What to Expect This Week at Teahupoo

Chris Hunt

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Updated 1076d ago


With a solid swell expected to arrive today, organisers of the Billabong Pro Tahiti have their hands hovered over the metaphorical big, green button.

In our last update we emphasised the presence of two distinct storms, moving across different regions that should deliver two distinct pulses to Teahupoo at the beginning of this week. Our forecaster, Francisco Silva breaks down the outlook now the waiting period has started:

"After tracking both storms during the weekend and the models showing great agreement with the satellite observations, everything lines up to start the contest today," explains Francisco. "The swell should peak today at 9ft@16secs, dropping a bit tomorrow but receiving a new bump once again next Wednesday. Both swells are already in the water, so the question remains if the wind will continue favourable or if the intensification expected for Wednesday will have impact on the overall conditions. While a relaxation period is expected during the rest of week, as we see the swell slowly ease, a new pulse is expected for next weekend, hopefully still within the contest window."

Event organisers will reconvene at 7.30 a.m. on Monday, August 18 (Tahiti time) to make the next call.

The Tahiti Pro is arguably the most exciting stop on the tour. Competitive surfing in cranking Chopes never fails to entertain, certain swells from the past have become the substance of legend. So with the waiting period looming over us we thought it was about time we had a look at what we can expect to see during the event.

When we look to forecast Teahupoo, we mainly focus on the position of a long wave trough and it's steering mechanism for southern Pacific storms. This upper atmospheric wave rotates around the Southern Hemisphere bringing upper cold air to the North in a wavelike pattern. In combination with a High Pressure System sitting ahead of the Trough, bringing moist and warm air from NW, this can create Extratropical winter storms.

The Tahiti Pro waiting period starts on the 15th of August, so what can expect to see during the event?

  • This Wednesday should see a new swell arrive, creating small but fun conditions for the beginning of the competition. At this stage we are expecting waves in the 4-5ft range for Friday and 3-4ft for Saturday.

  • On Sunday the forerunners of a new pulse are expected to arrive late afternoon and should peak on Monday. This swell, generated by a storm moving along the coast of New Zealand will have a stronger West component in it (220º) and should arrive in the 7-8ft range with a 15-16sec period, easing slowly through the week. The wind will continue gentle as moderate and offshore.

  • Next Wednesday we should see a new bump on the charts. This time a storm moving much closer to the Arctic Ice Cap should be responsible for sending a new pulse that should keep the reef active until the weekend. Expect the peak of this swell during Wednesday/Thursday, in the 7-8ft range, from SSW (210º). The wind will continue to blow with low intensity but there is now a high probability that a shift in direction will occur.

Bearing that in mind, It looks as though we can expect great conditions for competition, but probably not another 'Code Red' swell for Tahiti. Our forecaster Stefan Brunhuber breaks it down further.

"The pattern looks similar to the 'Blood in the Water' swell we saw in 2013, but the fetch area is too narrow to produce a big swell like it did in 2013. This is due to a weaker pressure gradient than in years previous. Another issue is that the storm is located too much to the west, so that the swell is not heading in the optimal direction (215-220°) for Teahupoo. The swell arriving in the middle of next week is due to a short living low pressure system, located more to the SW than the first pulse, but unfortunately it isn't producing a long lasting fetch area. What could be interesting is the fact that a high pressure system could form in the path of the storm, redirecting the long period swell produced near Antarctica towards Teahupoo. That won't follow an optimal path but should still be enough to be pumping."

You can compare how the chart looks for this year's event to how it did during the 'Code Red' and 'Blood in the Water' swells, below.

Code Red Pattern – 27th Aug 2011

  • Forming of an extraordinarily intense storm SE of New Zealand, closer to Antarctica

  • High pressure system blocking letting swell travel unaffected towards Tahiti

  • Perfect swell direction and really intense and big fetch area

'Blood in the Water' Pattern – 13th May 2013

  • Strong amplification of the Long Wave Trough East of NZ producing a storm close to NZ

  • Fetch area not as big and strong as with code Red but sending all of its energy to Teahupoo

  • Pumping waves on the perfect path (200°)

Chris Hunt

Writer and Content Manager at MSW