For the past week and a half, the North Pacific has been going into meltdown. We don't just mean it's been crazy good, we mean, it's been one of the longest, most sustained run of swells seen for the like of Hawaii and California – only now are we able to come up for air and bring you the best of the past 10 days of insanity – and the best thing? It's not over yet.
Pretty much all of the western seaboard has been going bananas since December 30. From Pipe to Maverick's and just about all along that western stretch has been sent into overdrive thanks to this unprecedented run of swell. In fact, for the entirety of 2021, those series of swells have been rifling into California, a couple of days ago, Maverick's erupted again with some of the best names in heavy water slaying taking a swing at the behemoth.
Today, the buoy situated around 690 miles off the coast of Eureka, California (the SE PAPA buoy, to be precise) registered the swell at 22 feet at 17 seconds in the afternoon, a huge, XL chunk of ocean steaming straight towards the coastline which is due to arrive over the weekend and beyond.
California's Ocean Beach, which typically can hold up during significant swell events, had been too unruly to even attempt to paddle out over the past few days. Reels of whitewater rifling into shore, with waves either crashing just out of reach, or, beyond the realm of reasonable possibility.
Even earlier than last week, Pipe got into the swing of things as Hawaii was blessed with the first run of swell filtering to shore from the end of December, before it swept into the US. MSW forecaster Tony Butt breaks it all down: "The atmospheric patterns that bring us surf are highly complex and non-linear. They full of feedback loops, tipping points and cycles within cycles, which is why they are so fascinating but difficult to predict. These patterns can become locked into a kind of self-perpetuating state, lasting several days, weeks or even months; before suddenly flipping into a different state. In the North Atlantic, this has been studied more than anywhere else, and is known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (article HERE).
"The North Atlantic can become locked a ‘fluid’ phase, with a strong north-south difference in pressure and temperature, a strong, meanderless jetstream and a constant stream of low pressures. Or it can become locked into a ‘blocking’ phase, with a giant high pressure sitting there blocking the formation of any lows. For most of us, what we want is a fluid phase.
"The North Pacific behaves in a similar way. Over the last few weeks, the North Pacific has been in an extreme fluid phase. The jetstream has sometimes been running straight across from one side to the other, with a strong north-south pressure gradient across the entire North Pacific. This is fairly unusual due to the fact that the North Pacific is much wider than the North Atlantic, and you would normally get some east-west variation.
"As a result, big lows have been forming way over to the west – typically between northern Japan, Kamchatka and the western Aleutians – and tracking eastwards almost uninhibited towards western Canada. In addition, smaller but really intense lows have formed on the southern periphery of the ‘mother system’ and deepened rapidly as they have tracked eastwards, generating huge pulses of long-period swell."
But one thing we know for sure, is this is not over. Sunday could see a colossal day for Maverick's, favourable winds and a swell rocketing in at 12.5ft@20 seconds. That's a feature you're not going to want to miss. We'll be updating this piece as more comes in before the huge Sunday session, so keep it locked right here for the latest.