Offshore Winds + Solid West Swell = Golden State

by on January 27, 2015 · 0 comments

in California, Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach

surf high 1-23-11 jg 03-ed

Surf at OB – Jan 23, 2011.

From Black’s to Bolsa Chica, Ocean Beach to Ocean Beach, this past weekend saw all-day offshores fanning the NW swell

From Surfline

Millions of waves are breaking all over the planet right now. Spin the globe, and where sea meets land, there’s a good chance there is some kind of breaking wave.

But the number of ingredients that have to come together to create great surf is shockingly high. Storm strength, distance and movement. Offshore bathymetry. Swell direction. Beach orientation. There needs to be some kind of reef, point or curvy beachbreak. Local winds. Tides. Etc. The list is nuanced and many.

And rarely does everything line up at a specific surf spot. Rarer still for everything to line up for miles and miles of beaches up and down the state. A few times a year things align just so, usually in the fall or winter, and when they do, West Coast surfers are reminded why they’re West Coast surfers.

Hint: it’s all in the wind. Offshore winds are the most democratizing of conditions, creating viable surfing real estate at almost any beach with a breaking wave. Offshore winds can turn the crappy, dribbly closeout at the end of your street into a diamond-studded, rainbow-filled kaleidoscope of fun. Add a solid, long-period NW swell and sunny skies over a Saturday and Sunday, and all of a sudden being a weekend warrior ain’t so bad.

From Black’s to Bolsa Chica, Ocean Beach to Ocean Beach, this past weekend saw all-day offshores fanning the NW swell that had already inflicted most of its damage on Hawaii earlier in the week and was as groomed as one could ask for. All of which meant one thing: more tubes were ridden in a 48-hour period in California than in the last couple months combined.

We asked Kevin Wallis to break down the magic. “The long-period, west-northwest swell that slammed California this past weekend was the result of a strong, broad storm that developed off Japan over the Martin Luther King weekend,” he said. “At its strongest, this storm produced satellite confirmed wind of 40-55 knots over a large fetch and seas of 40-50 feet, well aimed at the US West Coast.”

Wallis continues: “Very long period forerunners (20-22 seconds+) were building throughout the day on Friday the 23rd, although the majority of spots experienced a peak in surf sometime on Saturday the 24th. Due to the great distance the swell had to travel — the storm was strongest 2500-3000 miles away — the region’s big wave spots saw some occasional good waves, but with lots of lulls. The ‘normal’ spots, however, were able to funnel this long period swell into some magic moments.

“And it wasn’t solely the swell that was responsible for the magic. Wind and weather conditions were pristine over the weekend as strong high pressure moved over the Western US. This set up offshore wind — ranging from light+ to howling depending on where you were — and hot, sunny skies. Many coastal areas saw temps well into the 70s and a few areas even pushed into the 80s. Not bad for late January.”

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