Big wave surfing on the Northern Beaches has drastically changed over the last 5 years. I wish i could say for the better, but i can't. The reason for that is, the heart and soul of big wave surfing, which is the art of paddling in, is fighting a loosing battle against the jet ski.
2003 is a surfing year that sticks out for me, it was a year of great, great swell., and it was a year i possibly rode some of the biggest waves i have surfed in my life outside of Hawaii.
My brother Joel was back from paddling into mindless bombs at 'mavericks' up in Northern California, and when the swells hit Sydney in 2003 you could guarantee we were paddling out, and there was always a solid crew in the water, all going through the same mental battle you were. Which was to somehow push yourself over the edge and paddle in.
Joel Fitz 'Mavericks' 03
A group of guy's surfing big waves creates a curtain energy, and this big wave energy really pulsed during a couple of sessions out at 'Deadmans', behind Fairy Bower, in 2003. You could possibly call it a bit of a macho vibe., but you needed to tap into it, it helped you push yourself, and it certainly helped me and a few of the boy's experience some crazy moments. I'll never forget how cool everybody made it out in the water.
Positioning and timing is also that little bit easier with a committed paddling crew in the water, especially to judge the critical part of the line up, and hunt the better peaks, there was nothing to worry about except making the drop and riding out the wave, or perhaps facing the embarressment caused by pulling back in front of your mates.
'Deadmans' 2003 photo's by Andrew Christie
Fast track to 2007 and 'South Narrabeen' is the new big wave hot spot on the Northern Beaches.
2007 had a run of swells similar to 2003 but the swells had a lot more east in their direction. Perfect for Southie. Tow surfing really threw itself into the mix in 2007, South Narrabeen and various spots around Australia. Every solid swell that hit, there was a ski towing in, and granted, the majority of waves towed were legit reef breaks you can't paddle into. But, South Narrabeen. C'mon! This is a beach brake, and ski's along side surfers paddling in the line up, for obvious reasons, ain't a good mix.
The run of swells of 2007 culminated in a timeless east at the end of the season. Possibly the best east swell i have seen staking up at 'South Narrabeen', but what was surprising was there was no paddle in surfers giving it a go. Amazing, since there was perfect feathering peaks to paddle into. Passing comments on the beach amongst surfers considering paddling out was that, "there was to many ski's in the water", so they didn't bother. This unenthusiastic approach unfortunately was brought about by a few previous sessions in 07, where surfers had to jockey with ski's in the line up. Nightmare.
The session was well documented, and the crew towing in, were glorified for there bravado and spreads in the shitty surf mags sold in service stations across the country. No questions asked, no credible journalism, no questions asked. Why was no one was paddling in? No mention of the lost essence, the mutual trust and encouragement found amongst a group of surfers who spend time together in big waves. The energy it used to take to paddle in - was gone. It was a whip from a ski and your on. Piece of piss. No positioning , no bottom turns, no grind paddling back into the line up.
I could tell the attitude heavily shifted this day. Unfortunately even i was being encouraged to go out on the back of ski. Fools. Partly because i had only managed to paddle into two waves before i was absolutely slaughtered and snapped my board. But hey, i rate those two waves as two of the greatest waves i had surfed at 'South Narra'. I drew my line and i was stoked. This was my gig, and Tow ain't my bag.
End of Rant.
The two waves at South Narrabeen o7.
Photo's Keiren Prenter
Fathers Day 2008. Another big east arrives at 'South Narrabeen'
6 jet ski's are in the water early. Sign of the times. My bro Joel Fitz and i still couldn't resist getting out there and finding our spot in the line up. It was pretty tough going though.
The below photo pretty much sums up the session. Ski's trashing the line up.
Joel still picked off a couple on the inside though.
It was great having him out there to paddle around with.
He is always pushing deep.
I was stoked to find the odd one as well.
The old 'South Narrabeen' beach definitely has it's day's when it's firing.
Great waves to paddle into if you ask me.