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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Big WNW Swell - 3 Days

The much hyped extra large WNW swell made landfall early Tuesday morning, starting at 20 second periods and peaking at 22 seconds. Deep water swells that carry that much energy are amazing to see, and we haven't seen one in a while. Besides being big, the hallmark of this swell was relatively poor wind conditions. Only several periods of time early in the morning and just before dark made for excellent surfing in more favorable winds.

I couldn't surf early for two reasons. One "other" imposed, one self imposed. First, I had a commitment first thing in the morning I couldn't cancel. Second, at daylight it was 29 degrees. Being secretly glad that I didn't have to paddle out in the icicles, I headed to the beach late, arriving about 11 o'clock. By then things were definitely out of control, made so by a steady southeast wind that hacked the sea surface into a bumpy, choppy mess, and a growing swell that was by anyone's standards, humongous! I watched sets break at outside reefs I didn't even know existed.

All the spots I usually surf were empty except for a very few surfers, who were not getting any waves. The smaller spots down reef had folks out, but it was messy to say the least. I took some pics and packed it in, hoping for better surf on Wednesday. Eric told me that a couple of pros went out at Sarges around 4PM, but even they weren't getting many. It was just too big to surf.

OK, this was my fault all the way. I elected to (again) avoid the 29 degree morning temps in favor of a better tide around 1030. Weather reports were calling for northeast or easterly winds so I gambled that conditions would be much improved. Long story short, they weren't. When I arrived to check at Sarges, a nasty southeasterly was on it that made Tuesday's winds look mild by comparison. There were about 15 people out, and almost all at once there was a mass exit from the line-up. The departing surfers looked almost stunned. They said the wind came up so fast, one minute it was glassy, the next minute it was lumpy and full of crumbling sections. Rats, skunked again!

Dawn patrol was the time, and perhaps the best waves of the swell, as the early risers were treated to line after line of head high to overhead waves in almost perfect conditions. Thanks to Dr. Herby (Whole Story Coaching) for the great pics of Angulo reps Whitty and Dave.

Now I'm bummed. The phrase "you really missed it" is playing over and over again in my mind. The only thing left was to come back later in the evening and hope for the wind to slacken, which I did.

At 3:15PM Sarges didn't look all that great. The tide was up and the wind, although lighter, was still out of the southeast. SUP surfing was out. Fortunately I brought my Coffey 6-10 so I went to check GDubs and Scimi's from the overlook. Scimi's looked very decent. The kelp was holding the wind off, and it was almost glassy with just a light wind rippling on the surface. Only three out at GDubs so I suited up in full attire (it was still cold) and headed for GDubs...the crowd was right. Unfortunately the waves weren't very good. With big sections folding over from the main takeoff to seven or eight spots all along the reef. Take-off, turn, kick out. I only got a couple that had surfable walls for any distance. But of those, the rides were long. Scimi's on the other hand was off the hook!

While the swell direction, or the lack of sand or whatever was making GDubs dump, Scimi's was about as good as it ever gets, which in my opinion is world class. The crowd was on it, but what a show! Of the thirty or so in the line-up, I guessed that 10 to 20 were pros, semi-pros or sponsored and they were ripping to the max. It looked like a professional surf contest. Rides from the main peak to past inside GDubs were routine. Throwing spray, tail slides, air, floaters, power surfing through pitching was all there.

Needless to say I opted for actually catching some not very good waves, over sitting in the higher powered line-up and not getting any waves. Sometimes one just has to yield to reality.

I paddled in as dusk was fading and finished changing out in the dark, with a brisk and cold offshore blowing out to sea. I didn't feel so bad now, maybe it wasn't great waves, but I got some and didn't get skunked.
December 9, 2009 (W)
In: 1545
Out: 1720
AT= 50-47F
WT= 53F
Wx: High partial cloud cover
Tide: 3.63' Rising to 3.62 Falling
Wind: East and north easterlies moderate to calm
Sea Surface: Glassy in the kelp to light wind ripples
6-10 Ward Coffey EPS (Marko Styrolite)/Epoxy Custom
Fin set-up: Tri-fin with Rainbow Speedwing sides and Arakawa center.
Bathymetry: Rock reefs
Deep Water Swell and Wave Face Heights CDIP Archive
Time-NDBC Data-CDIP Data (Primary Swell Dir.)(Local Wave Ht. Avg.)
1500: (7.2 ft. @ 17 sec. 280 degrees) (5-8 ft. faces)
1600: (6.6 ft. @ 17 sec. 285 degrees) (5-8 ft. faces)
1700: (7.4 ft. @ 17 sec. 285 degrees) (5-8 ft. faces)
1800: (6.8 ft. @ 17 sec. 280 degrees) (5-8 ft. faces)
1900: (5.7 ft. @ 17 sec. 280 degrees) (5-8 ft. faces)

By this time the swell was starting to fade and the tide was even higher in the morning. It didn't look all that great on the cams, even though the numbers on the buoys were still good. So I held off and arrived beachside abound 9:30A. The SUP was on top of the car, inside, the 6-10. Once again the southeasterlies were on it, but not as bad as yesterday. It looked manageable if the swell was still with us.

I needed new gloves so headed to Freeline to get the ones James recommended. Of course they were out of my size, duh! It's been cold, think anyone else got gloves? The answer was obvious. So much for planning ahead. So I headed to the point for coffee and to check it. It's usually bigger up reef and today was no exception. I parked my butt on one of the benches overlooking the biggest peaks and witnessed a nice series of waves rolling through both of the biggest peaks. It also didn't take long to see that one of the down reef peaks was putting up some nice one out on it. That sealed the deal.

I headed back to the car, locked the SUP onto the racks, suited up in all the goodies (wetsuit, gloves, booties, fleece rashie and heated vest), grabbed the 6-10 and paddled out at Tres Eights, headed for that empty peak up coast. One thing for sure, at a popular surf spot, it doesn't take long for something decent to go unnoticed. By the time I got there, four other surfers were on it. No matter, there was plenty for all.

The waves were smaller and less consistent that the more crowded main peaks, but consistent enough so that sets dished up 4-6 waves. Even though the peak moved all over the place, long rides on jacked up walls were the norm. Conditions weren't optimal, but if they had been, there probably would have been another 20 people on it. The swell was moving a lot of water, especially at the lower tide. There was backwash bump coming one way, and wind bump from the other way. A light wind ripple was on the surface, but once again the kelp kept the whitecaps off the surface. Two hours of good waves was enough for me, and now I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I scored enough fun waves in decent surf to feel like I'd gotten a piece of this swell, the largest of 2009.

Mavs was big enough to be contestable, but the contestants canceled because of the poor conditions. (This proved true at most NorCal locations.) Their thinking was that the season has been so good so far, that there will be another swell. I say, bring it on.

It started raining late this afternoon and is supposed to continue on and off through the weekend. This swell will be gone by then too.
December 10, 2009 (Th)
In: 1100
Out: 1310
AT= 50-53F
WT= 53F
Wx: Cloud cover with light showers
Tide: 1.4' Falling to 1.01, then Rising to 1.5
Wind: Light to moderate east/north easterlies
Sea Surface: Moderate wind ripples with side chop and backwash
6-10 Ward Coffey EPS (Marko Styrolite)/Epoxy Custom
Fin set-up: Tri-fin with Rainbow Speedwing sides and Arakawa center.
Bathymetry: Rock reefs
Deep Water Swell and Wave Face Heights CDIP Archive
Time-NDBC Data-CDIP Data (Primary Swell Dir.)(Local Wave Ht. Avg.)
1000: (6.3 ft. @ 14 sec. 265 degrees) (3-6 ft. faces)
1100: (6.3 ft. @ 14 sec. 280 degrees) (3-6 ft. faces)
1200: (6.8 ft. @ 14 sec. 275 degrees) (3-6 ft. faces)
1300: (no data) (3-6 ft. faces)
1400: (6.1 ft. @ 17 sec. 285 degrees) (3-6 ft. faces)
1500: (5.9 ft. @ 14 sec. 285 degrees) (3-6 ft. faces)

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