I have had to watch weather a bit more closely than I usually would this season, because Garrett MacNamara, K38 Rescue, and a few other pals of mine are involved in big wave events and have sort of sucked me into the preparation that goes into being in the right place on the right day.
We are in the midst of an El Nino season. No doubt about that now.
So when the murmers about a potential swell maker began to filter through, I forced myself to take a close look at available weather telemetry and began my process of wind and fetch tracking and analysis.
What I saw was a deep low with two fetches separated by a high pressure gradient. The swell rumor hype started with “Epic best swell since 1959” and words to that affect.
The weather map said this to me: a good storm but NOT the kind that would make for epic conditions, because it was still what we call an early season storm. That is to say, that it would be impacted by the existence of too many high pressures in the storm track, along with jet stream issues, which would prevent the thousands of miles long fetch that one looks for in historic swell events.
The storm would pass close to Hawaii. The close proximity meant less than perfect conditions, but a LOT of push. IE it would be big, but in terms of the big wave arenas, Jaws would be best, with Kona conditions. There would be bump and wobble else where in Hawaii, and at 20 feet, that is not optimum. So NO epic swell, but big.
Most events were told to stand down. The Eddie Aikau memorial later went.
I watched. And worked. And waited. You could see the storm developing and a nice high pressure that would keep California in great weather started to drop into position. Things began to line up.
What we are calling Swell 2 of the El Nino season hit here in California, and I found myself watching some breaks be flat, and others go off at size. I opted for the sizeable places and set out to create a broad spectrum of work with some people that I like to hang out with, due to their water ability.
Day one of the swell saw me in Ventura and Oxnard, at places the swell focused on.
Day two, I was at Rincon at o dark thirty and swam Backside as the tide dropped, after seeing some of the prettiest Queen in a while, go off with a light crowd post dawn.
The Backside swim was hilarious as we broke two boards, bodysurfed, got slammed, spit out of barrels, went over the falls, and generally just had a great time being watermen. The joke level was high and it was often difficult to keep my head above water as I laughed, seeing Larry get pitched into mid air sans board in a body launch, or Lars sliding into the barrel since he broke a board and opted to bodysurf sans fins.
We would be sitting out at the end of the rip and one of the boys would intone; “Surfers in the rip, throw away your board and wave your arms, someone will be along to help you presently.” (The guys are lifeguards).
Then we would reposition and 1000 tons of solid blue North Pacific swell would rear up and a spinning emerald green slab would beckon and challenge us to “do something” while the others taunted and-or, encouraged the person in the saddle.
At the end of the swell, as I sat in the office processing what was a best case scenario for combination of swell and weather and sand position, I watched the Pipe Masters go down in flawless 4-6 foot ultra clean conditions. In fact, it was VERY similar to here. Because by the time the swell dropped, and weather moved away, it was an 8 of 10 possible on the scale of swell and weather for Hawaii. What I saw as I processed these images below, which are a small segment of the 120 image final file, blew my mind.
A lot of the guys I know were having the performance showcase of a lifetime in a format designed by Kelly Slater that is incredibly innovative and performance encouraging, as it downplays the hassle for wave factor that occurs in most competitive formats.
So as it turned out for Swell 2, the true and only real history, was made in small surf, not large. Not to take away from the big wave events that did go down, but the real story occurred at Pipeline and at some other spots in California, that maybe only you and a few friends knew to be at, because well, you just know when your spot is going to deliver. Because you are a surfer.
And we all now watch to see what the Earth will deliver, having had a couple dress rehearsals. I find myself sort of holding my breath, as I believe we could see something big. But that IS why they call it weather. (whether) You have to watch it, then be there.
My hope is that people are responsible and that no one does anything “for the camera”, but because they are surfers, and that is what we do.
Here is the blog of Hobie waterman Chuck Patterson, who was at Jaws for a marathon of very clean big wave surf. I am not sure I could have done 4 days in a row at sea filming. He did 4 marathons back to back to back riding. Lost no boats. Came back safe once again.
Here is some amazing work posted to Facebook by cinematographer Michael Prickett. It is from the Eddie Aikau Memorial event. Eddie went, and so did the event! Stoked and many thanks to Michael for his fine work. He was all over at Pipe, doing water POV as well. Just outstanding.
Click on any of the images below for a larger view of some of the swell’s select images.