Tagged: waimea bay

24 Months of Swell Power – Dana Point vs. Waimea Bay

“You should’ve been here yesterday!” We’ve all heard it, and hopefully you’ve had the luxury of saying it, but how do you actually quantify the conditions at your local break? One of the advantages of recording the observational swell data provided by ocean buoys is that it allows us to reference historical reports and plot them over time as well as location.

Having recently moved to Los Angeles from Hawaii, I’m still getting a feel for the region and how swell energy impacts the coast. Compared to my experiences on the North Shore of O‘ahu, the waves in Southern California tend to come off a bit soft. But how soft? How do you measure the relative strength of the two regions?

To satisfy my curiosity I’ve built a monthly wave power almanac, which displays the maximum wave power per month, as well as the average. The background color indicates scale, with white being the least powerful and deep purple being the most powerful. The two stations I’ve chosen to look at are Dana Point in California and Waimea Bay in Hawaii. Let’s begin with the Dana Point buoy.

Dana Point, California - Primary Swell Power (April 2012 - May 2010)

The first month that stands out is September 2011, it’s the lone green block with a maximum of 48. Guess what swell that was (unsure?). While it wasn’t nearly as deadly by the time it crossed the Pacific, the “Code Red” monster from Tahiti is still the most powerful event on the buoy over the past 24 months. April 2012 is actually the second most powerful at 37, likely as a result of the large NW swell that pushed through at the beginning of the month.

Aside from those two, no other month surpasses 30, although there are a few high 20s. The least powerful month was October 2010, which recorded a measly maximum of 8. As we move on to the Waimea Bay buoy, things starts to get a bit more colorful.

Waimea Bay, Hawaii - Primary Swell Power (April 2012 - May 2010)

Let’s start off with July 2011. It had a maximum wave power of 2. Why do you think everyone jumps on their stand-ups and paddleboards on the North Shore during the summer? There’s literally nothing to surf.

It’s an entirely different ocean just six months earlier. January 2011 packs the most mana, with a recorded maximum wave power of 218. That’s over four times more powerful than anything recorded by the Dana Point buoy in the last 24 months. In fact, the average wave power during that month was 30! Definitely a stellar month, as well as a stellar 2010-2011 season for Hawaii.

You’ll also notice that with the Pipe Masters running in December, the ASP has kinda been missing out these last two years. January and February of both 2011 and 2012 have been about twice as powerful as December. Both the Backdoor Shootout and the Volcom Pipe Pro scored ridiculous surf this past year, with the latter actually stopping competition because Pipeline got too big.

Having access to data like this helps put things into perspective and identify those truly special “should’ve been there” moments. It also provides a frame of reference for future conditions, when similar calculations are applied to forecast models. Of course there are plenty of other factors that can influence the quality of the surf, but if the power is there, there’s potential.

Hawaii Southern California/

Brian Wise hooks up with an absolute bomb at the Bay on March 15, 2011. A Northwest swell peaked on

Brian Wise hooks up with an absolute bomb at the Bay on March 15, 2011. A Northwest swell peaked on @buoy51201 that morning at 13-feet at 18-seconds, producing the best Waimea shorebreak of the entire 2010-2011 Hawaii season. Word is Dubb got a mental drop-knee wave too… any photos out there?

Photo by Andrew Rams


Hawaii – Solid Northwest Swell Next Thursday

The latest Waimea Bay forecast is showing a solid double-overhead swell building late Wednesday (3/30) into Thursday (3/31). The forecast is on the latter edge of the model range (and therefore subject to change), so be sure to keep an eye on it to see how the swell develops over the next few days.

— Friday Update —

Swell is still holding strong at 9.5 feet at 15.3 seconds (315°), a solid amount of energy for the end of March, and it falls within the Pipeline Women’s Pro holding period. Go ladies!


Hawaii Forecast – Fading NW & NE Wind Swell

Northern shores are continuing to see Northwest action from Sunday’s swell, with swell periods lingering in the 13-second range. The Waimea Bay buoy reported swell conditions of 3.9 feet at 13.3 seconds at 9:12 a.m. HST. Conditions are a bit windy at the moment, but head-high to overhead sets can be expected today on the North Shore.

A small Northwest reinforcement is forecast for Thursday, peaking overnight before fading into the weekend. Thursday will also see a slight bump from the Northeast, as short-period wind swell energy peaks at 6.2 feet at 8.7 seconds (44°). Expect wave heights similar to Wednesday, with continued strong Northeast winds.

Both swell components decline into the weekend, as the Northwest swell slowly fades through Saturday, and the wind swell energy eases as Northeast winds begin to back off. The strong wind pattern that we’ve been experiencing eases over the weekend, with light-to-moderate Northeast winds forecast for Monday through Wednesday. Not much surf to be had over the weekend, with the best bet for any size being early Saturday morning.

No substantial swells appear in the forecast through Tuesday, although the Northwest Hawaii (@buoy51101) forecast is showing potential 22-second forerunner energy from the Northwest on Wednesday, March 30th. Check the Northwest Hawaii forecast model in a few days to see how this swell pulls together.


Hawaii – Overhead+ Northwest Swell Sunday

A new Northwest swell builds late Saturday into Sunday, providing solid long-period surf (6.2 feet at 16.9 seconds 314°). The swell is a bit more West than last week’s, but not nearly as big. Look for stiff Easterly trade winds to provide gusty, offshore conditions.

There’s a lot of energy behind this swell, and it will continue to provide overhead surf through Monday (5.9 feet at 14.3 seconds 312°), turning slightly more West as it declines.

The swell continues to provide fun conditions Tuesday (4.9 feet at 12.5 seconds 314°), as a Northeast wind swell begins to increase in size. Definitely one of the longer lasting March swells, which is good news for the Spring Breakers.

A smaller Northwest swell is currently projected to build Thursday into Friday of next week, with strong Easterly winds also forecast. Keep an eye on the Northwest Hawaii buoy tomorrow afternoon. The dominant East wind swell may mask the incoming swell a bit, but 20-second periods are forecast to hit @buoy51101 around 1 p.m. HST, perhaps even earlier.


Hawaii – Large NNW Swell Tuesday

The Waimea Bay forecast model shows a large NNW swell arriving on Tuesday, peaking at 13.8 feet at 16.5 seconds. However, the model seems to be running a bit hot at the moment, so be sure to keep an eye on real-time observations from the Northwest Hawaii buoy to see how the swell actually fills in. Winds increase in strength through Wednesday, then maintain a moderate Easterly flow through next Monday.

A long-period Northwest pulse arrives on Sunday (6.2 feet at 17.2 seconds 315°), and is forecast to continue building through Monday. This swell is a bit long-range for the model at the moment, so we recommend checking the forecast in a day or two to see how things develop.


Hawaii – String of Northwest Swells

Three separate Northwest swells are currently forecast over the next seven days. The first swell arrives tomorrow, building rapidly throughout the day, with 5.6 feet at 15.4 second (323°) conditions forecast for 12 p.m. Wednesday.

Look for Wednesday’s swell to increase in size throughout the day, then peak overnight, before declining through Saturday. Thursday morning will be biggest, with solid double-overhead surf expected from the NNW (327°).

The swell direction will turn slightly more North, pivoting from 323° to 332° as it fades. A Northwest reinforcement arrives on Saturday, building throughout the day and peaking overnight (5.9 feet at 14.7 seconds 322°) before declining through Sunday.

The Waimea Bay forecast model shows a third Northwest pulse right on its heels, but it’s a bit long-range at the moment and we’ll wait another day or two to see how things develop.

Definitely no shortage of action and opportunity for the North Shore Lifeguard Association’s 2011 Ke Kaha Nalu Hanana O Ehukai, which has a number of days to choose from. The sand situation at Pipe is currently not optimal, but that could change overnight on Wednesday. Thursday and Sunday currently look like the two best options, with steady Northeast winds forecast throughout the week.

Thursday will be biggest (double-overhead, 329°), but what matters most for the bodysurfers is a West-Northwest swell direction, and while Sunday is smaller (overhead, 320°), the direction is slightly more West. Likely a game-day decision by the Lifeguard Association on Thursday morning. If the sand and direction work out, it will be hard to say no to six to eight foot spitting barrels.

Keep an eye on the Northwest Hawaii buoy (@buoy51101) early Wednesday to see how the swell is filling in, and stay tuned to the Waimea Bay buoy (@buoy51201) for real-time conditions.


Hawaii – Solid NW Swell Wednesday

Solid 8.5 feet at 15.1 second energy from the Northwest (326°) in the forecast for next Wednesday, March 9th. The swell falls within the North Shore Lifeguard Association’s Ke Kaha Nalu Hanana `O Ehukai holding period at Pipeline, which will likely see some of the biggest and best bodysurfing conditions in years, especially with light to moderate trade winds expected.

Check the free 7-day Waimea Bay forecast to see how things develop during the next few days, and follow @buoy51201 on Twitter for real-time wave observations.


Hawaii – Northwest Swells and a Southwest Front

Fun-sized conditions on the North Shore today, with a mix of NNE (27°) and NW (310°) energy currently in the water. As the day progresses, look for a new Northwest (306°) swell to slowly fill through the afternoon.

That new Northwest swell is forecast to peak early Thursday morning at 5.2 feet at 14.0 seconds (305°), providing overhead-plus surf throughout the day. Winds are looking good in the morning with a Southeast angle expected, turning more Southerly as a front approaches.

Friday will see strong Southwest winds, turning more Westerly throughout the day. The Northwest swell lingers (4.3 feet at 11.9 seconds 305°), but conditions at most spots will likely be sloppy and blown.

Looking ahead to next Tuesday, another fun-sized Northwest swell is forecast (3.3 feet at 12.9 seconds 306°), slowly declining through Wednesday. Light East winds should provide favorable offshore conditions.

Tomorrow morning is the call through the next 7-days, solid long-period energy and favorable winds will make the early session a keeper. For real-time wave and meteorological reports from the Waimea Bay buoy, follow @buoy51201 on Twitter.


Eddie Won’t Go in 2010

The holding period for the 2010 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau officially ends on Monday, February 28th. Except for a close call in late January, Waimea never reached the consistent 20+ foot event requirement, and the forecast through Monday is nowhere near that threshold. As a result, the Eddie will not be held this year.

It looks like Spring is creeping around the corner, with significantly less swell activity, particularly from the Northwest direction. Not much action to report in the Waimea Bay buoy forecast. Currently the surf is on the decline, and will remain small throughout the weekend.

A fresh North-Northeast swell is forecast to build late Sunday, peaking Monday morning at 5.2 feet at 12.2 seconds (25°). There’s also a sneaky little Northwest component filling as well (2.6 feet at 13.4 seconds 308°). Given the moderate 12-13 second swell periods, look for combo swell conditions to dominate, with building Northeast trade winds forecast through the day.

Another small Northwest bump peaks early Wednesday (3 feet at 11 seconds 311°), with moderate East-Northeast trade winds forecast. Overall, nothing substantial through next week, mostly fun-sized stuff with good conditions and a stabilizing trade wind pattern.