brown and turbid, with various hazards floating through the lineup. One surf I had to dodge a 2m gas cylinder (multiple times) that had washed down with floodwaters.
The unstable weather settled down into April and the CT got under way with events at Newcastle, then North Narrabeen. The later provided me an opportunity to see the world's best on my local breaks and the final day didn't disappoint as Medina twisted and spun his way off chunky 3-4ft surf.
I managed to get an interstate holiday in through May, catching up with the family and scoring fun, empty waves.
Returning back to Sydney into a fresh regime of large south and east swells. I went for a swim with the camera one morning and got some cracking but slightly soft (off focus) shots.
The signs were also strengthening for a Double-dip La Niña event as explained in this article with it coming into fruition during late spring.
The Greater Sydney region was sent into lockdown again at the end of June and we wouldn't be about to travel regionally again until the end of October. After the huge jump in COVID crowds first time around in 2020, again the lineups were saturated with those fresh to the sport, though when it got larger there were still plenty out there in contention.
I missed a few weeks of surf through this period to get a couple of skin cancers cut out, with one swell event from the east-northeast rubbing salt into the wound. Surf size built through Sunday the 6th of July with all day offshore winds, peaking early Monday the 8th with some of the best looking waves I've seen at North Steyne. Silky 6-8ft peaks pushed into Manly but they were well-attended with easy entries followed by non-stop barrels. One 10ft wash through caught everyone off guard as shown in the video below and it was all over by mid-morning when the tide got to low and the wind got into it.
Another significant swell generating system fired up only a week later, with a broad, stalling Tasman Low setting up an extended run of large surf out of the east-southeast under light offshore winds.
The prolonged nature of the low saw a gradual easing in size and pumping surf through the week of the 12th of July but the weekend offered all the action.
The rest of winter provided fun though smaller surf and into spring, favourable winds and swells continued to provide ample opportunity to surf during the lockdown. It was a blessing to be on the beaches through this period and open to so many different beaches and options along with plentiful bush to clear the head and capture photos of the local wildlife. Come the end of lockdown, there was luckily enough snow to make a trip out to the Kosciuszko National Park.
December has provided large, back to back swell events from the south to south-east, and as we move into the New Year we're looking at an active period of swell from the east as the tropics start to kick into gear.
Here's to a better 2022 with easier access to state wise and international wave chasing.