The monster swell that’s been smashing the Hunter coast made short work of two boards belonging to a couple of veteran Newcastle surfers, snapping them “like a match stick”.
Mick Adam and Paul ‘Corky’ Carroll had been in the water with three other surfers at Merewether for about an hour when powerful waves broke their boards in two.
"It broke it like a match stick,” Adam told the Fairfax Media on Thursday, a couple of hours after his brand new Mark Richards-crafted board was broken.
“The [wave] that broke on my head, no matter what kind of board you were on, it would have broken in half.”
Adam, a well-known surfer who’s been catching waves at Merewether for four decades, said conditions had been “really treacherous, like crazy”.
“It wasn’t giant, but it was really chunky and heavy,” he said.
“There was a lot of ocean behind it.
“It’s hard to explain, but it was doubling up, so what happens is there will be a wave in front and the wave behind might be bigger and it’ll catch up to it and just lift it and throw it more.
“It gets really heavy. There’s a lot of water behind it.”
For his mate, Carroll, it was the third broken board in big swell since December.
Adam said he looked at the conditions on Wednesday night, but thought better of getting into the water.
“[Wednesday] night was as big as I’ve seen it for a long time, but it was no good,” he said.
“It was really gnarly. You’d drown.”
Social media was flooded with images of big seas at Merewether, Nobbys, Fingal Bay and a range of other beaches on Thursday, with surfers testing their skills against waves that experienced board riders say don't often appear in the Hunter.
Jackson Baker had been in the water with Adam and Carroll on Thursday morning when their boards snapped.
Baker, who helped launch Surfest at Redhead just a couple of hours after braving the big swell, said the conditions made him think twice about paddling out.
"Before I got out there, there was maybe five or six [surfers] at most, and then the whole time I was out there it was just me and three mates," the 21-year-old said.
"The two boards that got broken, Mick Adam's and Corky Carroll's, that was just before I paddled out, so that was kind of like 'woah'.
They're old-school Merewether legends and [if] they're breaking boards, I thought 'this could be hairy here’."
Given he'd recently returned from surfing big waves in Hawaii, Baker said he was undeterred about the swell once he’d entered the water but admitted he "got lucky" with timing his paddle out.
"I have seen it better, but for January - and summer time - it was a 10 out of 10," Baker said.
Weather experts expect the big swells to subside in the coming days, ending a week of treacherous conditions that have caused the closure of many of the region's patrolled beaches.
The Bureau of Meteorology forecast a two-to-three metre swell for the Hunter’s coastal waters until midnight on Thursday, expected to drop to 1.5 to two metres on Friday.
On Saturday, it’s predicted to drop further to between one and 1.5 metres, before an expected south to southeasterly swell of about one metre on Sunday.
A Hazardous Surf Warning issued by the bureau earlier this week for the Hunter, Byron Coast, Coffs Coast, Macquarie Coast and Sydney Coast remained in effect on Thursday afternoon.
BoM duty forecaster Stephen Stefanac told Fairfax Media that a deep low pressure system over the Tasman Sea earlier this week created strong wind gusts, which generated large waves.
Mr Stefanac said the largest waves off the NSW coast this week - more than five metres high - were recorded at Crowdy Head, not far north of Forster.
"Since then, we've seen a gradual easing, though surf conditions have still been hazardous - hazardous for swimming, crossing bars in boats and rock fishing," he said. "[Thursday] we still have hazardous surf conditions for parts of the NSW coast but it looks like it's on its way out now."
Mr Stefanac said the position of some of the Hunter's beaches, like Stockton and Newcastle, meant they were particularly exposed to swells that came from the south and were "a little more prone to these hazardous surf conditions".
“The winds are already lighter and we expect conditions to go back to normal during the next couple of days,” he said.
Most patrolled beaches between Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens were closed again on Thursday.
Stockton and Blacksmith beaches were open. Nobbys Beach lifeguard Paul Bernard said people should be careful in the coming days, when the beaches re-open.
“Once this swell goes down there will be a lot of sand shifted around, exposing rips – there will be tricky conditions,” he said.
“Swim at patrolled beaches and swim between the flags. We’re going to have some surf.”
Authorities advise that:
- People should consider staying out of the water and avoid walking near surf-exposed areas;
- Rock fishers should avoid coastal rock platforms exposed to the ocean and seek a safe location that is sheltered from the surf;
- Boaters planning to cross shallow water and ocean bars should consider changing or delaying their voyage;
- Boaters already on the water should carry the appropriate safety equipment and wear a lifejacket;
- Boaters should remember to log on with their local Marine Rescue radio base, via VHF Radio or the Marine Rescue APP, and consider their safety management plan.
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