Ever since surfing found its way into my life I can recall the stories, hype and myths of cyclone swells. The older generation would talk of years gone by of all time sessions where these ‘troppies’ would sit up near Fiji spiralling toward NZ and then fade off out into the Pacific sending long period lined-up swells fanned by offshore winds and clear weather that pumped for days on end.
Since those early stories I have dedicated my life to chasing swells, and by swells, I mean any; not just cyclones, Southern Ocean lows, back of the high swells and even localised storms where you know you will at least get a window of glory if indeed only short. The allure of these South Pacific Tropical Cyclones that usually downgrade to tropical storms by the time they reach our waters are that they often spawn high up in the pacific islands and any swell driven momentum comes from the northerly quarter, waking up many unique and novelty spots around our coastline, spots that don’t usually see wave action. Yet often these storm systems bring nothing but bad weather and onshore surf, create flooding and weather damage to our regions, and in my 30 years of chasing these mythical phenomena’s I can count on one hand the amount of times that a cyclone has delivered the type of conditions that we constantly associate their preeminent arrival with. The rest, well, they were nothing but hype, delivering not much more than the typical winter storm. On average there are around 4-5 Tropical cyclones or storms per season that make their way into our waters and each time they start to form, the hype-meter begins to spin, often reaching overload as they intensify, with plans, hopes and dreams all beginning to manifest.
Just last week as Tropical Cyclone Gita was in the process of ravaging our Pacific cousins, our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected for a speedy recovery, here in NZ the social media hype-fest was in full effect, with many bold predictions and plans being made as to where and when the best surf would go down. What I saw was odd, here we had a full week of clean East Coast swell and at the same time the West Coast was firing, all driven by swells created by other systems, yet it was as if no one wanted to surf that week, they were so focussed on this impending troppy swell that they’d lost their marbles, they’d lost it so much that two days before the troppy moved into the Tasman Sea they’d already been giving props to Gita for a south-west swell out West when it was still high up in the north. And it made me realise that indeed in the past I’d also been so obsessed with these type swells that you could say I’d lost my shit! Before digital forecasts were available, I’d see a map and go and park up at my favourite spot for days on end sleeping in my car, jeez looking back on it I was also freedom camping. During those days other spots would be firing, but they weren’t troppy swells and I’d sit there telling myself on the incoming push the swell would arrive and days later I’d go home with my tail between my legs having not surfed at all. So, I ask, are we as a country obsessed with cyclone swells and the potential they offer, that they warp our common sense, that we miss out on perfectly fine waves in the hunt and search for a day or two of something a little different?
Here’s to riding whatever surf we have in front of us on any given day, stay focussed on the now not the maybe. Yours in Surfing Cory Scott & the team at NZ Surfing
The kind of waves that were going down while the focus of the masses was on a possible cyclone swell in a weeks time. Photo: Cory