ELEMENTAL: Fishermen brave the wild weather and big seas on the south wall at Shark Bay, Evans Headon Sunday. Doug Eaton
ELEMENTAL: Fishermen brave the wild weather and big seas on the south wall at Shark Bay, Evans Headon Sunday. Doug Eaton

Storms bring risky swells

By Andy Parks andy.parks@northernstar.com.au WINDS gusting up to 82 kilometres an hour lashed the coast over the weekend, bringing down trees and in some areas causing extensive blackouts.

The high winds and huge seas were the result of a low pressure system off the Queensland coast. A gale warning was issued by the Bureau of Meteorology from Point Danger to Cape Byron yesterday.

Up to 40,000 homes around Tweeds Heads were without power yesterday for more than an hour after a tree landed on powerlines near the Tweed Heads substation.

Trees were reported to be down across roads at Brunswick Heads and Kyogle.

Northern NSW Lifeguard co-ordinator, Stephen Leahy, said it was a busy weekend for his teams.

A man had to be rescued in high seas near Yamba after he went missing in the surf. The rescue involved the police and the Westpac Rescue helicopter as well as the lifeguard service.

Mr Leahy also said there were two other rescues in the Yamba area and four around Byron Bay yesterday.

Two bodyboarders were washed up on rocks and had to be given first aid at The Pass at Byron Bay on Saturday.

"Lifeguards also had to assist more than 200 tourists to climb off the lookout at The Pass in Byron Bay yesterday," he said.

The Northern Star's surfing columnist, Phil Roxburgh, said the conditions would be unsuitable for surfers for at least a few more days.

"The trouble with a low like this is that it's too close. There is too much sweep and everything is full of white water," he said. "We're expecting swells of over two metres for the next week."

The strong wind warnings and predictions of damaging surf conditions didn't keep Travis Templer and his girlfriend Natalie Siiankoski out of the water at Lennox Point on Saturday.

"I didn't check the forecast today but I knew there was a cyclone building off the coast. I didn't know how far down it would reach, but when I was out there I knew this wasn't for me," Mr Templer said.

"There were some older guys out there having a ball, but they've probably surfed this point since Jesus was playing footy for Jerusalem."

Mr Templer, who is down from the Gold Coast on holiday, said he had only taken up surfing again six weeks ago. "I was probably out there an hour and only caught one wave. I had to pull out about 10 times going 'this is not for me'. It was just too rough and unpredictable."

Ms Siiankoski has surfed for a couple of years, but it wasn't her day either.

"I just couldn't get out the back. There were too many sets coming in. I was trying to get out when this big shore break washed me up on to the rocks," she said.

She had cuts on her upper thigh and was happy to spend the rest of the day out of the water.

Australian Lifeguard Services issued more than 1500 warnings to people swimming in dangerous locations over the weekend and is advising that people should only swim at beaches where lifeguards are on duty.

They also suggest people avoid entering the water until it is deemed safe to do so and to stay away from rock ledges and shelves.

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