Two Mile, 4 May 2016

Two Mile Reef (also known as Easter Reef) is located a short distance (but a long paddle) offshore just around the corner west of the entrance to Port Campbell bay.  On its day, it is considered by many to produce the largest wave on the Victorian west coast.

On 4 May 2016 having looked at the swell forecasts, weather forecasts and a few other pieces of guesswork on the internet, I decided it could well be worth the two and a half hour drive from Melbourne to Port Campbell to see Two Mile reef in action.

It was worth the drive.

In terms of big seas in this area, I can recall a day when I witnessed the white water being being launched higher above the cliffs than was occurring on 4 May 2016.  That day was 2 July 2008 when gale force winds and big seas combined to launch white water well above clifftop height.  The white water rising above the cliffs was clearly visible from the car window on the Great Ocean Road.  I have posted some photos taken in the area that day on a post on this blog: https://southernoceanblog.com/2017/06/28/wild-weather-a-big-swell-on-the-coast-west-of-cape-otway/

But it’s the green water not the white water which excites the surfer.

I have never seen a day on the west coast of Victoria with a raw surfable swell as big as the one I saw this day.  There was a surprise bonus for my efforts in that a well known big wave surfer had also made the trip to Two Mile that day, and was out there towing into a few.  What impressed me more than his efforts though was the local crew who paddled out from Port Campbell, paddled for and caught more than a few massive waves, got caught inside more than once, took more than a few on the head involving some longish hold downs, then paddled back to Port Campbell beach.

My vantage point for watching and taking these photos was the clifftop above Two Mile.  Save for the last photo in this post, I have followed the pattern of wider shot, then cropped detail of the same shot to allow better appreciation and estimation of the size of these waves.

These photos were taken on an old digital SLR I owned at the time (a Nikon), with only a small zoom lens (my telephoto lens having ended its active service when I slipped on a wet seaweed-covered rock shelf and landed flat on my back trying to walk as fast as a Southern Right whale which was swimming by at close quarters).  Accordingly the resolution etc is nothing like my current camera and telephoto lens could have produced.  But I had to work with what I had.  A photograph can be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, it can be of considerable interest for its documentary value, and if the stars align it can be both.  These photos are merely in the documentary category.  Please focus on the content, not the composition, exposure, colour saturation, resolution and the like.

I decided to post these photos of the swell of 4 May 2016 because my last post on this blog:  

https://southernoceanblog.com/2017/11/01/large-southern-ocean-swell-pounds-local-reefs/

caused more than one conversation with friends on the west coast as to big swell events in years gone by.  Of course I couldn’t leave any such conversation without mentioning the swell at Two Mile on 4 May 2016.

So here are a few snaps taken on that day.  How big were these waves? I guess the answer depends on which wave-height estimate method you use.  Many surfers look at a wave with a 20 foot face and call it a solid 8-10 footer.  But for my money, the distance you fall if you come unstuck on the lip seems a reasonable measure. 

John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2217_20160504_Online
A surfer is nearing the foot of this wave, with the white water not far behind.  To the right of the unbroken section of wave is his jet ski operator.  In the lower right foreground is a surfer paddling for the break on the other side of the channel to the breaking wave.  His horizontal distance from the next wave is further than it appears, due to the perspective distortion effect of the zoom lens.
John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2217_20160504_Online-2
How big is the face of this wave from  its highest point (top right of image) to the flat water in front of it? There is a surfer to give it scale.
John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2242_20160504_Online
This surfer has a lot of clean green face to carve across.  He made it. He will surely remember this takeoff and ride for the rest of his life.   Just witnessing it was pretty unforgettable.  The small but informed crowd on the cliff were appreciative in a clear but cool way.

John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2242_20160504_Online-2

John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2237_20160504_Online
The lower of the two surfers scrambling to get over this wave before it broke must’ve been a little daunted at this point to see the lip feathering given the distance he had to paddle to crest it.  But he made it.

John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2237_20160504_Online-2

John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2247_20160504_Online
Not all made it over this one.  There was murmuring among the small crowd on the cliff as time passed and there were more boards than heads visible.  But all riders eventually surfaced, conscious.  Surely some leg ropes must have failed the test this day.
John Langmead_Two Mile June 2016_2247_20160504_Online-2
This is probably the best photo from which to estimate the height of this wave.  It’s a fair assumption that the length of these boards was in the vicinity of 8+ feet.
John Langmead_Two Mile May 2016_2269_20160504_Online
This was the broader context of the surfing at Two Mile that day, from the clifftop above it.  

Postscript

This photo was taken in early June 2020 from the beach at Peterborough near the mouth of the Curdies River, facing east. Port Campbell is about 10kms east as the crow flies from where I took this photo. There was a big swell and a strong onshore wind this day. I have added it to this post about Two Mile to show the power and size of the waves that hit this coastline in winter storms.

2 thoughts on “Two Mile, 4 May 2016

  1. John, yet again, the curious mind is rewarded. Thank you for these (relatively) grainy images. I cheated, I will admit. I took Charlotte’s ruler out and measured the wave face and the brave surfer. I feel ridiculous typing 10 metres. I cannot imagine surviving if caught anywhere near a wave that size. You backed your hunch and thank God you were on terra firma, snapping on the Nikon.

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    1. Using the second last photo above (the surfers paddling with focus up the face of the wave about to break), and assuming those boards are 8 feet long, I think that wave has a good 35 foot face on it. Not much difference between that and your estimate of 10m Hunto. There is always room for reasonable minds to differ as to where the ‘bottom’ of the wave face is located.

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