SWELL ALERT: Euro Blitz?

Tony Butt

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Updated 282d ago

A big, raw swell is heading towards southwest and west-facing spots in Europe, but it’s going to be tricky being in the right place at the right time.

At the moment the chart is showing a fast-developing low around the Azores area, tracking towards the Celtic Sea, with strong fetches on its southern and southeast flanks. The system is expected just west of Biscay by sometime late Saturday; it then continues to track north-eastwards, expected over central England by Monday.

Forecast chart for midnight Saturday March 10. The exact trajectory of the low during the following 24 hours could mean the difference between unsurfable conditions or one of the best days of the year.

Forecast chart for midnight Saturday March 10. The exact trajectory of the low during the following 24 hours could mean the difference between unsurfable conditions or one of the best days of the year.

A massive, ragged west swell will hit Portugal, Galicia and northwest France, but severely hampered by onshore winds in most places. A large and short-lived southwest swell is also forecast to hit southwest England, Wales and southern Ireland. Here, there is a possibility of good wind conditions, at least somewhere. With a bit of luck.

In situations like this, any relatively small change in the trajectory of the low can make all the difference to the local wind conditions that coincide with the swell when it hits. A variation of than a hundred miles east or west could mean either light offshores or gale-force onshores, depending on where you are.

Keeping an eye on the ‘probability’ parameter in the MSW forecasts is helpful. For example, at the time of writing (midday Thursday) the models are showing poor wind conditions for when the swell hits southwest Cornwall. But the confidence levels are still down around 60 per cent. In fact, they are only near 100 per cent for the next 24 hours.

Ideally, with such a touch-and-go situation, you can’t afford to be doing something else when the swell hits – you need to be right there, waiting, with your fingers crossed.