'Why We Surfed Killers Over Maverick's During the Swell of the Decade'

Matt Rode

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Updated 30d ago

During the crazy run of Maverick's swell earlier this month, (yeah, the session where Pete Mel absolutely melted minds) a strike team featuring the likes of Greg Long, Justine Dupont, Jojo Riper, Paige Alms, Tanner Gudauskas and MSW's Matt Rode headed further south to Killers, Todos Santos to seek XXL glory.

When it comes to big wave surfing, there are a few attributes that you need in order to be successful. Most of them are obvious—things like guts, ocean knowledge, and a strong set of arms. But not many people consider the other important ingredient for success in XL conditions; patience.

This day, Todos required a lot of patience, and those who have cultivated that attribute over the years saw their patience pay off. The day started out slow—much slower than expected, considering Mav's was as big as it’s ever been last night, and the nearshore buoys were going ballistic in the pre-dawn hours.

Forecast: Todos Santos

MSW's Matt Rode.

MSW's Matt Rode.

© 2021 - Chris Corona

Greg Long, Paige Alms, Jamie Mitchell, Jojo Roper, Justine Dupont, and Coco Nogales had all made the trek, along with 20 regulars and underground legends, so to say that the expectations for this swell were high is to understate the issue.

For the past few days, statements like “biggest in years” and “swell of the decade” had been bandied about pretty loosely, so when we hit the lineup at 7:00 am and were greeted by a two-hour lull, a lot of chins were scratched and much debate ensued. Was the tide too high? Was the swell late? Shadowed by Cortes Bank? Dampened by some other mysterious factor that haunts the fickle beast known as Killers?

"It was a beautiful day all around with pristine weather, an awesome crew of people and some beautiful waves," said Paige. "The swell was quite inconsistent and a bit smaller than we expected, but there were some insane waves to be had for sure. First Todos experience was a success, so grateful for the opportunity, I’ll definitely be back."

Paige Alms.

Paige Alms.

© 2021 - Chris Corona

Ultimately, patience paid off, as it usually does. By mid-afternoon, when the period had dropped a bit and the tide bottomed out, Todos was pumping. It wasn’t the biggest swell in a decade, but there were certainly a handful of 20-foot sets—and anytime it’s 20 foot and clean, you are scoring.

As usually happens, the most patient amongst the pack were the ones who nabbed the bombs. Jamie Mitchell aced a couple of crazy drops, Paige Alms waited for three hours before riding a top-to-bottom gem, and Greg Long, ever the paragon of patience, waited eight hours for two waves—which, per usual, were the two biggest of the day.

Coco Nogales.

Coco Nogales.

© 2021 - Chris Corona

"That was a very special day for me at Todos," said Tanner Gundang. "I got the call from Greg last minute and he said that him and Paige were heading out there and if I wanted to I could bring my ski I could tag along. I hadn’t gotten to surf with Paige yet and hadn’t seen Greg in a while so I hopped in stoked.

"I would say that my expectations were more coming from that perspective of getting to hang out and enjoy whatever was coming. I could definitely tell in the water that a lot of the crew was underwhelmed with the size and consistency after that day of days at Maverick's, but through the day it felt like everyone ended up getting at least one really fun wave so it all worked out.

Jamie Mitchell.

Jamie Mitchell.

© 2021 - Chris Corona

"The conditions were insane. The colour of the water at Killers is so unique. Was definitely stoked on how the mission worked out, was great to hang with Greg and Paige and enjoy Mex for a couple days too. Crazy how many waves La Nina is giving to us."

This winter, it seems the only time big wave surfers don’t need patience is when waiting for swells. As far as I can figure it, La Nina must be the new El Nino, because the West Coast—and to an extent Hawaii—have been on an absolute tear for the past six weeks.

Swell trains, high pressure, good wind, great weather—and it only takes a quick look at the global forecast to realise there was more on the way too.

“At Killers, the swell peaked in the morning and tapered off very gradually during the day,” said MSW forecaster Tony Butt. “Breaking wave heights were smaller than at Maverick's for two main reasons: Firstly, the storm was northwest of Todos Santos but moving in an easterly direction, which meant that the swell was more tangential, whereas at Maverick's, the swell arrived practically square-on. Secondly, the reef at Killers has a focusing effect which enhances wave heights and becomes more pronounced with long periods, but this effect is less intense than Maverick's.

Greg Long, and, to the right of the frame, MSW's Matt Rode after charging the wave before.

Greg Long, and, to the right of the frame, MSW's Matt Rode after charging the wave before.

© 2021 - Chris Corona

“As far as local conditions were concerned, the same high pressure system that kept the storm away from Maverick's also meant that the swell arrived clean, with no interference from any local short-period swell. In additions, local wind conditions were light and variable most of the day, with light onshores for a short while early afternoon.”