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What Really Happened? Breaking Down the Storm

by on Tuesday 7th January, 2014   62057 Visits   Comments

For the vast majority, Monday was a day for gawking at buoy measurements and seeking out shelter. Much of Europe’s West Coast was ravaged by wind and an excess of swell, funnelling wave riders toward those coastal crannies reserved for exceptional occasions.

This swell has been hyped, our charts splashed across the front pages of papers, news teams were lining up to talk “monster waves”. And make no mistake, this was a big swell. But then again the Atlantic gets a lot of huge swells during the winter. A black hearted swell chart looming over Europe was enough to get the touch paper sparking and the editor even had the personal joy of seeing MSW charts lined-up next to pictures of his house sitting 3ft under the flood water.

You get the picture, people were interested in this storm as it affected them, the weather was making its presence felt in a series of intense lows which had marched across the Atlantic one-after-another for what seemed like weeks. Saving the biggest for last, Hercules arrived and tired hacks, sea defences and sodden riverbanks gave into the force of the water.

In the Bay of Biscay the wave buoy peaked in a range about 10% larger than anything in the past 6 years of archival records we keep here – the downside for surfers looking to get the very best of this at big wave spots like Belharra was that, as predicted, the swell peaked overnight.Ben Freeston

“This storm was huge, but the North Atlantic expects huge storms in winter, as such the story for surfers was more of subtle differences with recent years than an out and out record breaker.” Says forecaster Ben Freeston “For Mullaghmore the swell ranked as relatively normal – given the frequency with which the largest swells arrive head-on here the southerly side swipe from this one hit the nearest wave buoys in a range that’s seen 3 to 4 times (or more) in an average year. However this same southerly path for the storm pushed it into the short term record books for other European locations. In the Bay of Biscay the wave buoy peaked in a range about 10% larger than anything in the past 6 years of archival records we keep here – the downside for surfers looking to get the very best of this at big wave spots like Belharra was that, as predicted, the swell peaked overnight and by the time daylight and tide conspired to make it surfable it was impressive but back into a more typical range seen on the largest swells previously.

“The direction and particularly long period of this swell made it an impressive candidate for the largest in English and Welsh waters in recent years with the swell wrapping into less accessible Channel Coast locations with readings in the 12ft@25 seconds range – although regrettably extremely strong winds and a lack of locations handling this power directly meant surfing was largely confined to smaller waves at sheltered spots.

Portugal saw swell in the 40ft range at peak, but with a tricky southerly wind which made surfing impossible at Nazare. The real story of quality and quantity will evolve further south still as this huge swell hits the point breaks of Morocco with good local winds and a contingent of world class surfers on hand to make the most of it.”

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