Pittwater Life March 2018 Issue


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Surfing Life

Surfing Life

Come on in, the water’s

... well, too darn hot!

What should we watch if we want to understand surf?

Can I bore you for a column?

I don’t know… maybe

you’ll find this boring,

maybe not. But how often does

the water surface temperature

off Pittwater beaches hit 24.8

degrees Celsius?

I will tell you! Never. Never

in my surfing life has the water

here been this warm.

Offshore water temperatures

are higher even than

that. But they frequently reach

25 degrees these days. It’s the

coastal temps that are coming

as a shock – or maybe the

reverse of a shock. You don’t

dive in to a skin-tingling feeling

of refreshment right now,

that’s for sure.

It’s coming as a bigger

shock since through November

last year, temperatures

stayed stubbornly LOW, rarely

budging above 19 and sometimes

shrivelling to 17 – colder

than a typical mid-winter.

Strange things are occurring.

In the second-last week

of February, our beaches were

suddenly struck by an influx

of small jellyfish. Not stingers,

rather a prune-shaped

jelly, almost fully transparent,

pumping itself along with two

halves of its body. Millions of

’em. They were all gone in a


The surface warmth has

brought humidity, yet weirdly

GITA MOVE ON: Greenmount at Coolangatta unfurls during February’s cyclone.

enough, almost no rain. Low

cloud comes in overnight with

the dying sea breeze, and settles

on the coast. The air feels

wet, yet the garden stays dry.

You wake exhausted, go down

to the beach for a refreshing

swim, and remember, nup, it

isn’t refreshing right now.

I watch this stuff closely as

an adjunct to the surfing obsession,

trying to pick up clues

on how weather is evolving

in our swell “windows” – the

areas of ocean big and broad

enough to provide us with significant

surf. (I say “weather”

because surf relies on weather,

not necessarily climate. Surf

arises from wind on the water

somewhere. Climate is at a

remove from that.)

Our local warmer water is

tangentially related to a much

vaster pool of warm surface

water to our east and north.

This pool of 25-degree-plus

water stretches way out into

the southwest Pacific, my very

favourite swell window. It’s

been pouring energy into the

atmosphere for months via

the easterly tradewind band,

which runs from east of Tahiti

all the way (sometimes) to the

south-east Queensland coast.

Every now and then in a

year like this, something

reaches into that tradewind

band and sets off a kind of

bomb. This year it’s been a

pulse of atmospheric energy

associated with the northern

monsoon. The pulse wanders

around the Equator, touching

with Nick Carroll

down in mid-Pacific every 30

to 40 days.

It last touched down at

the end of the first week of

February. The result was

Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita.

TC Gita migrated west from

near Tahiti, blew apart Tonga,

missed Fiji and New Caledonia

by the atmospheric equivalent

of a hairs-breadth, and ended

up scaring the citizens of

Wellington, NZ half to death

when it went post-tropical and

swamped the city.

Gita also joined forces with

the easterly tradewind belt to

create a series of spectacular

groundswells. We kinda

missed out, being a touch too

far south for the swell angle.

But Queensland’s Kirra Point

didn’t miss anything. While Pittwater

suffered under roaring

Photo Credit: Greenmount image: richardgoldnerimages.com

SWELL TIME: Kirra was pumping too.

42 MARCH 2018

The Local Voice Since 1991

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