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Stormrider Guide to surfing Far North Coast

New South Wales, AUSTRALIA

Lennox Head, Craig Parry


+ Beautiful right pointbreaks - Rarely any big swells
+ N-S swell window - Lack of reefbreaks
+ Byron Bay backpacker heaven - Intense and constant crowds
+ Warm, clear water & dolphins - Very sharky

Byron Bay is mainland AustraliaÕs easternmost tip, attracting surfers to a veritable array of long golden beaches and rocky headlands. From a sleepy coastal hippy town that encompassed the Far North Coast vibe, Byron has mutated into a virtual city, attracting movie stars, property developers and hordes of backpackers. While there are some epic set-ups, a lack of decent-sized swell dictates that conditions are fairly inconsistent, relying on summer cyclone swells or big winter S swells to create waves worth remembering. Typically, shoulder-high waves snap across the sandbanks in clean, small-size swells, while bigger days see the handful of quality pointbreaks rumble into life with locals descending from miles around.

When to Go

April-September lows stationed in the Tasman Sea produce consistent E-S swells. In summer, December-April is the tropical cyclone season in the Coral Sea, but it is rare to get many long period NE swells and if the cyclone is too close, the surf will be choppy and erratic. E and SE swells are far more generous and help boost the annual mean wave height to 6-7ft. Wind is crucial, the best being SW, which often blows May to August. Summer sea breezes start off with N- NE dominance as early as Sept/Oct, before SE takes over by Feb/March. Occasional hot NWÕers will groom everything on the coast, but as temps rise, the NEÕers kick back in. As a general rule, beachies are better at high tides and pointbreaks on the low tides. Tide range can reach 1.9m.

Surf Spots

Evans Head breakwall at the rivermouth has its days with some rights protected from the S winds, but it doesn't break with the power or shape of the Ballina 'Walls'. The curious might find better shape over the backbeach called Chinamans and a rarity of a right point breaking off Snapper Rocks (NSW). The flags often take out the best peak closest to the wall leaving scattered groups on the peaks up the beach. Really sharky around here and over the back at Snapper Rocks/Chinamans where a large noah attacked a surfer in 2015. Ballina South Wall is a good call in summer NE'ers and small peaky swells for power pockets and A-frames down the beach. No facilities on this side and it's a bit of a diversion off the main roads, but it won't be empty on the good days. Quality, wedging peaks hit the Ballina North Wall groyne at the Richmond rivermouth. AKA Lighthouse Beach, there's great wind protection from S winds, but the talented local crew are always on it. Handles more size than the other town beaches to the north like Shelly and Angel, which also get good banks. Flat Rock is a symbiotic basalt reef/point that is nothing without a healthy covering of sand pushed in by summer NE'ers. Straight E-SE swells will wall up steady righthanders that appeal to intermediates who will struggle around the corner at Lennox Head, generally regarded as AustraliaÕs finest righthand point, surfers have flocked to the break, since the Ô60s. Few waves compare for speed, barrel sections, length of ride and an ability to handle the biggest NE-S swells. While a NE swell meeting a SW wind is considered primo, Lennox will also bend a S to its will, hitting a number of launch sites along the half kilometre headland. Expect full-throttle, ruler-edged walls to gusset multiple times and envelop those fast and canny enough to thread the right line. Holds proper size when the prospect of leaping off the rocks looks suicidal and the current running down the point is likely to challenge the strongest paddlers. So we know the current, difficult entry and exit over nasty boulders and the thick crowd of local rippers are hazards, so we won't mention the sharks.. Some decent beachies up towards Sharpes and maybe round the corner at Boulders in bigger S swells. Broken Head breaks on most NE-SE swells but needs the sand to line up with the rocky headland. There's lefts as well and the whole set-up is quite spread out. S to W winds and ideally a bit of N in the swell, making it more of a summer spot when the sand has been given a chance to build up. The beachbreaks are all abilities, but the point proper needs above average skill set. The sleepy streets of Suffolk Park occasionally lead to a good bank, with lefts often tubing down towards Taylors and Tea Tree Lake, on a mid tide, any E swell and any W in the wind. Get in before the wind does. Tallows is tucked out of the NE winds and is the place to be when the swell is small and from the S. Power is the key word, with thick-lipped triangles popping up randomly and peeling fast before usually closing-out or hitting one of the deeper channels and holes that scour the long beach. Because it is super-consistent and often perfect, Tallows can be very crowded, particularly at the northern peak of Cosy Corner. Wategoes sits astride the most eastern point of Australia and while the rock and sand try to coalesce into a defined righthand point, itÕs more often a bunch of mixed up, rolling peaks that shoulder and reform through the cove. This makes it ideal for any ability and any craft to get some action and it is still nicely offshore in the SE summer onshores. Absolutely always crowded with longboarders and soft-tops. Parking is damn near impossible on summer days. The Pass is the marquee break for Byron, welcoming all E swells into a balmy, pandanus-lined bay, transforming them into orderly righthanders that march in parallel lines to the sand. The outer take-off sucks strongly from the rocky outcrop and races through a fast vert section into the next entry point where crowds throng, waiting for a wider one or someone to fall. This starts an extremely long ride up to 500m as righthanders trundle down the sandy point towards Clarks Beach, perfect for longboarding or practising trim and cutbacks. Best on E-NE swells when the walls will be more extensive, but it can still break on big S-SE pulses with enough wrap, although the walls break up more and often fizzle-out. It is fairly protected from winds out of the ESE all the way round to SW and mid tide is the pick. Crowds are legion to the point of madness and all the locals descend on the quality days. The sweep down the point is shoulder-smashing and most people walk back to pick a moment to launch either behind or through the pass in the rocks. Drop-ins, hassling, shouting and general chaos are better left to the more adept. The Pass is also well-known for dolphin pods adding to the crowd and dropping in on anyone. The Wreck is right in town and usually noted for its rights, which wall up quick and throw in the odd spitting barrel. There are lefts as well which tend to be a bit slower and shouldery as the SE-E swells arrive at an angle in this deep bay. The rivermouth breakwalls at the mouth of the Brunswick River do a decent job of holding some sand together and the old adage of north wall in southerlies and south wall in northerlies holds true. North wall has some scattered rocks to help hold a right bank and when it gets real big there is a heavy right that unloads over the outside "Bar", deposited by the strong river flow. More peaky on the south side with rights and lefts in the summer northeasters. Long, lonely and usually blown-out linear beachbreak, with congregations at spots like Ocean Shores, Golden Beach and Pottsville, where variable sandbars will form along a deserted and sharky stretch of coast. Avoid high tide. Often chosen as a contest site for its consistency Cabarita has many moods. Stronger winter SE-S swells break outside with some lurching sections down towards the second outcrop that usually holds the barrel section if the sand is in place. Smaller days can see perfect peelers inside the first bay, out of the clutches of the SE sea-breezes. Check over the backside and all the way down to Hastings Point, to escape the crowds. Kingscliff has some good peaks shaped by the flow of the river, and the jetty protects from even SE winds, but too much S in the swell will see it sail straight past and the rip hardly ever lets up. The southern breakwall of the Tweed River next to the sand pumping jetty can have some peaky lefts in NE swells and offers some summer wind respite, followed by average but uncrowded beachies all the way south to Fingal Head where rolling walls and shoulders get hollow at headhigh before maxing out at about 10ft faces.


dominant swell NE -NE NE -SE NE -SE NE -SE NE -SE NE -NE
swell size (ft) 5 5-6 5-6 6 5 5
consistency (%) 73 84 78 70 60 59
dominant wind N -S E -S SE -SW SE -SW N -NE N -S
average force F4 F4 F3 F3 F4 F4
consistency (%) 62 63 59 49 61 73
water temp (C) 26 25 23 21 22 24
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts springsuit springsuit springsuit boardshorts

Travel Information

The far north coast climate is much closer to QueenslandÕs subtropical weather than Sydney. Summer temps average 21-28¡C (70-82¼F) and winter temps 15-21¡C (59-70¼F), giving Byron Bay an excellent year-round climate. The beaches around Byron offer clean, warm water, 26¡C (79¡F) in summer and 21¡C (70¡F) in winter, a springsuit should be enough for most sessions, the need for a light fullsuit only required on cold winter mornings or in cold SWÕers.

Lodging and Food
Byron real estate prices have sky-rocketed in recent years and boutique hotels, resorts and restaurants have sprung up. Backpacker dorms; Holiday Village $17 (free boards and bikes), YHA $20, Nomad & Aquarius $24. Air BnB from $57. The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa fr $225/dbl. Rae's on Watego's luxury fr $400/n. Expect $25 for a meal; there are lots of natural, organic food places, selling locally grown produce.

Nature and Culture
Hike the 3.7km Cape Byron walking track through rainforest, beach, grassland and clifftops to the lighthouse. Take binoculars to spy whales Feb-March and schools of dolphins May-October. Check the beautiful hinterland of National Parks and rainforest for bushwalking and waterfalls. Visit eclectic towns like Nimbin. Socialise with the huge international crew of visitors and locals in lively bars like the Beach Hotel, which displays big screen surf videos.