Phillip Island: Cat Bay/Right Point
When conditions align Right Point is one of the best windsurfing waves in Victoria, offering smooth, steep faces and powerful, thick lips to launch big aerials. Unfortunately the set up is extremely inconsistent, requiring big swell, S-SW wind and mid-high tide – usually coming together in winter on the coldest days of the year.
When Right Point is working on cross or cross offshore wind, it is comparable to Margaret River, but generally smaller, cleaner and a bit hollower. Right Point is also sailable on W-SW wind, which can be excellent for jumping. The spot is frequented by kiters on this direction, but they are rare when the wind swings more offshore as one mistake can send them off into the Westernport shipping channel.
The main peak at Right Point is a short, intense ride but rides can be extended by cutting back and shooting through the inside section at Thistles on south westerlies. Keep in mind that this is also where the surfers go to avoid the wind, so be conscious of wind shadows and be courteous.
25-30 knots SSW wind, with massive ground swell and mid to high tide.
Right Point is a versatile reef break that is good for jumping in strong cross-cross onshore wind (W-SW) and excellent for down the line riding on S-SW wind.
More onshore days allow for strong wind at the launch spot and good run ups to the two breaking peaks for jumping. When the wind is more south, the launch can be quite sheltered and you may not be powered up until you get out to the reef. Thankfully the channel is well defined making it easy to float out to the wind line once getting off the beach.
Tucked in the Phillip Island side of Westernport, Right Point picks up slightly less swell than the neighbouring Flynns Reef, needing a good sized swell to start breaking. 2m average swell at Point Nepean with good period is about the minimum to get something happening.
Right Point handles as big as swells get for Victoria. Once reaching 6-8ft, the wave does not get bigger, only thicker and meaner. Considering that at even 4ft Right Point can throw out thick barrels over the suck rock take off point, this section at 6-8ft is a serious, powerful wave.
Refer to notes on wave height.
Like Flynns, low tide is not an option at Right Point unless you want to eat rocks and destroy your board.
The swell will build on an incoming tide, and generally will fill in quickly. On an outgoing tide, the sets become less frequent as the swell coming into Westernport meets resistance from the huge volumes of water moving back out to sea.
The characteristics of the wave will change depending on the tide and swell size, on small swells mid tide is best and high tide will turn into a fat single peak. On a proper swell, mid tide typically offers a heavy barrel followed by a second bowl before tapering into the channel. At high tide these two sections can merge into one, making the wave a bit shorter and less performance focused.
The inside section called Thistles is extremely shallow and should only be sailed when the tide is high to avoid hitting rocks when bottom turning.
Right Point is a versatile wave in the sense that it can be ridden in a low performance way thanks to the easy channels on both sides of the wave, clearly defined peak and gentle shoulder from the peak heading in towards Thistles.
For intermediate riders, dropping in on the shoulder and cruising on the fat, non breaking swell is a good way to test your confidence and familiarise yourself with the wave. Experts will drop in deep behind the peak and backdoor the heavy section, ripping 2-3 high speed turns before kicking out, or cutting back upwind and then racing further down again through Thistles as the swell stands back up.
The Cat Bay region is one of the only areas in Victoria that is not onshore in S-SW wind, meaning that surfers will flock here even when the wind is howling – especially if it is a weekend. Unfortunately a handful of surfers is enough to ruin high performance windsurfing at this spot, as they typically sit in the way when backdooring the peak to hit the lip and often drop in on you. Most disrespectful surfers are not Phillip Island locals, call them off as you come in to set up your wave but also be conscious to not be a hog – let some sets roll through. If there are enough windsurfers out, they will usually stick to Thistles on the inside and not be a major issue.
Heavy Waves Over Rocks & Reef
The best section of the wave at Right Point bowls up over a shallow slab of reef throwing out heavy lips to smack, launch big aerials off or hook powerful turns right in the pocket. For experts this is excellent, but for intermediate-advanced riders this section is intimidating and will catch people with how fast it jacks up and throws out. In this scenario it is easy to tear your sail and/or break your mast on the rock (especially if the tide is not high). Getting caught with your gear or in the footstraps in this section of the wave can lead to serious injury. If you are not confident, stick further on the shoulder towards the channel.
The shorebreak at Shelley’s is bigger on high tide, and can be challenging to negotiate in more southerly winds. Rocks extend under the water so don’t jump on your board too early and sink straight into a rock. If the wind is light inside, try carrying your gear out as far as possible and jump/swim out to get past the shorebreak. At the end of your session try coming back in on a swell and then pulling back at the last second before reaching the beach to avoid beaching yourself on the rocks.
The Nobbies fur seal colony is very close to Right Point, and it is common to see seals, penguins and big schools of fish in the water. Be aware that big sharks frequent the area, and avoid bait balls of fish or get out if seals are behaving erratically. I have seen a dead seal on the beach here with a large shark bite in it – they are definitely around.
Getting the optimal wind direction for Right Point is often difficult due to the frontal nature of the systems that turn the spot on. In many cases there will be small windows of the right wind direction and strength as a front approaches or passes through. Often one of four key elements, wind direction, wind strength, tide and swell does not quite line up for an epic session.
Check the swell forecast on Swellnet here, note that the Mornington Peninsula forecast is for the open beaches. At least 6ft is ideal for Right Point to break, and over 8ft is better. Note low period wind swells are sailable but typically soft and choppy as the wave does not suck up properly on the reef to smooth itself out.
Check live readings from Pt Nepean Swell Buoy here. Expect good waves on days with at least 2.5m average swell and periods of 14-15 seconds and above.
Rhyll and Cerberus generally understate wind strength and are more useful for understanding direction. Rhyll is a better indicator of wind direction at Cat Bay than South Channel Island, but South Channel Island will usually be within about 5 knots of the correct wind strength at Right Point.
Nearest Windguru Forecast:
Waves heights given in feet are ‘surfers’ size or Hawaiian Scale. Loosely this means a 3ft wave is head high, 4ft is overhead and 6ft is double overhead or mast high. Use the table below to roughly translate between surf forecasts and live swell readings at Point Nepean.
|Wave Size||Swellnet Forecast (Mornington Peninsula)||Point Nepean Swell Buoy (average height)|
Swell period relates to the amount of energy in the swell, a sub 10 second period is low and will be weak. An average quality swell will be around 12-14 seconds and high period, high energy swells are typically over 15 seconds. Higher period swells will generally wrap further into more sheltered locations and lead to increased wave heights.
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Photos by Olivia Hughes, Phoenix McLeod, Georgia Pignolet | untracked.media & Craig Spottiswood.