Thursday, August 13, 2009

Epic, short and very rare: the preface.

Something very special happened on the morning of yesterday, Wednesday August 12th on the island of Maui.

The ex hurricane Felicia had been downgraded to tropical depression, but it still had the strength to send a 9 feet, 9 seconds east swell.

Here's the surfline Mokapu point buoy readings.

East swells of that size and period are not that unusual in Maui. It happens every time the trades blow over 30 knots for a few days, and are accompanied by a long fetch upstream. Let's say four times a year.

That same morning, the center of the depression moved in a position that allowed a strong flow from the south to blow across the valley between the Haleakala and the West Maui Mountain for a few hours.
Here's the Kanaha graph.

Strong south winds are not that unusual in Maui. It happens every time a low pressure coming from the NW gets close enough to Hawaii to pull air out of the south (locally called Kona wind). Let's say four times a year.
Kona winds are usually associated with a big NW swell (the one generated by the same storm). The crazy pictures of Lanes are immediately all over the internet every time it happens.

Now, even from just a strict mathematical view point, the probability that both the above described conditions would happen at the same time is already pretty low.
But from the metereological point of view, that is actually impossible.

The trades, in fact, blow strong if and when there's a strong and wide high pressure north of Hawaii. That clearly excludes the possibility of a Kona wind generating low getting close enough to the islands.
It's either one (the east swell) or the other (the Kona wind).


Unless there's an hurricane that travels from east to west between 15 and 20 degrees of latitude, helping the trade winds to pump up the windswell and at the very last moment veers NW a bit and give the islands a few hours of south winds.

Hurricanes are extremely rare in Hawaii (they usually hang out around 10 degrees more south) and in eight years that I've been here I've never seen anything like this happen.

Between 8.30 and 10 am on Wednesday morning, two windsurfers that live on the Waiehu side scored some epic, short and very rare conditions.
The first to hit the water was a swiss sailor call Ian. The second one was Nick Warmuth and my friend Alex took a bunch of photos of him.

With the next post I'll start publishing them. Stay tuned, they are really, really good. The one on the top is just a naughty teaser...


Anonymous said...

omg, give it to us now !!! please ????

Cutre said...

can't wait to se the photos!!! :O

when I was in Maui I spent some time surfing in Waiehu and loved the place... well, till we saw a big tiger shark, but thats another story :)



Anonymous said...

Well you will get another shot next week with the next hurricane heading your way and scheduled to pass to the north of the island.

cammar said...

patience grasshopper.

sharks are all over the world, Canary islands included. Thank god, since they are absolutely key for mantaining the equilibrium between the different species. That is until the human species will kill them all to eat their fins, of course...
As a photographer, I think you'll like some of the photos, since the background of the haleakala is just... you'll see.

I'll let Alex get another shot, since if that will happen again, sure enough I'll be in the water this time! BTW, I was surfing a superfun Hookipa while this happened, so I can't really complain... but I will!
Guillermo should bring another east swell, we'll see for the south wind.

Anonymous said...

I want to see pictures already :) ... been checking your blog every 5 minutes... lol