I wasn’t the only one bemoaning the wild weather that hit the coast the first week of January. The timing was almost comical. Pretty much as soon as the esky was unpacked, the beds made, the outdoor furniture installed, and the beach towels folded at the door of the family holiday house at Hawks Nest, the rain started. Andit was not just a shower or two, but three days of driving gale force squall.
WHITEWATER: A swimmer braves the elements during the recent storms. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
I exaggerate a little, not about the squall, but the bemoaning. I love wild weather, even days of it, and (like most of my ‘holidays’) I was still writing, so could catch up with work without feeling like I was missing out. The floor to ceiling windows afforded a wide view of the changing shape of the rainstorms. They were waves of another kind, the cycles of fierce lashings softened by bubbles of soft drizzle. I watched the tops of gum trees twist and turn like dancers.
At least once a day I would enter the fray. Umbrella useless, I would surrender to the weather, to the sense of being tossed around as in whitewater, enlivened to be part of the storm rather than safely buffered against it.
I felt for the hardy campers who remained battened down under tarps and canvas at the end of day three of unrelenting rain, cooped up kids yelling and knocking about.
After what felt like a week the sun finally came out, and so too did the hoards of holidaymakers from beneath the shells under which they had been hiding, only to find the beach closed due to large swell.
A small crowd gathered to watch the few crazy surfers negotiate the tubes. Right beside me, one overweight and clearly inexperienced surfer knelt down with a groan to attach his leg rope.
“Are you sure you want to go out?” I asked incredulously, to which he grunted in the affirmative.I regretted letting him go when 10minutes later we watched a hardy swimmer risk his life to his rescue.
His face was in my mind the following day when I approached the beach in the late afternoon to find another crowd gathered alongside police. To the backdrop of a dark Cabbage Tree Island, a police rescue boat ominously trawled behind the breakers. My heart sank, knowing before I asked, that a swimmer had not returned to shore that day.
The following day the choppy swell had returned to an innocuous glassy calm, like a child quickly forgotten his misdemeanour and cherub-faced again.
There was a subdued air about the other beach walkers too, the water rescue boat now resigned to sweeping the rocky coastline at the base of Yacaaba headland. A sun-glassed family huddled down the beach from the throng in silent contemplation of the sea. His family, I guessed, imagining also the dreadful images in their minds as they watched the waves roll in.
Crossing the track to the bay, storm flotsam and jetsam littered the shore – soft corals and seagrass, scores of barnacles torn off rocks, small crabs dismembered and rotting under the now clear and sunny sky.
Claire Dunnis the author of My Year Without Matches