Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Surf forecasting sucks!!

I hope you guys don't mind a boring post about swell forecasting, but this is what I do on the internet when I'm not making blog posts.

I think I spend more time checking swell/wind forecasts then actually being in the water. Maybe not, but I definitely kill a lot of time. First up is windguru. Although their wave forecasting isn't great they do a pretty good job with wind reports. The wind speed numbers aren't too reliable but, I'm usually not too concerned with what the numbers show for wind speed, I'm more interested if the wind is trending up or down. Wind guru is great for showing that, she can be a lying bitch though.

Next it's on to the the stomrsurf wave models. I've spent years looking at these, following each swell from a week out until it's on our shores. This is where the excitement starts and where I get my first peak of the waves that are coming. I remember nicknaming one storm "the golden swell" because it's wave heights were past red, purple, black, and white and were into the golden area of 52 foot +! That swell kind of missed us and hit the west coast head on. I really like them because they give you a week in advance look at what is going on, and they can help you pinpoint when the waves are going to hit. They can all be found here. Be careful though, there are way too many of them and they can kill a lot of time.

Another wave model I like is Lajolla
I kind of average this with the stormsurf ones. A few years back we had a monster south swell, Maalaea was 8 foot plus, Gerry Lopez was there, they closed the road to Makena. I looked at Lajolla, and the whole South Pacific was one giant storm heading straight up.

After that it's onto to to check the weathermap I don't really know what all of the little numbers mean or the zigg zagg lines, but when somethings going on it's easy to tell.

After that it's onto the swell forecasting sites, I will check these until the day of the waves. I kind of average these all together and try and figure it out.
Pat Caldwell gives you a great report(if you live in Oahu), with storm info, direction of fetch, local conditions, and what to expect.

Surfline would be great except I'm not going to pay for it.

Surf newsnetwork is pretty good, more for Oahu though.

OMaui supposed to be focused on Maui, but they miss it sometimes. Eric does a great job though. The comment board is fun to read sometimes, so much anger...

Swell info's a bit hit and miss.

Then there are the buoys which shouldn't lie but they do too. I will check these on the day of the swell too. With all of this I try to factor in island shadowing, the nuances and moods of different breaks, past experiences with similar swells, and tides.

Last but not least is the webcams, which have saved me a ton of gas, but wasted a ton of time.

After all of this checking, I have to decide which toys to take with me on any give day. Windsurf gear? Always have to have at least the big board and sail. Longboard? 6'0" small wave board? 6'3" everyday shortboard? 7'0" gun? Should I get the tow board and ski ready? North, South, East, West, where am I going? What's my rush anyways, shouldn't I be relaxing on my day off?

I could count all of this time spent as preparation, but the fact is you never know what it's going to be like until you look at it. Until you see it with your own eyes, smell the spray in the air and feel the lumps rolling under you board. Before all of this technology you know how people predicted the weather/swells? By looking at the world around them reading the subtle stories in the clouds, winds, trees, stars, and animals. Sounds like a lot more fun to me. So, maybe I'll just turn off the computer for a month, stuff my fingers in my ears, and not talk to anyone about surf. Anyone want to join me?

I have to put this video up again. The barrel the David Scarb gets should win ride of the year at the XXL awards. When I first looked at it I thought he got towed in, but now I think he actually paddled into that monster.

Cloudbreak September 2010 from Surfing Life on Vimeo.

1 comment:

Chris Freeman said...


Very true, I remember back in the 90s we'd be happy every night because there would always be the chance, now with good forecasting I find that it is too easy to get depressed about the models when there is no wind/wave in sight.

Although this does have to be weighed against the fact that the models make sure we are in the right place at the right time and if it wasn't for them I would have missed a ton of good sessions e.g. at Kahana. Loved the post, hope you get some decent ones soon.