Sydneysiders are being warned to avoid the ocean until Friday as the NSW coastline continues to be battered by several days of large waves, although big-wave surfers are loving the conditions.
A rare, extended period of strong swell, generated by offshore winds, is travelling north, pummelling Sydney’s beaches. Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Gabrielle Woodhouse said large swell was common at this time of year, but it usually lasted only a day or two.
It’s slightly unusual, the longevity of these surf conditions, she said.
The time between waves, between 14 and 16 seconds, is much longer than normal and causes the waves to be punchier and pack more energy. It also means they are much more dangerous for those unfamiliar with the ocean.
But Matt Chojnacki, a professional surfer from Sydney’s northern beaches, couldn’t be happier.
You wait your whole surfing life for these kinds of days, he said. We sit here and wait for these days and you’d pretty much drop anything to surf one of these days, let alone three or four back-to-back. It’s one we’ll remember for a long time.
The long wave interval combined with clear skies, clear water and light westerly winds makes these conditions a big-wave surfer’s dream.
Chojnacki paddled out about two kilometres off Long Reef Beach, between Narrabeen and Manly, and shared massive waves with a 25-foot face with about 10 other people.
I’m riding the wave for 200 to 300 metres and I’m still a long way from shore, he said.
He explained why the long period between waves is so rare.
Normal swell would be about eight seconds [between waves]. A ground swell is anything over 10 seconds. Very rarely it’s above 12 – that’s why this swell is iconic. It has more time to draw off the ocean floor and when it hits those reefs it jacks up really fast.
Woodhouse, the bureau forecaster, said conditions would begin easing from Tuesday, although the ocean would remain hazardous until Thursday.
There’s actually a huge amount of energy coming in with those waves, which means they’ve got a lot of power, she said.
Because the swell is coming from the usual southerly direction, coastal erosion is not expected to be too bad because these beaches have a natural defence.
The last couple of years with big coastal erosion events has been swells from the east hitting beaches that don’t normally see that kind of power, Woodhouse said.
Rock fishermen, swimmers and marine vessels are advised to stick to dry land until the conditions ease.
On Monday morning, the bureau cancelled a severe weather warning for damaging surf – a higher threshold of waves – but the hazardous surf warning remains in place for the entire NSW coastline. Sydney’s forecast on Tuesday is a sunny day with a top of 17 degrees.
Chojnacki said that long weekends usually drew big crowds to surfing spots. But it doesn’t really factor in when it’s the size it has been.
To top off the experience, Chojnacki said nearly every set wave had a rainbow cresting behind it.
It was a beautiful experience, he said. It’s what we live for as surfers – it’s nice when it happens on your doorstep.
With Pallavi Singhal
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