Chasing One Colossal Swell From Heavy Western Australia to Perfect Desert Point

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 38d ago

When a massive swell blipped into existence for West Aus, lensman Tom Pearsall and charger Luke Saranah knew they had to get going. Driving for hours, they steamed into the deepest throws of their home turf, lucking into some insane slabs; some novelty, some fully legit. And when the day eventually closed out, the duo still weren't finished, so they did what any surfer worth their salt would and hopped the next flight to Indo, getting ahead of this system to surf the same swell as it rifled into Desert Point.

And that Indo swell? One of the best to hit the islands this year, which you can read about HERE, a rather special run, with our feeds being almost perma-spammed with inch perfect waves.

Forecast: West Oz

For most people, pouring over charts and planning meticulously is how they like to do business when it comes to seeking waves. And here's no exception. “Luke's a chart addict,” Tom tells MSW. “He sets multiple daily alarms to check various spots around the globe. He just tells me what we are doing and I book. Maybe a bit slack on my behalf but it's paid off every time, so far, and didn't disappoint this time.”

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Hitting Indo from WA is a logistical paradise too. It's a few hours fight from Perth to Lombok then just a two hour drive over to Desert Point – or if you're these boys, get one of the local crew to pick you up at midnight and blitz down.

Anyway, we checked in with Luke and Tom to talk charts, surfing the same swell across thousands of miles of ocean and the fears of getting skunked when the waves come good.

Travelling from WA to Desert Point chasing the same swell sounds like the dream, when did you realise this was going to be a reality and was it always the plan?
We've always had it in the back of our minds. We're fortunate enough that Indo is pretty accessible from Perth, only a few hours flight, so it's sometimes easier to strike there than other areas of WA. Luke was watching the charts pretty closely but things change so quickly down south that it was only a few days out that we made the call to shoot south before flying north.

DONT USE

DONT USE

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Ok, so, walk us through the timeline here, there's multiple sessions going on.
Yeah! Right, we chased a swell that hit the south coast of West Aus, which was coming in at around 20ft@16 secs from the west on Wednesday June 26. We arrived there in afternoon of the day before and surfed a small but mental right slab we'd never seen before, the swell hadn't even hit yet.

On Wednesday, we went out to The Right at first light. It wasn't really breaking, though bigger than the day before. The seas were pretty stormy, wind threatening to turn west, which would have been cross shore. So we found this novelty left slab and surfed there for a bit. But the swell increased dramatically by 9am and that novelty left slab turned into a legit wave. A few 10ft bombs by 9.30am.

That swell for West Oz? Macking.

That swell for West Oz? Macking.

 
We had to bail at 11am as conditions deteriorated, packed up, drove five hours north to Perth through torrential weather and destructive winds that brought traffic to almost a halt, with less than five metres of visibility. So we flew out to Desert Point. We had to bail at 11am as conditions deteriorated, packed up, drove five hours north to Perth through torrential weather and destructive winds that brought traffic to almost a halt, with less than five metres of visibility. So we flew out to Desert Point

Arrived at Desert Point on the Thursday, around 3am, pretty warped after five hours on the ski, five hours drive, four hour plane journey and then a two hour drive. The following morning, the same swell we surfed in Oz is here. And it's thumping. 6ft sets in the morning, Desert Point perfection.

By lunchtime swell is really kicking in at 9ft@18secs. Biggest sets are washing through, too big for the reef. The Grower has an hour over low tide at 10ft plus. The next day, the high tide in the morning made it much more manageable. Appears swell has dropped a little. But as the tide dropped, that was not the case and it's as big if not bigger. We had a mega session at Grower in the afternoon.

On the Sunday, it was still pumping at perfect 4-6ft. The next few days, we had a couple of lay days and humid naps. Then on Wednesday the new swell hit overnight, pumping 6ft. Surfed all morning till we left at 10.30 to catch our flight out. Hard to leave when it was pumping already and heading to low tide.

The heavy slab sessions.

The heavy slab sessions.

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Yeah, what a trip! You mention the WA sessions were kind of hit or miss, but it looks gnarly. How did it pan out?
It was pretty lucky that we had a session at all, and to have two decent sessions was bonus; we were just combing the coast via jetski and literally stumbled upon them.

So it was gnarly with the unknown, every wave was so different with these slabs. You're not surprised for it to be consistent 8-10ft and throw out a 20 footer out of nowhere. I mean, all those slabs down there are pretty intimidating just because of the remoteness let alone the power and whatever's swimming below. The boys picked the eyes out of and ended up getting some great waves. 

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

And that wasn’t enough, had to get Desert Point in there too. Why Desert Point?
Deserts was the jewel, we new it would be pumping, good winds, large swell and decent tides. The south session was just an afterthought really as the conditions allowed. It's hard to beat a wave so perfect and long as Desert Point. It's the original surf image you have in your mind as a surfer and photographer. Insane backlit lineup, volcano backdrop, coconut tree lined beach, warm water. And Luke is goofy, so it's even more of a dream for him. 

The lip forming on this mutant....

The lip forming on this mutant....

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

How do you know Luke? Seems like he’s up for hucking into anything.
Funnily enough we met through another Luke, Luke Campbell, on a trip to Desert Point in 2015, my first trip as a photographer. Travelling a lot with someone you just have to gel well through good times and bad. He's always taking it in his stride and keeping moral high. He's one of the most dedicated swell chasers I know, and you're right, the biggest thing as a photographer is that he will always throw himself into anything. It has definitely pushed me in what I thought my limits were for shooting in the water.

...though sometimes, it's better to stare at what could have been.

...though sometimes, it's better to stare at what could have been.

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

And Luke, is this the first time you’ve done a trip like this, chasing one swell? 
LS: No, I have done those kind of trips a fair few times, but this time there were a few different factors in it. That northernly wind pattern for the south coast was still holding when the new swell was coming. That gave me confidence to be able to do a double again from south Oz, all the way up to the Indonesian coast.

How'd you find the sessions?
The sessions were really good even though I had one of the worst wipeouts of my life on the south coast, meanwhile I got one of the best barrels and had good times with my friends. 

And just like that, BOOM, we're in Indo, same swell, a few days later.

And just like that, BOOM, we're in Indo, same swell, a few days later.

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Sounds heavy. Which did you prefer, cruising WA, the slabs or Desert Point?
It's 50/50 to be honest. The south coast is very fickle with the right conditions, whereas Indonesia certainly provides good conditions most of the time when the tide is right, which it did. In fact, this time I think that the swell was almost a bit too big for Desert Point, but I still had good moments with tides. 

Had you gents planned this type of trip for a while, or was it spur of the moment?
TP: We'd talked about it a few times, but with all strikes you don't really know until a week or so out that it's legit. So while the idea was there it was still pretty spur of the moment. Luke came straight off night shift to drive down to begin it all.

Forecast: Desert Point

Flirting the line of doom and glory at Desert Point...

Flirting the line of doom and glory at Desert Point...

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

What were some of the toughest logistics?
Logistics were actually pretty simple. We just drove down from home after the usual chaos of trying to get everything together in time. Took our bags packed for Indo with the additional  gear needed for the south strike; 5/4 wettie, floatation, skis... The hardest thing was getting to the flight on time, we scraped in with an hour to spare.

As we headed back to Perth the cold front hit hard with torrential rain and damaging winds. The whole five hour drive was bedlam on the roads. It was kind of strange to drive through traffic stopping rain in a beanie and hoodie knowing that this front was the source of the swell in Indo we would be seeing in 9 hours in boardies and singlets. 

Perfection?

Perfection?

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Who picked you up in Lombok?
We got picked up by our mate Lucky, one of the local crew from Budi's joint in Desert Point. And then got same lift back at finale.

And Luke, the waves are pretty different for WA and Desert. What boards was Luke riding?
LS: Ryan Von Dresslet 'Von boards' who is a shaper in the SW of WA. 5'6" 'Hoof' that was developed with Von specifically for Namibia. Which makes it very suitable for Deserts too. And a 6'3 step up, also a Von board 'Porto' Model. It was such short notice we picked up the boards en route to south coast and Von was literally wet and drying the last touches. 

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

How did you keep the froth levels high?
TP: Humour is the key, sometimes you look at each other and just crack up at the bleary eyes and frazzled mental state. No words needed. Also when you're scoring great waves the adrenaline levels are pretty high most of the time. Sometimes even though you're knackered, you're too excited to sleep. 

Were there any nerves? What if the swell doesn’t come good…?
Yeah the south part of the strike was definitely a bit of a gamble. It's easy to get hurt or have equipment failure that would've stitched us up for the Indo run and wasted all that energy and coin.

We've been doing different strikes consistently throughout the last three years striking from Norway to Tahiti. So we keep our expectations pretty reasonable to avoid getting to gutted if it doesn't come together. Any adventure is a good one. 

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Were you scouring charts? Praying to the surf gods for waves?
[laughs] We are always praying to Huey for the magic to come. Pretty much Luke is kind of a chart addict, with multiple daily alarms to check various spots around the globe, that he just tells me what we are doing and I book. Maybe a bit slack on my behalf but it's paid off every time so far and didn't disappoint this time!

What were the highlights?
There was a lot, hard to keep track because it was all a blur really. Lucky I took some photos! One of the best moments for me was arriving at Lombok at midnight, driving the two hours with a couple of cold tallies, after finding the booze dealer, I didn't realise how hard it was to get a beer in Lombok.

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Knowing that we'd scored some epic waves already and whatever was to come we could strike up us a bonus. And what was to come didn't disappoint. Another highlight had to be the grower session on the second afternoon. It's pretty much a separate wave and watching the six-strong crew sitting down there, including Luke, paddling into emerald green bombs was mental.

Our Southern Indian Ocean swell chart on Tuesday June 25. You can see the system unloading onto West Australia before tracking N/NE to hit Indo. Check the charts for the full path, HERE

Our Southern Indian Ocean swell chart on Tuesday June 25. You can see the system unloading onto West Australia before tracking N/NE to hit Indo. Check the charts for the full path, HERE

Perfection?

Perfection?

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall

Where the trip began.

Where the trip began.

© 2019 - Tom Pearsall