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Newcastle surfer rides wave of the winter as powerful surf brings 5-metre waves

By Ben Millington, Wednesday May 27, 2020 - 06:34 EST
ABC image
Tim Dickson getting blown out of the barrel of the wave. - ABC

Last Saturday, May 23, is now known around Newcastle in New South Wales as 'Big Saturday'.

A low-pressure system brought 5-metre waves that barrelled into the shoreline and provided the best conditions many local surfers had seen at the point off Merewether.

It was nearly impossible to paddle out so jet skis were needed to take the handful of surfers through the swell as hundreds of people lined the shore to watch.

"The jet ski ride out itself was pretty terrifying — hanging onto the sled through waves like that is really hard," said Newcastle surfer Tim Dickson.

"It's a bit scary because when it's that big … you still can get some bigger waves roll through on your head, but it's mainly just exciting."

Mr Dickson said he bribed his workmates to take his shift at the local surf shop, which proved to be a wise move.

Towards the end of his three-hour surf, after taking a number of "beatings" on large waves, he got what most agreed was the wave of the day.

"To be honest it didn't look as special as it was," he said.

"With waves like that you don't really know exactly what's happening — adrenaline is going and [you] put your head down and go."

'It's a very steep drop'

In the face of strong offshore winds Mr Dickson managed to paddle into a wave that was about 3m.

"With big chunks of water like that, they're moving very quickly so you've got to try and match the pace of the wave getting into it, and because you're fighting the wind you've also got to be a long way inside, so it's just a very steep drop," he said.

"I vaguely remember falling, and the [board's] rail catching [on the wave's face]."

Mr Dickson said the water that blasted out from inside the wave, known as 'the spit', was so powerful that he nearly fell off his board.

"With all the spray I couldn't really see what was happening as I took the drop, and then it spat so hard I couldn't see," he said.

"That's the hardest I've ever had a wave spit when I've been in it — it felt like it almost blew me off my feet and I couldn't see a thing.

"That's when the adrenaline kicks in and you're terrified and it was pretty exciting.

"I got a little bit of barrel vision and it was all over very quickly."

'Nothing comes close'

A video of was posted to social media and earned a 'like' from 11-time world champion, Kelly Slater, and praise from four-time world champion and Merewether local, Mark Richards.

"Everyone was losing [it] on the barrel part of the ride, but for me the most impressive part was the take off," Richards said on Instagram.

"Very late, and he momentarily starts to lose it as the gale force offshore wind gets under the board and starts to lift it.

"He negotiates this and then instinctively sets the rail and knifes into the barrel."

Mr Dickson said it was a special moment in front of such a large crowd and his friends on the beach, and he has been surprised by the reactions online.

"It's been a bit weird — for just one barrel there's been a lot of hype," he said.

"I had to turn Instagram notifications off on my phone — they wouldn't shut up for a few days, but it was pretty cool."

Was it the best he had caught in his life?

"Yeah, nothing comes close to that one," he said.


© ABC 2020

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