Manly Beach, Sydney. It’s an iconic Aussie coastal spot with great surf and miles of pristine sandy beach. It is also the home of our local paddle surf spot, a rocky point jutting out to the south of Manly Beach known as The Bower. It’s a great little right-hander, with two linking breaks that are perfect for paddle craft. It’s also a spot where waves break over jagged rocks just a few feet below the surface, and usually it’s only frequented by surfski paddlers, a few SUPs, the odd waveski and very rarely, a gutsy board surfer or two.
Over the past few weeks Sydney has been buffeted by big ocean swell off the back of Cyclone Oswald, creating dangerous messy surf that has been pretty impossible to ride. This day however the surf was still up, stated at 2M but with far bigger bomber sets coming through every ten minutes or so. And remarkably, the ocean was clean and flat between sets with a light offshore breeze holding up the waves to create almost perfect surf conditions.
We’d come to try our luck on the bigger surf, with wetsuits, helmets and booties being preferred in case it got nasty. When we paddled around the point we were amazed at how big the sets were, and how perfect the surf was. It had all the makings of an epic surf session at our favourite little spot. Or so we thought.
Because although we got out there before 6am, we watched as a constant stream of board surfers paddled out to our waves – first a dozen, then two dozen, then litterally dozens and dozens as the crowd started to swell. Every wave had a dozen surfers racing to catch them, everyone dropping in on each other as they fought for waves.
For those of us in boats, we dont really have anything to fear from the surfer traffic, but we do prefer not to (a) kill other surfers with 20 feet of fast-moving fibreglass, and (b) have to clean blood and guts off our boats. After quickly finding that we had numerous surfers trying to take every wave, we drifted a little wide to grab what we could, in between the odd dash into the middle of the break zone for some excitement whilst dodging surfers.
In the end I suspect the surfers won out on numbers alone, as it became very apparent that we simply wouldn’t be able to miss them on each run down the waves. We’d each been pasted a few times by big bomb sets anyway so leaving wasn’t too painful, but we certainly hoped that next time another surf break would go off so we could get our Bower back. Probably a little selfish on our behalf, but that’s how it goes! Cheers, FP
This post sums up exactly why surfers don’t get along with paddlers, the way you’re talking about not having anything to fear because you’re bigger and heavier is just pure ignorance. Everyone is out there to catch a wave so just wait your turn, the video shows you dropping in on a surfer, ruining his ride. Shows you swimming out your boat, if there had been a rip kick in you could of said bye bye to either your kit or yourself. Instead of trying to segregate surfers and paddlers we should be trying to get along, there’s no need for it, all we’re doing is surfing waves. P.S learn to roll, you would owe 2 crates of beer and be drinking one out of your boots for those.
Sorry Alex, but you’re not seeing the context. We happily surf this spot every weekend with all sorts of surfers without any issue. But this weekend masses came down and we spent much of the day pulling off waves to protect the surfers from our boats. Thats when we weren’t being dropped in on repeatedly. As paddle surfers, we usually stay well away from board surfers mainly for safety-sake, but sometimes they throw themselves in front of us and we have every right to be pissed off.
WOW! awesome footage!
Were you wearing a GPS? I’d love to see what speeds you were getting up to.
Awesome effort paddling into surf like this on a ski, especially with the unpredictable surfers. Well done!
No GPS, but I’ve clocked us at around 19km/hr on waves, sometimes faster. 🙂
Hi All, I grew up around this area so know it well. I don’t surf much these days but spend most of my time in an “Ocean Ski” and offshore paddling. One point that needs to be highlighted in my opinion is this:
“Waves can be shared but a wave can’t”
I don’t have privy to all footage but it definitely looks like you are dropping in on some of those surfers’ guys which in my opinion, gives them the right to be P. O.’d! But hey, they most probably were doing the same!
The unwritten law of surfing etiquette is that if you paddle for a wave and you are on the inside (closer to the breaking water or pitching part of the wave) then you have right of way or priority. You stand up and take control of the wave. If someone on your outside (closer to the unbroken part of the wave) gets up as well (or paddles onto it), then they are “dropping in” and this does not go down well. If you are out there with a group of mates, then things are different and that “drop in” can be tolerated I am sure. If you accidentally drop in on someone then controlling a 6 – 8ft fibreglass board is quite easy and with a leg rope, you shouldn’t be doing too much damage.
Anyway, just my thoughts on this one and I am sure this subject will gather more interest as time goes by!
On a side, keep up the footage, it’s always great entertainment!
Thanks GR. I’m going to copy in parts of a response I posted on Facebook to this issue – clearly there’s some grey areas here, especially when every wave is packed. Anyway, here goes…
When in the pit, in surf skis, we can catch the wave a good 20M further out than any surfer can. However, the dozens and dozens of surfers sitting in the line-up would get cleaned up by the 20 feet of rampaging, and virtually unsteerable surfski bearing down on them (especially as they refuse to get out of the way). We had no choice but to sit wide since they showed no inclination whatsoever to let us ride on through without spearing them.
Of course, sitting wide on the shoulder means less wave face and a requirement to take them in much closer, since we’re getting the sh*t end of the wave. We didn’t have to do this, but again, we were trying to look out for the other surfers’ well being.
In the end, we could have fought to stay where the best rides were. Hell, this is a break we surf almost every week, dodging rocks, taking the hits and sometimes even slotting our skis into barrels, usually free of board riders who surf elsewhere and only turn up on the best days. We could have just surfed straight through and over anyone in our way….
…you need to be objective in what you see in our surf vids – I show three minutes of the 6+ hours of footage I get each week, so you don’t have to sit through watching us repeatedly dropping back off waves to let people through. The only real drop-ins we do are on our friends, which is all part of the fun. I can tell you this though – most weeks we happily surf with board-riders, SUPs, other skis, boogie boarders, waveskis etc, and dont have a problem…. but I do find (as I did when I surfed long boards, eski lids and short boards throughout my younger years) that when push comes to shove, boardriders tend to be far more aggressive and far less courteous….
…normally our preferred break at the Bower is left alone by surfers since it breaks shallow on rocks. We risk our skis there (and believe me, we’ve done some damage!!) to get the waves to ourselves.
Sensational footage. Have to get myself one of those point of view cameras.
Keep up the video’s. I suspect the constructive comments may have missed the central hub of the team fat paddler culture. Week in and week out it has been about comraderie, inclusion and respecting each other as you pursue some fun in the outdoors. Doesn’t sound like this week was any different.