How it Happened: Biggest UK Session Ever?

Magicseaweed

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Updated 25d ago

This UK swell was particularly special given the combo of XL swell and favourable wind. Right here, take a look back at how the forecast unfolded in the days running up to this session.

Update: Monday Feb 1 (9am): The second pulse of swell that we have been forecasting is arriving as we speak. As of around 6am the westernmost exposures are already showing wave heights of over 15 feet with periods of over 20 secs. Throughout the day, the swell is expected to fill in, with wave heights peaking and periods gradually dropping. The area receiving the biggest swell with reasonable conditions is southwest Ireland, with exposed reefs hitting 20 feet by midday, and moderate and shifty winds mostly from a southerly quarter.

Further north, around the Mullaghmore area, winds are more predictable, with moderate easterlies all day, and wave heights around ten feet or so, perhaps bigger at west and southwest exposures. In Cornwall, Wales and northwest France, wave heights pick up to ten feet or more by midday, perhaps bigger at exposed reefs, with incredibly long periods and moderate winds from a southerly quarter. Areas further south such as Biscay, Galicia and Portugal will suffer from strong cross or onshore winds today, with conditions improving tomorrow as the swell ramps down.

Earlier: Friday Jan 29: It's looking like this thing is on. Today’s chart shows the first system just north of the Azores, already generating open-ocean wave heights of 20 feet or so, and the second system hard on its heels, just about to deepen explosively. The swells from these systems is now unstoppable. However, as stated yesterday, the local wind conditions are still very difficult to predict and depend heavily on the exact trajectory of the centre of the low.

Current forecasts show the first system arriving in the Celtic Sea on Saturday, then diving south into France on Sunday, which will produce winds from an easterly quarter in mid areas such as Cornwall, Wales and southwest Ireland. The second system arrives slightly further north, hitting southwest Ireland late Sunday and then also turning south, passing over Cornwall and into the English Channel on Monday. The jury is still out for this one, but the models are currently suggesting that winds could be light and variable for a time during the first part of Monday, but then expected to revert to a westerly flow later as a third system approaches from the west.

In summary, the biggest waves with the cleanest conditions are, at the moment, expected to be in southwest Ireland on Monday morning, with incredibly long periods of well over 20 secs at first; wave heights ramping up to 20 feet or so at exposed reefs, and light winds from an easterly quarter.

Earlier: Thursday Jan 28: Move over Jaws and Mav's. The North Atlantic is ramping up, and Europe is about to be devoured by two crazy runs of swell. And we've got the skinny on how it's all going to play out.

In fact, if you're looking at those charts and thinking 'huh, Nazare?' We wouldn't blame you. The swell pouring in looks similar to that of a few years ago – November 2018, to be precise, when colossal numbers started to blip on the radar. But the swell direction wasn't suited to hit the deep water canyon that helps feed Portugal's hyper wave. And although surfing is officially back on the cards at Nazare, it’s unclear whether people will be allowed to tow surf, which will fall under the jurisdiction of the maritime authorities. So for now, all we can do is speculate about what could be.

Stuck at home? Shielding? We got you. Watch XXL Nazare from the comfort of your home on our live cam HERE.

You see the swell direction? It's the arrow to the right of the period indicator (21s). The swell is coming from 292 degrees but for Nazare to properly do its awesome Nazare things, it needs to have much more of a north angle in it.

You see the swell direction? It's the arrow to the right of the period indicator (21s). The swell is coming from 292 degrees but for Nazare to properly do its awesome Nazare things, it needs to have much more of a north angle in it.

And even if surfing is given the go ahead at Nazare we’d ideally like to see more north in the swell. But that doesn't mean there won't be waves, we just don't expect those classic Nazare tee-pees that really get our juices going – or at least, that's how it's looking at the moment. Further afield though, and there's some gold to be mined.

Below, you'll see our at-a-glance chart for Newquay's Cribbar on Monday, a fickle, big wave spot in England. It is a rarity that the elements align so well and certainly not every winter we see a huge swell coupled with ideal wind. There's still a few days to go yet, so this could change, but right now it is looking mighty impressive. Again, though, this is for locals only - as current UK government restrictions prohibit travel outside your area.

We'll let MSW forecaster Tony Butt take it away. "This winter so far in the North Atlantic has seen a lot of low pressures deepening off the eastern seaboard of North America, tracking from southwest to northeast, and generating swells that have been too west for a lot of places. The next two systems are no exception.

"The first, currently west of the Azores, is forecast to track northeast and deepen over the next 48 hours, and is expected to hit southwest Ireland by Saturday. A large, short-lived pulse of swell will hit west and southwest exposures in mid areas, while strong winds and stormy conditions will probably be experienced in Biscay and further south.

"The second system is beginning to develop south of Nova Scotia as we speak, and is forecast to deepen explosively, with a large area of storm-force southwest winds and open-ocean wave heights of well over 40 feet west of the Azores by Saturday. It will generate very long period west and southwest swells that are expected to arrive at westernmost exposures by early Monday. The bulk of the swell will probably hit southwest exposures in mid areas.

We're expecting Nazare to look a little something like this.

"The local wind conditions at each spot will be very sensitive to the exact position of the first system as it arrives on Saturday – a few miles north of south will make all the difference. At the moment, the models are suggesting clean conditions with moderate winds from an easterly quarter in mid areas such as southwest Ireland and Cornwall. Here, the swell picks up from Saturday afternoon onwards and continues into Sunday. Wave heights at exposed spots could reach 15 feet, with periods up to 18 secs at the beginning of the swell.

As you can see, the first system is due to hit on the weekend, this chart is taken from Saturday. Then, it's meatier brother or sister is right behind, likely to move over an already pre-cooked sea state and unleash on Monday.

As you can see, the first system is due to hit on the weekend, this chart is taken from Saturday. Then, it's meatier brother or sister is right behind, likely to move over an already pre-cooked sea state and unleash on Monday.

"The second system weakens and veers north, but frontal systems will still affect some local areas around the same time as the swell arrives. In the far north, at spots around the Mullaghmore area, wave heights pick up early Monday from the west-southwest, with periods initially exceeding 20 secs, and wave heights ramping up to ten feet or so at westerly exposures by afternoon. Local wind conditions are looking good, with light southerlies. The swell will struggle to get into north-facing spots.

"In southwest Ireland, expect wave heights up to 20 feet by Monday afternoon, with super-long periods, but most places will be hampered by strong southwest winds. It is a similar story in Cornwall, with a really lined-up swell, periods of over 20 secs, but fresh to strong west or southwest winds.

Perhaps it'll be a little overpowering for Mundaka, but that hasn't stopped the Basque Country's finest warriors before.

"The west swell filters into Biscay, expected to pick up up late Monday and continue into Tuesday, with wave heights up to eight or ten feet at the most exposed reefs, and the possibility of light or moderate winds from a southerly quarter.

Finally, at Nazaré, even though wave heights will exceed 20 feet, the swell is too west for all-time A-frame peaks (see HERE for how Nazare works), plus Monday is expected to see onshore winds from a westerly quarter."

Be sure to keep an eye on the North Atlantic chart as these storms develop, here.