G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NW Swell Backing Down; Still Pretty Big

What a difference location makes. I surfed a two hour session this morning at the lower reefs in head high to double O peelers. Meanwhile, up at the west end it was booming at up to triple O with 12-15 wave sets that spread white water all over the half mile playing field.

Actually, surf and conditions were a lot like yesterday. I left the SUP at home and grabbed the 6-10 Power Biscuit with the quad set-up again. I had so much fun with it yesterday I wanted to keep the good times rolling. Parked in the big lot at the end of the avenue, arriving earlier today than yesterday. I didn't want to miss any daylight as I knew it would be overly populific again this Sunday. Still, even though I paddled out at 0625, there was plenty of light. I could have gone 10 minutes earlier.

Waiting for a paddle out lull, I watched Kirk rip by on his little black sled. If he surfed any faster he'd get friction burn. He knows how to get every bit of speed out of that line. One of the funnest guys to watch surf anywhere.

I started at GDubs, caught a couple, then shifted down to Casa Roja. Caught a few there, mostly there...then down to Sarges for a couple, back to Casa Roja and out. My hands were really cold today. Couldn't get the fingers to stay together after about an hour and a half.

The swell is slowly backing down. It's amazing how much swell angle factors into wave size and energy. Up reef it was big and burly, down reef much, much smaller and more manageable. Another good day of surfing, even if the crowd is thick as fleas on a dog's belly.

November 8, 2009 (Su)
In: 0624
Out: 0815
AT= 46-49F
WT= 57F
Wx: Mostly cloudy with high cloud cover
Tide: 3.5' Falling to 3.2
Wind: Moderate offshores
Sea Surface: Glassy in the kelp to light wind ripples
6-10 Ward Coffey EPS (Marko Styrolite)/Epoxy Custom
Fin set-up: Quad with Rainbow Speedwing fronts and SB1 rear.
Bathymetry: Rock reefs
Deep Water Swell and Wave Face Heights CDIP Archive
Buoy: NWS (Farshore #1-Nearshore-Farshore #2)
Time-NDBC Data-CDIP Data (Primary Swell Dir.)(Local Wave Ht. Avg.)
0600: 15.4 feet @ 17.4 NW - 6.6 feet @ 13.3 WNW (no data) (3-8 ft. faces)
0700: 14.1 feet @ 16 WNW - 6.2 feet @ 12.5 WNW (310) (3-8 ft. faces)
0800: 15.7 feet @ 16 WNW - 5.9 feet @ 12.5 WNW (no data) (3-8 ft. faces)
1100: 14.4 feet @ 16 WNW - 6.6 feet @ 16.7 W (310) (3-8 ft. faces)
1200: 13.8 feet @ 16 NW - 6.2 feet @ 12.5 WNW (300) (3-8 ft. faces)


  1. Gary what's the situation for paddling out at the spots you mention in this post, when the surf gets this big?


  2. Richard,

    In my opinion, when the surf gets this big, the situation gets hazardous, and the risk factor for injury or even death goes way up.

    Case in point, a well known surfboard shaper, and experienced surfer broke his back when a giant set wave flipped him over backwards and drove him 20 feet down on the reef over the weekend. And this happened at the lower reefs where the surf was smaller than the west end of the zone.

    The hammering was witnessed by a woman surfer who was also a doctor, and who came to this guy's rescue. She managed to get him back to the shoreline and the nearest exit point which happened to be a little pocket beach with a horrific shore pound that ran up into a cement retaining wall and small rock bowl with a ledge above it.

    As they were leaving the water a wave caught them both and threw them up against the wall. The doctor was shaken up, and the surfer is said to have suffered additional injuries.

    Surfing in these conditions requires what I call, your "big wave brain." This ain't Kansas anymore Dorothy so don't expect your daily surf to be anything like it usually is.

    If one is going to surf in big waves one must absolutely know their own limits and abilities. Forget macho. The question should be, "Am I going to have fun out there?" If not, don't go. Even then, shit happens, and no one is exempt from the possibility.

  3. Wow, that is a pretty sobering story. The biggest waves I've surfed were in Mexico at a little village called Ticla, probably about 2 feet overhead, and that seemed plenty powerful to me.

    Anyway, I was more asking about the actual paddling out from shore. For instance, in Ticla you just had to try and time your paddle out between sets. That biggest day I was lucky enough to get the timing right and plenty of better surfers than me never even made it outside.

    Is making it outside at these spots just a matter of timing it right or something else?

    Thanks again for all info you supply in these blog posts.

  4. Richard,

    I've never been to Ticla so I read up on it a little on the net. From what I understand it's a right point break, but it sounds like there's peaks up and down the beach. Generally, the following is true.

    Point or reef breaks almost always have a channel nearby that has less surf, or smaller surf than the main break. So usually, it is easier to paddle out at a point or reef, by simply paddling around the wave and through the calmer channel. Beach breaks though, are a different story.

    Beach break waves are formed by underwater sand bars that create those peeling waves that we like to see. They can be lefts, rights, or lefts and rights from an "A-frame" peak. but because nature doesn't usually send us waves mechanized to break exactly the same way every time, beach break waves usually shift around. Therefore, rarely are there distinct channels. (Although it does happen sometimes.)

    Without areas of calm ocean to paddle through, a surfer is forced to paddled through breaking waves that can be quite powerful. The bigger the waves, the more difficult the paddle. Since ground swell waves will come in "sets," there is almost always a lull, or quiet period of time when the breaking waves are smaller. This is when you want to paddle out. So "timing" your paddle out is the way to go. Being caught inside or caught by a big set while paddling out can be a real grind. That's where fitness and all your water skills come into play.

    Again, the bigger the surf the more skilled and fit a surfer should be. Otherwise it can get just plain dangerous.

  5. Thanks again for the info.