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FAST & FURIOUS FEB. 24: Hawaiian Style Swell Muscles California

| posted on July 22, 2010

As a grom in the early ’80s, I remember my crew would be bummed if the local news picked up on a swell event hammering the coast. But now, of course, we live in a forecasting-for-dollars era. There is a “swell” of some sort each and every day.

Usually, our swell-generating storms form way out in the North Eastern or Western Pacific. This storm popped up close. And its swell did too. Thus, the speedy daytime arrival of bombs from the west. CLICK FOR PHOTOS FROM THE SWELL.

It doesn’t take much for so-called surf forecasters to throw out the term “swell.” A seagull can poop in the kelp beds off of Bolsa Chica and every Internet forecasting guru from San Francisco to Huntington will exclaim via fax, phone, and WiFi, that “a secondary, underlying bird poop swell will find it’s way to select Northern Orange County beaches.” Whatever.

However, the swell event of Sunday, February 24 and Monday the 25 was both legitimate and unique. Triple-overhead surf is way more than enough to validate the thick ropes combing through. The hard and fast character of the swell made it unique and caught many by surprise. In San Diego, at two p.m. it was 3-feet. At three p.m. it was 10 feet and building. The surf went from dribbly south west windswell to powering, long period westerly groundswell in the time it took to pull your fullsuit on. It is very rare to see the swell lurch and morph so quickly in the daytime. In SoCal especially, swells always seem to arrive at night. Not this time.

Reason being the close proximity of the storm to the coastline. Usually, our swell-generating storms form way out in the North Eastern or Western Pacific. This storm popped up close. And its swell did too. Thus, the speedy daytime arrival of bombs from the west.

Reports of broken boards, torn bodies, and bruised egos filtered in from NorCal to IB. For many, including yours truly, just getting out proved to be a bitch. At one point, on Sunday afternoon, Rincon was triple overhead with only six guys in the water – goofyfoot Blake Howard being one of the lucky few. Swamis was about as good as it gets. Hollow with the afternoon low tide providing plenty of gapping sections. Early Monday morning saw a big, clean and sometimes overly dominant swell turn into even more of a beast. The Tanner Bank buoy peaked at 21 feet at 17 sec at nine p.m. Sunday night. At six a.m. Monday morning, I attempted to paddle out at Cardiff Reef during an onslaught of triple overhead sets. Two swift and powerful tours into the “Restaurant row beat down zone” and I tapped out. Fifteen others humbly made their way to the cars as well. But six or so locals including legends John Schmaus and Olly Norris scraped their way through the “gap” and snagged a few bombs. Monday also saw Swamis in form with 75 to 100 close friends and relatives all jockeying with desperation. Rob Machado, who grew up 100 yards away, was in fine form.

The concept of a “new swell” has lost its cache. The term so watered down that these days a swell isn’t a real swell until TV news stations report on it. Seems we’ve come full circle. The fast and furious Hawaiian-style swell of February 24 was definitely a lead story.