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Friday, December 4, 2009
Is El Niņo Finally Here?

By Jason Murray
ESPN

Thus far, it's been a moderate start to the winter North Pacific swell cycle. Don't get me wrong, there have been some early season highlights: a Pipe swell in September, a couple clean combo days in October, the Nelscott Reef contest, a steep north swell in early November and finally a hearty Mavs Thanksgiving feast. But overall, it's been a little slow considering all the El Nino hype and hoopla in the air since this past spring.

Seems that's all about to change for the better. Anyone who has taken a peak at the swell models over the last week would have seen the biggest blackest blob headed straight for the North Shore. At one point, the entire north pacific swell model was a swirling ebony mass. All over Hawaii right now, skis are getting gassed up, sleds are being checked, fins are getting screwed in and boards that haven't seen daylight in 5 years are getting a fresh coat of wax.

Looking ahead at what's on the horizon, the Thanksgiving feast may have just been an appetizer and table is now being set for the main course. Meanwhile, the hype machine is in full effect—forecast models are churning data, predicting fetch, declaring winds and creating a frenzied anticipation. No longer do surfers have to wait until the swell starts lapping on the shore to declare its arrival. Buoys are still helpful and in general do not lie, but they are just one of many tools at the disposal of the savvy surfer. As you read this, forecasting site IT managers are looking at their servers and wondering if they can handle all the traffic without a meltdown.

Unloading the spears at dawn.  Launch Gallery »

In reflecting back on last week's swell, Greg Long commented, "This year's Thanksgiving swell was one of the best I have ever surfed out at Maverick's. We have had a relatively productive start to this year's big-wave season, but I feel what we have surfed thus far will pail in comparison to the big El Nino swells that are yet to come."

That's high hopes coming from one of the hardest charging surfers on the planet. Right now, his glass is half full, but rest assured, he plans on filling it the rest of the way over the next weeks and months to come.

Grant Baker would add, "We had a great season in the southern hemi so I'm looking forward to continuing that run and getting into some epic north pacific swells. Looks like the next week is going to cooperate with us and we can continue our run."

Will the Eddie go? How big will Jaws be? What are the trades going to do? How much of this swell is going to make it to the West Coast? All good questions, all answered soon enough. In the meantime, we take a look at back at what's in the bag, give thanks for the swells we have ridden thus far and get ready for the big one around the bend. If this next swell lives up to the expectations and forecasts, there will be a new Eddie champ by Monday night, 80-foot Jaws will be competing for the XXL ride of the year, Maverick's will once again roar to life and a slew of other waves will be shared and talked about for years to come.

The one that got away.  Launch Gallery »