Margaret River Starts 2021 on the Pump
COASTALWATCH | SWELL STORIES
This story originally appeared on Surfline
We’re surfers, right? So when the calendar flips from one year to the next, most of us are hoping, wishing, perhaps even praying the new year brings a bevy of groomed swells and friendly offshores. For the lucky buggers in the southwest, their wishes were answered in the very first week of 2021 with one of the better summer swells in recent memory. Particularly on Wednesday, January 6th. mik
“A large polar low created a deepwater SW groundswell that dispersed towards West Australia through the first half of the week,” explains Surfline’s WA Forecaster Katie Jackson. “Long-period forerunners were arriving at 18 seconds+ on the buoys Tuesday evening, but the swell built in solid form by Wednesday morning, then peaking 2.5m through Wednesday afternoon. Despite the swell itself, what really set the stage for this epic swell event was the favourable easterly wind pattern. A heat trough spread down the West Coast and aided conditions with clear skies, hot temperatures, and a stable easterly wind of 10 to 20 knots through the day. As the SW swell arrived, offshore conditions greeted the incoming 8-10ft+ sets with overhead surf and a rising tide along Southwest focal breaks.”
There was a little trepidation on this swell amongst some locals after a medium swell didn’t quite deliver in the last week of December. But on Tuesday afternoon there were clear signs this swell was incoming, though effected by onshores.
And Wednesday morning, there was no uncertainty that it had arrived. And greeted with co-operative winds, too.
“I can see most of the reefs from my joint, so I got up before the sun came up and you could see it had installed. It was pumping,” says local photog Tom Pearsall (Driftwood Photography). “So that was pretty exciting. The hardcore dudes were racing out and others were spending a bit of time in the carpark, watching for a bit longer ’cause it was a proper swell, more like what we see in autumn or winter.”
Pearsall continues: “It was probably the first four hours of the day that was the window, then it dropped quite quickly from psycho to still pretty solid. It was quite offshore in the morning, so it was pretty challenging on the outer reefs but there was probably a six footer every five minutes, an eight footer every 15 minutes, and then a 10 footer every half an hour, bang on. And you could see them coming from so far out.”
“It was a long period swell, so all the bombies and bigger reefs hold them better. And places like Main Break turn from kinda burgers into an actually pretty good wave,” says local gun Jerome Forrest, with a laugh.
Other than long-period, powerful waves and the dedicated crew of West Aussies who thrive in them, the southwest has a bit of a rep for being a region of nooks and crannies where, around this corner or the next, somewhere else could be firing. Stick and move, get in the fourby and get moving. Especially on days like Jan 6.
“We all suffer so badly from FOMO, constantly,” explains Pearsall. “It’s that big stretch of coast where you know that there’s 20 places pumping, but there will be one place that’s really having the session of the year, ’cause they are all so subtle in what swell, what direction, what tide. So even if you’re scoring, (laughs) you’re still thinking about what’s happening just a little bit up and down the coast. But I think we made the right call.”
“It was one of those sessions where it’s as good as that place gets, with just a couple of the older lads that surf it all the time, plus a few others. Can’t comment on where it was though,” says Forrest.
None of this seems too off brand for around here, except for, just maybe, the season. While swell lines marched in, the temperature hit 36 and 38 degrees celsius (98-100°F) in successive days.
“We usually get some good swells around Christmas, but I reckon this is a bit of a standout, personally, for a summer swell over the years,” says Pearsall. “It was just a pretty special swell. It had this really really nice direction, there were certain waves that were firing, as good as they can get, and others were not even working at all. Two reefs next to each other, the left would be 8 foot and the right which is usually the same size was not even breaking.
But for summer, man, it was pretty standout.”
“I’m sure there were some other places firing that day. The wind didn’t come in all day,” says Forrest, “and that doesn’t normally happen this time of the year.”
Storm Location and Movement: Antarctic polar low of 950mb interacting with stable 1029mb high pressure system across the mid-latitudes of the Indian Ocean
Storm Wind: 40-50knots
Storm Seas: 35ft
Swell Travel Time: 2.5days
Swell Height, Period and Direction: 2.53m 17sec 220deg
Local conditions: Easterly winds 15-20knots, clear skies
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