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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

A swell weekend in the Bay

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Surfing the swell at Main Beach on Friday, February 22. Photo Jeff Poole

Surfers in town for the annual Byron Bay Surf Festival got a bit more than they bargained for on the weekend as the swell caused by Cyclone Oma whipped up some big waves.

At one point the waverider buoy at the Cape measured 10 metre waves.

Spokesperson for Byron Bay Surf Festival, Ciel Letts, said while some events on the beach and in the water had to be cancelled, there were plenty of attendees at the remainder.

‘We pretty much still had the full program’, she said, ‘although we had to cancel the twilight markets and ran the movies at the Beach Hotel.’

‘Unfortunately we couldn’t do the surf art market and the freestyle surf comp couldn’t run because the beach was closed.’

But she said, there was a big crowd of surfers and body surfers who came for the festival and had a great time surfing throughout the weekend.

Organiser James McMillan said that ‘there lot of happy faces, everyone was stoked’.

He added dealing with the weather was ‘just part of surfing, you wake up in the morning and roll the dice.

‘This time we woke up and Cyclone Oma was knocking on the door.’

Beaches still closed

Lifeguards and lifesavers were kept busy with the swells, according to Australian Lifeguard Service Northern NSW co-ordinator Scott McCartney, who added that  ‘rescue-wise we were lucky: the size of the surf kept a lot of people away.

‘Byron didn’t cop it as bad as Tallows, Suffolk and Tyagarah. The chances of getting into trouble in Byron was minimised compared to those big open beaches.

‘Although the storm has now travelled off we still have the back end of the swell’, he said.


Mr McCartney said lifeguards are now checking debris and water pollution before they start reopening beaches.

‘Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, has a lot of debris in the water, owing to being so close to the river mouth,’ he said.

‘There’s been a fair bit of damage to beaches but it didn’t stick around as long as I thought it might so the end result is not as bad as that perfect storm of six or seven years ago.

‘What really tears it apart is when we have swells like that ongoing for a week.

‘We dodged a bullet,’ Mr McCartney said.

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  1. I assume whoever named this cyclone knew that Oma is the German word for grandmother (Nana). So we can be assured that this was the grandmother of all cyclones.

    • A cat 1 by then. And if surfers want to risk their lives who cares. So long as turtles are protected. Actually, yes, protect the turtles, the odd surfer loss is irrelevant, one less beach boys album.


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