A swell ending in Newcastle

So, today was my last full day here in Newcastle as resident writer at The Lock-Up Cultural Centre. And I’m sincerely bummed. I’ve had the most wonderful time, met so many great people and found my feet in the surf, so I’m sad to leave. Today Garth asked, “So you must be missing home by now”, and my honest answer was “No. Not at all.” I mean, I miss my loved ones, but Newcastle is great and I have been busy and productive and happy, so I haven’t had much reason to look forward to the end of my time here or feel any home-sickness. In truth, I’d love another month here. I feel like I haven’t had enough time to get everywhere I wanted to go, meet all the people I wanted to meet, surf all the breaks, hang out with crew, to read, think, write. So I’d love another month or two, but I’m off to Sydney tomorrow and then to drive/camp/surf my back up the east coast next week with my friend, Terry, so things aren’t too bad really. But I was hoping that today I would be able to get in one last Newcastle surf (or two or three), to see the folk I have met in the water and to catch some waves at my favourite breaks. But alas! It was not to be. 

 A coal ship was leaving while a cruise ship was entering the harbour, giving a weird kind of perspective on the swell.

The swell here was huge and pumping, and the idea that I could even paddle out into the waves on my longboard is beyond laughable. Instead, I had to content myself with standing on top of the wall by the ocean pool to watch the huge waves swell and surge their way through the sea, peaking as the ocean floor rises, and finally smashing into the rocks near the shore, which was pretty cool and not such a bad thing to witness. I waded through the flooded pool area to climb the stepped, concrete seating overlooking the pool and the Cowrie Hole so I could better see the waves breaking onto the flat rock shelf that extends out into the sea. At the top were a salty, bare-foot, bearded guy and his daughter, both of whom I (of course) got chatting to. He was a longtime local who had grown up in the area and who regaled me with stories of growing up in the terrace houses just back from where we were standing. Stories of waves like this for weeks at a time, stories of long flat periods and the eventual calls of ‘Sets! Sets!’ that would resonate through the thin terrace walls when the waves eventually returned. A story of a freak waves washing through the pool below us when he was young, taking the bathing crowd by surprise and washing away towels, picnic baskets and children. I was (of course) an enthusiastic audience, stoked to listen to his tales as the sets continues to roll through, as crew continued to make and kook critical waves and sections, as guys continued to lose their boards and swim in while avoiding the rocks so close below, as others continued to attempt the rock jump and struggle to make their way out the back. And all the time the rhythmic, cyclical, tidal surge and crash of waves, flooding the pool then emptying it, delivering a spectacle hypnotic in its power and intensity. It was a good day to be on the shore.

 The water would wash and swirl through the ocean pools, so you had to time your passage to the concrete seating closer to the break.
 Despite the massive swell, Tom was still committed to bird-watching. I found this unnervingly adorable.
This guy and his bodyboard caused us some concern as he went to jump off the rocks into the heaving maw of oceanic fury! The lifeguards in the tower were calling over the loudspeakers, asking him to come in, but he flipped them the bird in defiance and continued on his mission to get out. In the end, he took a less terrifying (for us) option further in front of where we were sitting and made it out.

The afternoon saw the sun come out. Newcastle is so very beautiful

And a nice day to be indoors writing, as it happens. And so I found myself sitting once more in One Penny Black, typing away, drinking coffee, and chatting to Huon and Garth. I planned my goodbyes, and figured out how I can fit in another visit here next week. As I cannot say enough, I feel so lucky to have had the chance to spend some time here in Newcastle, and been made to feel so welcome and included. And so some thank yous. Specifically, I must thank Emily and the volunteer staff at The Lock-Up; Karen, Katherine and Candace at the Hunter Writers Centre; Huon and Brenton (via One Penny Black) who have so generously shared their knowledge and stoke with me; Gerry who introduced me to the residency program and who has been a wonderful Newcastle friend; sweet Maia for the girl companionship in the waves and the very early morning coffees; and my dear friend Emma for playing host from day one. I’ve also been stoked by the emails and comments from Newcastle folk via my blog: your feedback has been so great in helping me find my way around and learn more about your wonderful hometown. And of course, my time here has been made extra wonderful by the surfing crew I have met in the water, in particular the people I met at Cowrie Hole, Newcastle Beach and Caves. For a while I worried that I was spending too much time at certain breaks – which I have! - but the fun waves I found and the lovely people I met put paid to those concerns, allowing me – unexpectedly - to feel a sense of belonging during my time here. Although my residency at The Lock-Up is done, I still have stories and words left to write and post about my time here.

Thank you Newcastle. I’ll remember my time here with fondness and great affection and leave here feeling refreshed, renewed and full of inspiration.


  1. Candice Ward10:24 AM

    Great to see you yesterday morning before you left Rebecca, against the backdrop of that wild torrent at the Baths! Good luck with the next chapter of your journey. Candice (and Rizzo)

  2. I'm sorry I missed your workshop on 3rd March. Hopefully you will return soon and hold another one.

  3. The middle part of this post it's just what I love to read.


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