Winter swell at Little Henty Reef

Winter on the west coast of Victoria. Nowhere else I’d rather be. Noel and I rode our motorbikes from Melbourne down to Apollo Bay last Thursday.  Between Lorne and Apollo Bay every point had large perfectly formed surf, and the diehard midweek surf crew were out in force having the time of their life in a swell memorable for its perfection and its power. I have seen bigger swells, but few more regular and perfectly formed. Parallel lines of swell were lined up from the horizon to the shore.

The afternoon light was beautiful, which combined with that swell would normally be my cue to take some photos. But the Great Ocean Road was mostly dry, there was very little traffic, the bikes were performing faultlessly and it seems we were both feeling on song. The beautiful rhythm of so many curves in succession, going smoothly through the gears with the exhaust note rising and falling as power was continually applied and reduced, picking lines carefully around the seemingly never ending corners, hands resting lightly on the handgrips, arms relaxed, knees lightly pressing into the fuel tank, back comfortably curved. That willing engine and the nimble handling of the mighty GS. You really have to have experienced it to understand it. While I was conscious of the surf and looking at it when possible, most of the time I was focusing exclusively on the next turn. But for once the choice was clear that I would not disturb the joyous rhythm of the ride for some photos.  It was a conscious choice.  The mellowing afternoon light, the perfect swell, the GOR seemingly draped over and around the landscape rather than cut into it, the motorbike swooping and diving and leaning in unbroken smooth motion around it all – there was a synchronicity to everything on that 44kms from Lorne to AB. Everything fitted with everything else. It’s a bit like singing tight and powerful three part harmonies with strong beautifully blending voices in that you can’t stop mid flight – you just have to finish the song.

Noel and I arrived in AB full of energy and enthusiasm as we usually are after such a ride. We pulled into the servo, Noel filled up, and without further ado we said goodbye and he rode back to Melbourne. I rode the last few hundred metres of the day up Cawood Street and parked the bike in the shed. I felt the tyres once the bike was parked – they were warmer than usual having had a good workout.

I then decided to grab the Nikon and the tele lens to see what the dying light of this beautiful day had to offer. Marengo was my choice because it was close and the hills are further west there which means the sun would not set early as it does along the south-facing coast east of Wild Dog Creek. As it turned out, the last half hour of sunlight had a lot to offer.

So, on Thursday, with no hint of things to come (these photos were taken only two days before the Saturday morning on which the photos in the post ‘The Henty firing in a big swell’ were taken), the elements bestowed this beautiful swell on the west coast of Victoria. While it’s winter, there was something autumnal about Thursday’s swell. Saturday’s swell though was pure winter.

Marengo - Little Henty Reef-2
This was taken looking NW from the rock shelf in front of the caravan park at Marengo. The sun had already set over most of Apollo Bay. The light was beautiful.
Marengo - Little Henty Reef-3
A light northerly was glassing off a sizeable swell over Little Henty Reef.
Marengo - Little Henty Reef-4
There was solid and uninviting white water….
Marengo - Little Henty Reef-5
…. small scale white water with astounding shapes worthy of close examination….
Marengo - waves over Little Henty Reef-2
…and serious water. This mutant wave reminds me of photos I have seen of Shipsterns in Tassie. It’s the result of big swell suddenly reaching shallow water over a very uneven reef.
Marengo - waves over Little Henty Reef-4
This wave was a little more orderly and enticing, with a thick lip throwing forward producing an unridden barrel. But looks are deceiving. Despite looking rideable, this wave is in fact plunging forward over shallow water and a rock slab.
Marengo - waves over Little Henty Reef
Similar looking waves were hitting the reef, and producing dramatically different spectacles. The very last sunlight of the day lit up this exploding white water like a flash light.
Marengo - waves over Little Henty Reef-3
Between the mayhem and randomness of the wave forms I saw at Little Henty Reef, there was occasionally a perfect well formed wave with a massive mane of spray blowing over the back in the light offshore wind. It is still unrideable though because it’s breaking in very shallow water over the reef.

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