Shaping up as an archetypal autumn
SO there he was, The Offsider, with autumn seemingly arriving right on cue last Friday. Following the previous weekend’s rain, the temperatures had cooled notably in the evenings and mornings; a relief from the sweltering nights endured throughout February, while having the local club rugby kick off on the weekend added to an overall feeling of change of season.
The last month of summer had certainly delivered some great surf to both coasts. While The Offsider never claimed to be an aficionado of the eastern breaks, it felt like it the summer season had never quite realised its usual potential there.
He found it amusing to hear the weather dudes hedging their bets as to what ex-tropical cyclone Oma would bring to the table as she began tracking south for these shores recently. As one wiseacre put it in the comments section: “Welcome to New Zealand where speculating on unexceptional weather possibilities is front page headline news day after day.”
Hard not to be cynical over such an unreliable science but Old Mate proved philosophical in comparing these forecasts to a psycho alert, like, you don’t know if they’ll end up on your doorstep or that of someone on another street but best advice is to keep the door locked just in case.
Oma certainly delivered across the ditch where the size, power and hollowness of the resultant swell saw many of the top pros and well-to-do locals using jetskis to access the line-ups and beat the current to hook into some spectacularly heavy barrels reeling across the various superbanks on the Goldie which would never have been ridden otherwise.
Online commentators were quick to be outraged and voiced their disapproval by likening the number of of jetskis to a cockroach infestation; some coming across as utterly immature: “But we do super sick stuff like step-offs in the middle of other surfers when its 4-foot cos the sweep is like really strong, and we go fishing and wear sick T-shirts with our name on them, and we drink beer from shoes, basically we are heaps cool and just mad like crazy ahahahhaaa yeeeeew, Mad Hueys for life yo!”
Reassuring to know that situation wouldn’t be repeated on his beloved points thanks to the efforts of the local boardriders and community to ban the use of motorised assistance the moment someone starts paddling in.
Back here, and while there’d still been some very tidy waves out east in recent weeks, the redheaded sportsbuster always fared much better on the west side and was blessed for his faith with three days of clean groundswell officially representing the last of the summer wine early last week.
The swell had arrived at dawn on Saturday, grown slightly throughout the evening and next morning only to jack on Sunday afternoon before kicking in and pumping on Monday before slowly fading.
Highlights included being washed on to and dry-docked on a rock while paddling out on one of the bigger afternoons, sheer astonishment upon waltzing up to the main break long after dawn on the best morning to find he was the first and only one there to paddle out in to a perfect line-up, high-fiving a tourist who had sprinted down to stand in the shorebreak as The Offsider raced past on a knee-high wave, and compensating for some hideously awkward wipeouts (anyone whose seen the sportsbuster at his most graceless would struggle to accept this was the same person who wrote so authoritatively on surfing matters) by making some of the longest, fastest walls he’d ever ridden at the Far North pointbreak.
The best moment of all came surfing the brand new swell in boardshorts at dawn over a sharkgrey sea under an overcast sky where the waves had barely enough power to drive Excalibur — his battered old longboard — along, but with the water and air temperatures beguiling and warm. He was walking back around for another lap when a one-foot wave rose up in front of him and revealed a fish gliding along inside the cresting lip. What appeared to be a clump of seaweed the size of his fist being sucked up the face suddenly shot towards the fish and engulfed it in tentacles before plunging straight down to the seafloor as the wave closed out. One woke kraken, indeed.
Regardless of how unpredictable a science weather forecasting still was in this day and age, The Offsider was pleased with reports a timid El Nino pattern was in place. The abrupt change in temperature last week brought much cooler nights and dawns, although it could be the old false alarm with another heatwave forecast to kick in this week. But he remained optimistic a perfect Indian Summer replete with balmy days and clean, uncrowded waves on the points lay in store.
" . . . the red-headed sportsbuster always fared much better on the west side and was blessed for his faith with three days of clean groundswell . . . "
■ The Offsider is Age sportsbuster Francis Malley. Respond at [email protected]landage.co.nz
There was plenty of opportunity to catch good waves somewhere in the Far North during the last month of summer.