There’s a little spot up the coast that we know about that always comes alive at this time of the year. There’s a tiny bay next to a bigger bay. Separating the two bays is a big rock out to sea with a few smaller rocks on the inside and then a gap. At some stage this was probably a solid headland, but years of wave action have broken it up. During the summer months the current gently pushes through the gap, depositing sand along the top of the bay, forming a perfect underwater point.
When the first winter swells arrive, touched by the lightest of easterlies on the swell direction, the most perfect hollow waves run along this point, providing sick barrels for anyone lucky enough to be there. The bank gets long and when you kick out the people at the take-off spot look like little dots. The paddle back is reminiscent of the J-Bay Supertubes paddle – long and lonely over deep water.
After the first swell the bank usually shows lightly less form, and slowly deteriorates with each subsequent swell, to be a ghost of it’s former self as the winter ends. Then it’s back to the summer cycle. For ten months of the year you could check out this spot and not even know that a wave breaks there. For one month of the year you could look at the wave and say, ‘yeah, some fun waves to ride, a bit backwashy off those rocks.’ For one month of the year you could arrive and say, ‘oh my god look at that!’
Over the years I got to know one of the older guys who surfs it regularly – extremely protective and initially pissed off that he found out that I worked for a surf mag, he slowly warmed to me. Probably out of necessity – we were sometimes the only two guys in the water. He told me about the spot’s history, before the land was developed. How the spot nearly got destroyed by the local fishing club, wanting to build a launch right where the sand bank forms and how they managed to make a compromise.
So we’re on the porch of the deserted house, overlooking the waves together. I’ve got two mates with me, and we’re bubbling. Looks about four-foot and just running down the bank. “This is it!” I’m shouting, “This is the first swell of winter. The wind’s right, the tide’s right. It’s cooking.”
The freezing wind chilled our bones and the old guy, we call him Captain Grumpy, simply rubs his chin and says nothing.
“C’mon!” I’m frothing. “Let’s hit it! The inside section is going square!”
Captain Grumpy and my mates relent, and go out for a surf. The Captain still saying nothing.
We negotiate the gnarly jump-off with ease and quickly get tugged out into the line-up. A set comes through and we all hook into a wave. They’re good… but something’s wrong with it. It’s a bit wonky, a bit wobbly. Still, the waves are running down the line and we’re getting good uncrowded waves and we’re all stoked.
“Not enough east in the swell,” mumbles Grumpy after about an hour, and paddles in.
We soon follow.
While getting changed in the secret little car park, Grumpy tells us to check it tomorrow.
“I don’t think so,” I reckon. “The charts talk of a dropping swell, and an increased period. Not gonna be much better.”
Grumpy sighs, and disappears with a wave.
Next morning we’re all standing on the deck of the deserted house again. The same wind is biting us, the ocean looks cold, and there’s nothing breaking. No whitewater activity on the outside rocks. Then we see it. A few bumps out to sea that slowly take shape as they approach the land. Four solid six-footers march through, hit the rocks, double up and grind down the bank as perfect barrels for an unbelievable distance. We all watch with mouths agape, not fully comprehending what we have seen. The sickest set of waves we have ever witnessed on this section of the coast.
I look at Grumps. He smiles, rubbing his beard, and chuckles, “Now this is the first swell of winter.”