On It, The Movie: Breaking Down Those Epic Sessions


by on

Updated 585d ago

Scouring the world for perfect swells is more than just a pick-and-go mentality. It takes a whole load of planning and a level of second nature logistics only afforded to those whose life has been dedicated to the global score.

Being On It is the embodiment of all the elements aligning – of a deep relationship between pro surfer and expert forecaster, the latter knowing what the former is getting after – all going code red when the swell comes good.

By now, you may have seen On It, if not hit play above. It's the story of Nic Von Rupp and Portugal, of Albee Layer and Jaws, of Brett Barley and some of the best beachbreaks in the world on the States' east coast and of Koa Rothman and life on the North Shore of Oahu.

Behind the scenes, our team of expert forecasters were diligently scouring charts, checking patterns and data, relaying their findings to the inboxes of our four protagonists. And how did we make the call? Here's MSW forecaster Tony Butt breaking down some of the key swells that made the cut into On It and the science behind them.

XXL Fiji May 25-27

© 2020 - Scott Winer

Around the end of May 2018, two pulses of swell in quick succession hit Fiji and produced epic surf. The first pulse came from a low pressure which developed south of New Zealand around May 21. A strong southerly fetch in the Tasman Sea on the western flank of this system persisted for about 24 hours and generated a large southerly swell. It arrived in Fiji during the 25th May with wave heights of 10 feet at 16 secs, producing epic surf through 25th and 26th. So you can bet some of our stars made the call to get over there asap.

South Pacific swell chart for midday on May 24.

South Pacific swell chart for midday on May 24.

The second system was hard on the heels of the first one, with a squeeze of isobars that moved up through the Tasman Sea and pumped a second pulse of swell towards Fiji; this time even larger than the first one. It arrived overnight on the 26th May and continued through the 27th, peaking at 13 feet,18 secs. Winds at Cloudbreak were light to moderate offshores throughout the whole time. And how'd that session go? See HERE.

That Century Swell in Indo Jul 25-30

July 2018 saw a truly exceptional swell hit Indonesia, the biggest people can remember in many years. It pumped for over a week, peaking on the 24th and 25th.

A large low pressure system developed southwest of Madagascar on 17th July and then a second, much bigger system developed on 19th, almost directly south of the first one. This resulted in a southwest fetch hundreds of kilometres long with an area of storm-force winds pointing straight towards Indonesia.

Midday, July 21, that black blob delivering a swell the likes of the world hasn't seen in a few years. Swell chart, HERE.

Midday, July 21, that black blob delivering a swell the likes of the world hasn't seen in a few years. Swell chart, HERE.

A huge, long-period, long-lasting swell arrived in Indonesia a few days later. Early on the 24th, the swell was already around 8 feet at 16 secs, but then it picked up big-time, with periods quickly jumping to 20 secs, and wave heights hitting 15 feet by the end of day. The massive swell persisted through 25th, and then slowly dropped over the next two days. But then it ramped up again between 28th and 29th, peaking at 12 feet and 20 secs before gradually tapering off towards the end of the month. Wind conditions at many spots, such as Uluwatu, remained perfect throughout.

FEATURE: The Indo Century Swell

Hurricane Florence

On August 30 2018 the storm that was to become Hurricane Florence hatched off Cape Verde and began to slowly track westwards. It intensifying for a while around 4th and 5th September but then weakened again. However, it began to deepen again on 10th September, becoming a Category-4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale about 800 miles east of Cape Hatteras. It started to generate significant swell as it continued to move towards the west.

By 12th and 13th, things began to get hectic along the North and South Carolina and Virginia coasts, with strong winds, storm surges and life-threatening conditions as the system made landfall early on 14th. But despite that, Brett Barley was On It, seeking shelter inland and out at sea too. See the vid above for evidence.

Hurricane Florence spinning off the States' east coast.

Hurricane Florence spinning off the States' east coast.

Meanwhile, in Florida, away from the main disaster area, there was some large, clean surf. The first long-period swells started hitting on 12th with wave heights of five or six feet and periods up to 17 secs, then the swell filled in and pumped all day 13th, exceeding six feet at many spots, with light variable winds.

FEATURE: Hurricane Florence