The West

Giant swells make tourism waves
6m swell that rolled in near Margaret River.

Massive swells up to 8m have rocked the Margaret River coast - an unusual event for January that has delighted surfers.

"Everyone's excited. They love it when it gets that big," Josh Palmateer, who runs a local surf school, said.

"There's a lot of energy around when it gets that big. It's a pretty awesome thing. There's a lot of power and energy down at the beach."

Mr Palmateer said the swell was extraordinary for this time of year, when the waves were usually only 4m at most.

But not many surfers braved the swell at its biggest.

"It is dangerous and it would kill most people," he said. "Imagine putting yourself where that guy (pictured) is, most people would poop and have a heart attack."

Weather Bureau forecaster Catherine Schelfhout said a low pressure system and front in the Southern Ocean caused strong south-westerly winds which pushed in the big swell.

Local photographer Russell Ord snapped the unnamed surfer and the picture has gone viral on social media.

It had more than 54,000 "likes" yesterday on Facebook site SeeAustralia and the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association trumpeted it as a social media success story.

"When you get Tourism Australia picking up a great image such as this, they've got four million friends and that is exponentially enormous," association chief executive Simon Ambrose said. "Upwards of 15 million people can potentially see this image."

But Curtin lecturer in internet studies Tama Leaver said page views and likes did not always translate into tourism.

"It depends what you want those people to have taken away from it," he said.

"I have a feeling the vast majority will have gone, 'Wow, that's a cool photo', full stop."

To expect a strong association with Margaret River was "probably a further stretch".

The West Australian

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