After seven long years, Boreas, god of the north wind, returned. The unsuspecting low pressure system developed at the top of Western Australia and intensified to cyclone strength—warranting the accolade of a name: Marcus—across the Kimberly. The winds then ripped down the coast, causing power shortages and mild flooding in Broome and desirable swell for Perth and the South West. As the anticipated waves neared, every surfer suddenly became vigilant, tracking the bureau of meteorology’s every update.
The rumours were manifold. Some speculated the swell of the decade. Whispers spread via a swarm of adrenalised messages and surfers, caught in the hype on their screens, became transfixed on the imagined wave of a lifetime.
The hype had a lot to do with Cyclone Bianca, a similar swell in 2011 that turned a couple of south-facing beach breaks—the main one being Wyadup, which is usually dismal—into heaving point breaks. It was a first. Never had such rare and unforeseen conditions blessed the coast in such a documented age.
The surfing populace who rely on videos and write-ups on the internet to know what breaks will be good with certain forecasts consequently had no precedent. The few, mostly local pros, that spent the duration of the eight hour swell pulling into picture-perfect, cavern-like barrels, did so on inside knowledge, while the unbeknown majority settled for waves deemed on the surf report as ‘above average’.
The footage of the pros who scored quickly followed. The YouTube video eventually went viral and left an indelible print in the conscience of everyone who watched it. So when Marcus hit, seven years later, hordes flocked south, turning the quiet carpark of Wyadup into a frenzy.
At 7am on the cold Autumn morning of the swell, cars lined from the edge of the headland 500m back to a T-junction. A local swore he’d never seen the wider area so busy. A few friends and I walked to the edge of the promenade to watch the show. The faint tracks carved through coastal shrubbery, which hadn’t seen feet in seven years, were re-trampled. The rocks were dotted with spectators and already two jet skis and around 30 surfers crowded the lineup.
A set loomed on the horizon. A local pro got towed into the first wave. He weaved under the lip, becoming neatly ensconced in the barrel before the wave sped down the line. The second broke further out and was double the size and was one of the best waves I’ve ever seen. We all stood gawking as the mechanically perfect, heaving mountain reeled down the beach unridden.
While waves rifled down the point like freight trains, our Instagram feeds similarly became swamped with photos of picture-perfect setups up and down the coast. We knew that the surfers in the carpark, who were also on phones, were seeing the same. We left, along with a raft of others, eager to find our own ideal wave with which we could post.
Despite the crowds and cluster of photos of almost the entire coast on social media, we managed to find a break that know one had yet investigated. We stood in a line—hawk-eyes to the horizon—at the look out as a set rolled in. We telepathically imagined the same thing as the second wave of the set pounded down the beach: effortlessly paddling into the wave, causally standing up, arching tall in the womb of it before stylishly crouching down, our hand tickling the lip, and getting spat out into the channel. The wave, much like Wyadup’s, was picture-perfect.
We all got waves, less got barrelled and more had sand stuck in every possible crevice of the body. Also, the session was cut short. The winds were volatile and the mighty volume of water being funnelled into the bay caused highly turbulent currents. The waves never broke in the same spot and some jacked up and broke on the bank before we could blink. The session was memorable, but we all agreed the conditions were difficult and no one got a wave that lived up to the hype like the one we mind-surfed from the lookout.
At home, we searched the edits that had continued to flood Instagram and the write-ups that praised Marcus. The waves were undoubtedly amazing but, like the prelude to the swell, no one talked or posted about the kinks or faults. No one shared a photo that showed the fierce winds, the grey clouds, or the uncharacteristically dark, ominous waters. No one reported that the perfect, unridden wave at Wyadup was an anomaly, that most of the time the ocean was beset with lulls. No one included an edit that showed the pro, who was comfortably standing in a barrel, eventually get clipped by the lip of the liquid monster and swallowed by a cacophony of foam, or even the majority who were victims of closeouts that slammed hundreds of tonnes of water into the shallow sandbank.
Not that we told our friends about it. The photos said it all.