A storm deep in the Southern Ocean created swell which quietly arrived on the west coast of Victoria on Monday. It was not a keenly anticipated swell event. Swell was forecast, but not in the exceptional category. Monday was a cloudless autumn day and a gentle offshore wind was working its magic on the ocean. The current closure of the Twelve Apostles lookout and visitor centre and the pandemic travel restrictions took care of the traffic one might otherwise expect on the Great Ocean Road on such a day, and it was all but deserted. We didn’t expect to see any swell out of the ordinary, and indeed Apollo Bay was without swell when we left.
But Castle Cove was indicating the presence of a some swell and excited our optimism about conditions further west. But it was not until we stopped at Gibson Steps that it became clear that this day the planets had truly aligned.
The swell at Gibson Steps on Monday morning
Not satisfied with the faint lines of swell to the horizon and the waves of consequence breaking well offshore at Gibson Steps, we drove on to check out Two Mile hoping for bigger things. But it was not to be. A couple of surfers had paddled out at Third Reef and were floating and paddling around in swell but the break was not firing. A jet ski and surfer out at Two Mile similarly were similarly disappointed and gave it away after a lot of circles and a couple of swims in clear water in swell that failed to reach the size required to light up Two Mile.
So after an enjoyable half hour swim in a favourite bay on the return tip and lunch on the foreshore in cool air under blue skies, we headed back towards Apollo Bay planning to check the swell at Gibson Steps on the way home. This is what we saw. Ruler-straight swell lines to the horizon, and it had built since the morning.
The afternoon swell
The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles photographed through the anticyclonic haze from some distance away.
Locals on the beach at Gibson Steps
Sizing up the swell
The wave of the session (sequence of 8 photos)
A good look at this powerful turn off the lip of the wave
The three photos on the left show the turn as seen through the telephoto lens from the shore. The photos on the right are cropped details to show the turn up close.
The speed with which he entered this turn can be gauged by the angle of his board, which has the rail buried as he tightens the turn. Centrifugal force is sticking him to the deck of his board.
Stylish completion of this radical turn throwing spray high into the air
Returning to shore
After the waves break well offshore, white water, waves, chop and currents are generated as the waves’ energy dissipates further over the reefs, channels and sandbars in the final 300+m of the journey to shore. Transport for a surfer from the end of his last ride to shore is basically a matter of taking anything and everything on offer, as shown.
The Glenaire Valley
[With the exception of the photo of the Twelve Apostles, which was taken in the morning all photos are posted in the order in which they were taken.]
3 thoughts on “Big Clean Autumn Swell at Gibson Steps”
These are amazing shots. Did you chat to the surfer in the hopes of giving them copies of these? I hope so, how lucky he would be to have such incredible photos of himself.
Thanks Georgie. Yes, you guessed correctly. I did have a chat to the surfer before and after he paddled out. I’ll send him a few of the highlight shots. He’s a local surfer and as I said in one of the captions I got the impression from talking to him that this session was nothing out of the ordinary for him. But he seemed to like the idea of seeing a few photos of this session.