As you know, all eyes have been on the US west coast for the majority of 2021, and from the evidence here, you can see why. But over in perhaps one of West Oz's more popular surf locales at Margaret River, this year rung in with a formidable swell, rifling straight to shore from a powerful summer storm. The result? More than a few heartstopping drops, meaty kegs ripe for tenderising by the hardiest of West Oz's cream of the crop – and of course, the rogue craziness of some waves better left to the imagination than attempted.
Indeed, this session was one of the best summer swells in memory, particularly on January 6. “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.”
Forecast: Margaret River
“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 south west 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. Especially on days like this in January.
“We all suffer so badly from FOMO, constantly,” explains Tom. “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.
“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. 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.”