It’s an uncomfortable truth, and one many of us struggle with; while temperate weather is what everyone else lives for, cyclones (any storm) produces the very thing we as surfers live for - waves. We are probably the only people on earth who welcome one of our planets greatest forces - albeit just for the aftereffect. We’re not psychotic, and we certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt or lose their homes - in fact some of us pray before and after for those in peril, and some go out of their way to help when disaster strikes at home or abroad by getting involved in relief work or by donating, but still, the fact remains that we as a community wait and watch for wave-generating systems, and when we see one developing on a synoptic chart we unfortunately - but truthfully, get excited and do all we can to get as close as possible to spots in affected regions where the best waves might be found.
Sometimes we find ourselves in harms-way too when on the chase, like Dion Agius and company in 2017 during cyclone Dineo to the same wave-rich zone in the Inhambane province in Mozambique when that tropical storm made landfall and ripped off the roof of the house they were in and others around, and flooded the town. Experiencing firsthand the power and terror of these storms you’re left with a deep sense of respect, awe and sympathy for those who have to face this year in and year out. And it also makes you think and focus a lot more on helping, giving back and serving those affected by disastrous storms like this one.
The spinning vortex that would be named cyclone Idai had shown up abruptly on forecast models a few days before the predicted landfall on Thursday 14 March 2019. Unaware of the level of destruction and disaster this would leave in it’s wake a small, core crew of surfers took a gamble on the unfavourable wind prediction but perfect swell and committed to a 16-hour car drive to Inhambane, Mozambique to join local surfers at this rare sandspit. On the morning of Wednesday 13 March the sea was already tossed up and the waves well overhead. The wind wasn’t perfect, but as the tide turned the powerful waves being sent perpendicular to the bar started to grind down the line in perfect cylindrical fashion. The small crew made the most of the window and traded fast, racing tubes from take-off to kick-out while rain-squalls and dark-clouds overhead were being sucked into the eye of cyclone Idai a few hundred kilometers north near Beira. That evening the swell peaked and the wind for some reason dropped completely, and for about an hour on dark it was as good as sandpits get. The following morning while we sat watching an unruly ocean settle itself for another mixed but ultimately good surf day on the turn of the tide later that afternoon, Beira in the north was hit by the full force of cyclone Idai.
Surf photographer and writer, Alan Van Gysen catches up with Matt Bromley & Brendon Gibbens on their humbling swell hunting experience as cyclone Idai left a wake of destruction in Mozambique...