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Trip: Big Wednesday

Written by DrC123 show DrC123 profile

Thursday December 6 2007 02:46:31 AM

Date: from Dec 5, 2007 to Dec 5, 2007

Surf trip description:

Big Wednesday did not live up to all the hype: Solid 10 feet NW swell with strong rips and currents but nowhere like "Big Wednesday" December 2005 with its 15-20 foot waves. Conditions were great, 70F degree air and 60F water with bright sunshine and light NE offshore Santa Ana winds but the crowds in and out of the water were horific. Local TV station news trucks and people with camera's milling around the Pier by 7AM!


(Big Wednesday is coming for Christmas ... two huge storms are converging 700 miles out for a direct hit on the California coast and still building with 25 foot faces expected ... woo nelly! 

Today (Monday) has been the proverbial calm before the storm. Outer water indicators are now going off, signaling swell is on the way. Surf will build Tuesday, peaking Wednesday with impressive size. The systems bringing this significant swell-event have continued to move towards our coastline, keeping their strength along the way. The storms kicking up this swell are now only 700-1000 miles from our shores, maintaining dangerously high seas. Now that offshore buoys are picking this up and models are in short range, the forecast can be refined even here it goes...

Right now, the California Buoy has been hovering between 26 and 31 feet with 14-second periods over the past 8 hours or so, signaling the first of two swaths of swell headed our way. This has already hit most buoys along the Oregon coast with 25- 36-foot seas. In fact, the Tillamook, OR Buoy gets the gold star this afternoon, recording seas over 45 feet just a few hours ago. Closer to the California coast though things have been relatively quiet with the San Francisco buoy at 11 feet with 11-second periods, and the Cape San Martin buoy off the Central Coast at 6 feet with 14-second periods. Offshore buoys in SoCal are hovering around 2-3 feet with 13-second periods, but that will change rather soon.

As of this afternoon, all models are in full agreement with the buoys, and they're all saying the same thing: Batten down the hatches; some big surf is on the way. This will be the biggest swell of 2007 to hit the California coast. This doesn't mean it will be the "best" swell, nor does it translate into the safest swell by any means. Powerful wave energy will be hitting the coast, and to err on the side of caution to everyone, I have taken the high road on the forecast, giving the biggest case scenario.

In short, we're still pretty much on track since my last report Sunday morning with just a few tweaks in timing for various areas. To sum up the event, this swell will be from two strong storms with the first swath building on Tuesday with 270-degree energy and 14-second periods, then the second on Wednesday from again 270 degrees, but with long, 17- 19-second periods. The direct west angle means there'll be practically no loss from angular spreading decay, and the low angle will allow south facing breaks to see impressive size from the wrap. BUT...not all that glitters is gold...

A direct west angle has some downsides for SoCal. First, many direct west facing breaks could see close-out conditions; south facing breaks, where size will be smaller, would likely have better lines. The second pitfall to the 270-degree angle is that there will inevitably be shadowing from Catalina, affecting the SoCal coastline from San Pedro south to San Onofre. Areas affected by the island blockage will see smaller conditions as a result.

With this in mind, working the numbers this afternoon, here's how I'm calling it. 

Tuesday the 4th WNW swell will increase as the first swath of 270-degree energy arrives with 14-second periods. By early to midmorning, areas north of LA should see sets running head high to a couple feet overhead at west facing breaks, then DOH by noon or so. Areas south of LA should lag by about 2-3 hours. By evening, west facing breaks could see size running 10-12 feet on the face. Since this swell is angled direct west, south facing breaks should pick up a good amount of wrap. Note though that as this swell fills in, there'll be an increasing risk of rip currents, especially during the outgoing tides. Alongshore currents are also a concern. Caution is strongly advised. As for winds, it looks like some NNE winds will pick up along the coast, but should stay below 14 mph in most spots, averaging 7-11 mph max most everywhere. More on the winds here, tides here, and wave heights here.  

Big SealNaval Weapons Break 

Wednesday the 5th gets even bigger big as the second surge in swell hits the coast. This too will be from 270, but with periods super long (for a NW'er) at 17-19 seconds. ETA for the peak of this swell should occur between 1:00 AM and 3:00 AM on Wednesday, but it'll still be big all day. Early to midmorning sessions are looking at surf at direct west facing breaks -- not affected by the Catalina Island shadowing -- running at least 15 feet on the faces. Some set waves could have face heights reaching 18 or 20 feet. Note that not all waves will have this size, and sets could be sporadic in size as well, ranging anywhere from relative calm at slightly overhead to monster walls at other times. South facing breaks working the wrap will be smaller, perhaps maxing out at DOH on the biggest sets. Also, please note that once this swell fills in, its long periods will no doubt make for disparity in size between breaks of varying bathymetry and westerly exposure. Breaks with steeper bathymetry that shoal well and refract the westerly energy ideally—especially those with excellent westerly exposure—will see bigger sets than the slower sloped, longboard-type breaks.

Additionally, this swell's long periods can produce deceiving lulls at times. Once this swell fills in, many waves may look surfable, while every now and then bigger waves could roll through. Adequate observation prior to a paddle-out is warranted and highly advised. And as mentioned previously, this swell will inevitably increase the risk of rip currents, especially during the outgoing tides. Alongshore currents are also a major concern.

At the sake of sounding like a broken record...this swell will not be for the inexperienced. Between the back- and board-breaking size, inevitable rip currents, alongshore currents, and likely incessant nature of this swell, it may be a good day to watch from shore. Know your limits, play it safe, and when it doubt, just stay out.

As for tide and wind on Wednesday, it looks like winds will be rather calm or lightly offshore in the AM. The tide though will be extremely high around dawn, receding throughout the morning, which will increase the risk of rip currents then.

Thursday the 6th it looks like this swell will start backing down, but models today continue to point to surf running DOH or so.)

Modified: Thursday December 6 2007 06:44:56 PM
Hits: 9914

Map of the trip

This is an interactive map! Use controls to pan and zoom this map.

  Date Surf spot Session's Rate Wind direction Waves height Author  
Show 12-11-2009 Bolsa Chica Offshore 2m-2.5m / 6ft-8ft DrC123 Big Wednesday
Show 22-07-2008 Seal Beach Pier Northside Offshore 1.5m-2m /5ft-6ft DrC123 Big Wednesday
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