Surfing a new wave is always an experience. The buzzing anticipation and potential of the unknown before the experienced reality. The whole yin and yang of will it be as good or bad as my mind paints it to be? Will it be pumping? Will it be crowded? Will it be heavy? Do I have the right equipment?
I find there to be a couple of key factors that determine how heightened the senses are and how far the dial is going to go on the frothometer/pants filler.
So it’s with all these factors in mind that I joined a friend of mine to surf the Queenscliff bombora (Bombie) over the Easter weekend. For some background, the Queenscliff Bombie is a reef situated about half a kilometer directly offshore from the north end of the Manly beach, a mere 17km from the Sydney CBD. It can often be seen feathering on large swells and on rarer bigger swells with the right tide, it can break top to bottom. Given its location, the Bombie is also very susceptible to wind. So how does it measure up?
After nervously waxing the 7ft pintail hand me down overnight, we convened at the Queenscliff corner at 6am to assess paddle out conditions. In the distance, the Bombie hurling thunder but a quick survey of the 8ft beachie closeouts leads to a hasty change of attack. Instead, we would paddle the 1km from the south corner of Manly. It was while on the beach for the obligatory pre-surf stretching and nervous chatter that I first notice the size of the everyone else’s board. No worries i thought, I had surfed as big waves on less and so off we set.
The paddle takes a long time, with the wave and the small crowd on it forever in the distance and disappearing and re-appearing from view with each passing swell.
Up close the wave assumes another dimension, from the shore it often resembles a bit of a peak with large crumbly shoulder. From the safety of the channel it showed its true form, a block of flats rising out of the depths, draining back to create a steep face with ripples and bulges driven by a thick mass of water still accelerating up the side of the reef. It is also barreling and at 8-10ft (3x-4x overhead) it is moving a lot of water around. Compounding the nervous feel in my gut was the shifting lineup, a lack of markers and the yawning 2-3ft difference in equipment length between myself and the more seasoned crowd. But I hadn’t paddled all that way for nothing and after observing a few waves, began the tentatively slow meander into the lineup. A few go by, some big and some not so big. They look even steeper from the top of the peak or is that just my mind? Convinced I can snag one of the smaller ones to break my duck, I drop in behind the pack to wait my chance.
As if on cue, a 10ft set magically appears from the abyss and swinging wide, catches me completely out of position with no hope of a escape. Two waves and a 100m journey later, most of which is underwater and it’s the first reality check of the day. It would not be the last.
Thanks to my new view from the inside, I get to watch several of the lads catch and ride some elephants with aplomb. Its very impressive, especially looking down the right which appears to have the steeper and longer wall of the peak.
Time for another go.
After a number of paddle misses I finally get into a smaller right. Dropping in late, there is the feeling of air below the board and then the board disappears altogether. Falling out of the sky I plunge into and bounce down the wave face. More travel time in the darkness – it’s not fun but kind of serene when you can let go of the thought of never seeing the sun again. Reality check number two, the board is too light and too short to get on to these early enough.
Paddle out again.
Thanks to a friend, I get the opportunity for a board change. The 8’6 pintail gun is one of the biggest boards I have ever surfed on. Named “the Captain” because I guess you point it and it steers itself. An amazing difference of equipment – it’s not long before I get that first wave. Going left, the captain knows the way and the board glides into an exhilarating drop and off the bottom with pace to burn. It’s here the Captain and I have a disagreement on directional change protocol. The Captain wins and with attempted cutback over, still stoked, I paddle back out to resume my place in the lineup.
This would be the one and only wave I would ride and the last I would catch. With the swell dropping, tide and wind rising and a few more moments of underwater teleportation – it was time to head back in.
It was an incredible new wave experience but would I do it again? I have zero pretensions of being Tommy Carroll or Twiggy Baker but lets just say there is a new 8’8 steed with my name on it.
Where was your latest crazy/awesome new wave experience?
Has spent over 30 years of his middle aged life trying to spend more time in the ocean. Likes to surf, bodysurf, free dive and pretend he enjoys chasing big waves.