URBAN myth or not, Easter often seems to bring a big swell after the full moon, and this long weekend was no exception, with a solid two- to three-metre swell slamming into the Hunter coast in the midst of coronavirus lockdown.
Although beaches in many parts of the country are officially closed, surfing, swimming and walking are still generally allowed, with regular messages over the loudspeakers on city beaches reminding people of the need to socially distance and to quickly move off the beach once their exercise is over.
Good Friday and Easter Saturday were crowded in the water with small gentle waves and clean conditions, but the numbers thinned out dramatically on Sunday after a powerful southerly swell hit the coast, making all but a handful of spots unrideable.
Conditions eased slightly on Monday, and point breaks and outer reefs along the Hunter coast offered quality big waves for those skilled enough to take them on.
Merewether Surfboard Club patron Tim Ryan said he counted 40 people in the water at Merewether's outer "third reef" yesterday, with pros Ryan Callinan (#14 on the main World Surf League Championship Tour), Julian Wilson (#11 on the CT) and Jacko Baker (#46 on the second-tier Qualifying Series) "the standouts".
"There was one remarkable wave off third reef that Julian took off on that no-one believed he had made," Ryan said.
At Big Ben, at the northern end of Nobbys Reef, 28-year-old Lewie Dunn wowed a small group of socially distancing walkers when he was towed into some bombs he later put at "six to eight feet . . . Hawaiian".
"Hawaiian measure" looks at the height of the wave from the back of the swell, not the front.
Dunn made some, and was smashed by others, including a final wave wipeout he described as "pretty heavy".
Dunn said he understood the controversy of people continuing to surf when other forms of sport were out of reach because of coronavirus restrictions.
He said everyone kept their distance in the water, but Newcastle surfers were "fortunate" to still be able to surf.
The shallow right-hander on the Newcastle Harbour side of the Nobbys breakwall was also working on Monday morning, although the westerly wind put some chop on the face of the waves.
Boogie-boarders dominated the lineup early on.
At California's famed Malibu Point, a lone stand-up paddle-boarder was chased out of empty, perfect waves by two coast guard vessels earlier this month, and arrested.
Various countries have banned surfing as "non-essential" during the crisis and social media criticism of surfers by non-surfers has been substantial.
At the same time, the surfing community is itself split on the question of "to surf, or not to surf", during the coronavirus shut-downs, as shown in an article on the Coastal Watch website by journalist and former pro surfer Nick Carroll, titled The Weirdest Easter Ever.
Carroll, brother of former world champion Tom Carroll, wrote that while authorities had made a range of closure decisions about beaches under their jurisdiction, surfers had by and large not been consulted.
He pointed out that surfers were pretty much the only people interested in the beach during the rapidly approaching Winter.
"At some point, this will pass," Carroll wrote.
"In the meantime, let's not be idiots. Take it easy, stay home, surf where it's OK and not where it isn't. Don't make it worse."
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