Debbie’s Dirty Rights

All photos Swilly 

While the side effects of ex-cyclone Debbie wreaked havoc in Northern NSW, surfers were happy to capitalise on a rare bank formed by the floodwaters. Riding the inside wall of the southern groyne of the tweed bar, the river rats dangled their toes amongst the bull sharks and fetid waters for a few chocolate carves and brown barrels.

“It was so dark in the pit that you couldn’t even see them,” chuckled Gold coast lensman, Simon ‘Swilly’ Williams who was on hand to shoot the aptly named Jackson Coffey, Sheldon Simkus and Corbin Hutchins.

For Simkus, the cave like quality of the pits was part of the attraction.

“It was almost black inside so that was something different,” he commented, still dripping in brown water after yesterday’s late session at the Tweed River.

Simkus, a Tweed/Goldy local, suggests he always keeps an eye on the infrequently seen bank.

“It doesn’t happen very often so it’s kind of special when it does… It doesn’t have as much push as other waves but it doubles up and breaks next to a rock-wall and you can still get barrelled.”

Although Sheldon missed the weekend’s super session he was adamant that yesterday was still the best he’s ever surfed it.

“It was just a bit smaller than the day before but you could still get barrelled, do three turns and find a couple of ramps.” 

When quizzed about the threat of bull sharks Sheldon concedes that you are always a little on edge and that he took specific measures to try and manage his fear.   

"Visibility was obviously really limited and you’re constantly touching objects you can’t see below the surface. There’s fish jumping and a lot going on, so it’s definitely a roll of the dice… I actually tried a shark band for the first time. I figured if I’m ever going to wear one today’s the day. I don’t know if they stop them but if it’s something that eases your mind?”  

Sheldon was a little rattled when we informed him that former world number 2 turned nomadic fisherman, Mick Campbell, had counted 13 bull sharks swimming through the river when he was fishing off the northern groyne the other day.

“What? You probably shouldn’t have told me that because I just paddled all the way in through there.”     

The murky flush of freshwater meant it was colder than usual and ensured wax jobs were slippery. The surfers were also hyper-conscious about swallowing any of the foul smellling, potentially bacteria-riddled liquid. Between the constant spitting to get rid of the foul taste in their mouths, the trio of the surfers also argued about the various merits of epoxies and standard PU boards in waves that have freshwater infusion. Apparently this has become quite an active debate since the advent of wave pools.

“I rode a normal board,” suggested Simkus, “But I feel like an epoxy would have worked really well out there. ”

Despite the various risks associated with the session, for Sheldon the appeal ultimately came down to riding a wave, which presented a different set of challenges in a unique context. 

“There’s just a huge novelty value!”

We can only assume that riding dreamy tubes and endless walls at the Superbank gets a little monotonous for a Gold Coast super grom. The Tweed River rights put a distinctive twist on the surfing experience. Just make sure you count your toes when you get out.       



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