Summer Ends With A Bang
In life, it’s not how you start something, it’s how you finish it. Perhaps the same can be said about the summer surf season.
Wave riders enjoyed a potent south swell to end the summer of 2014. Some say it was the best south swell Hawaii has seen since 2011.
So what was the source of the magic? According to Gary Kewley of Surf News Network Hawaii, we can thank light winds and a faraway storm for sending all that power our way.
“That beautiful 5to 8-foot swell was spawned by a huge storm down by New Zealand around the first weekend of September,” explains Kewley. “It brought us powerful long-period swells filling Saturday (Sept. 13), peaking Sunday and Monday, but it dropped off super slowly and lasted through Friday (Sept. 19).”
And it was that slow dropping that made it feel like this swell wasn’t going anywhere. Light winds kept conditions glassy through much of the day, especially early mornings and late afternoons.
Kewley says the powerful storm off New Zealand created sustained energy that we seldom see in Hawaii during the summer months.
“The winds spinning were up to hurricane force, which created the long periods, what some call girth, and generated seas up to 40 feet,” says Kewley. “The key to the nearly weeklong run also was a 1,000-mile fetch — ocean winds that create surf by pointing our direction. Usually, they’re about half that. It was certainly the best in years. Though the one (swell) in August 2011 was bigger, this one was cleaner and more fun!”
Of course, when the surf is up on our south shores, city lifeguards stay very busy, and that was the case for the summer’s final swell.
On Sunday (Sept. 14), ocean-safety personnel made 51 rescues at South Shore beaches, including 13 at Sandy Beach, along with 805 preventative warnings. The following day, lifeguards rescued 44 people and made more than 1,100 preventative warnings.
“Absolutely and guaranteed that, if we didn’t have our valued lifeguards on hand, lives would have been lost during this swell — lives plural,” Kewley says emphatically. “There were heavy moments for select reefs. I even had a close call with getting drilled way down into the dark swirly depths three waves in a row! It was humbling and eye-opening as we kick off the big winter El Nino season. Big props to Hawaii lifeguards.”
And while the summer of 2014 won’t go down as the biggest of all time, it certainly was one of the most consistent, especially during the last few weeks of the season.
“Not the biggest, but one of the most consistent summers,” says Kewley, who’s been doing surf reports in Hawaii for more than 20 years. “Aug. 1 to Sept. 15 was the most consistent for both town and country ever. Tons of fun!”
And there’s good news for surfers and wave riders. Kewley and other surf prognosticators anticipate we could see a very busy and potent winter season.
“We’ll see above-average size and frequency due to a moderate El Nino,” says Kewley. “This means a flow of unusually warm water along the western coast of South America that causes many changes in weather in other places, and more and bigger storms in the northern Pacific Ocean. Again, long-term trends are shifty, but our chances are better than 50-50.”
Whatever Mother Nature delivers, Kewley says you can count on it being the perfect recipe for any wave rider.
“We have waves around the compass and around the calendar,” says Kewley. “Add in warm weather and water, mix and stir for happiness!”