Thursday, May 24, 2018

2018 fiji trip day 2

Day 2 in Fiji saw incredible waves again. When we pulled in at Cloudbreak, it was pretty clear that I didn't want to have anything to do with it.

This is the start of the setup turn that ended up with a beautiful big barrel. Unfortunately, the boat is rocking while I'm taking shots and I completely missed it.

Dreamy, almost easy looking drop.

But don't be fooled, because it's not as easy as these guys make it look.

Just like yesterday, we then went to check Pools, which wasn't nearly as good as yesterday. We didn't wait long, and this wipeout is the only shot I have of it.

Tide was too low for Restaurants, so we went on the other side of Namotu and checked out both Namotu Lefts and Wilkes. Unfortunately, I don't have good shots of any of the two spots, so here's a couple of little maps that will help with the orientation, if you're not familiar with the place.

The first map shows where Namotu and Tavarua sit compared to the main island of Nadi (the locals pronounce it Nandi). The red arrow (and blue dot) shows where I'm staying, which is very close to the airport. The boat ride is from one of the bays over to the left and it only takes about 20 minutes. Really smooth in the morning, maybe a bit rough on the way back if the wind picked up, but nothing too serious, as this side of Nadi is completely protected by the outside reefs.

This other one is a close up that shows the six main spots: Cloudbreak, Tavi Rights, Restaurants, Pools, Namotu Lefts, Wilkes, all at a short boat ride distance from each other. When the tide starts changing, the current in the channels can get pretty strong. This morning, just after the low tide the water started rushing in from out on the open ocean towards the inside (towards my hotel, to be extra clear) and no matter which of the breaks you chose, it was a constant paddle just to stay in position and an even harder paddle back to the peak after a ride.

Back to the story, my other four boat mates chose to surf Wilkes, a pretty hard core right with two peaks (one more consistent deep one and one less consistent wide one) and a very shallow inside. I know it can get excellent, but it's by far my least favorite wave of the six. Actually, I should say of the five, since I've never surfed Tavi Rights, as it's very seldom good/big enough.

Namotu Left instead is the softest of the bunch and you can surf it at all tides, without feeling like you're going to die if you blow a takeoff. It does get sizey though and it's often bumpy when the trades are blowing even just lightly. This morning it was dreamy glassy instead and a head and a half to occasionally double at the takeoff. Really fun, but I only managed to catch three waves before needing a mandatory rest from the incessant paddling. I held on one of the anchor buoys and I could feel the current flowing like a river. As I was doing that, the four Wilketeers came back and I learned that their session went pretty bad: mostly paddling, getting caught inside and very few waves.

Off to the second session, and after a quick second Cloudbreak check (forget it, even bigger than before), we quickly stopped at Tavi Rights (below). Some guys out, but don't get fooled by the inside barrel, as you would never make the section in front of it if you were that deep. The guy paddling way down the line is in the right spot for the takeoff and he could just do one turn after that. We quickly decided to go check Restaurants.

Which was excellent again. This guy is eyeing the price down the line.

Perfect read.

This other one could fill in a turn in before getting his share of shade.

Not actually sure that's the one, but who cares.

If someone would show me this photo and ask me to guess what world wide famous wave it is, I would answer with no hesitation: "Macaroni's". Man, how wrong would I be...

This one would be a much easier guess, as the Tavarua low profile gives it away.

No doubt about this one. Cloudbreak is about to become the epicenter of the world of big wave surfing. I'm excited to be here to follow the action closely.

Also because I won't have any alternative. Today my session at Restaurants didn't end on the same high as yesterday. I chose my favorite way to get injured and succeeded once again (bailing the board in front of a wave that seemed impossible to duck dive, trying do dive under it and being sucked back onto the reef). At first it didn't seem too serious. I knew I had scratches and cuts in multiple places (that reef is like a razor!), but I under estimated the impact I got on my right knee. Tonight I can barely walk and the pain seems to be getting worse. I'm pretty sure I didn't break anything, so hopefully it's just a matter of a few days. The next three days is going to be too big for me anyway, so I won't miss much. And, as always, the awareness that it could have been a lot worse helps me navigate through the hard times. I see this as one more opportunity that life presents me to accept the reality, embrace it and finding a way to enjoy it. So far, despite the pain, I'm succeeding.

I did manage to get a pretty long wave to share with you guys, even though I really wish I had it on yesterday. As you can see, I rode it very carefully, because today for some reason I was much more intimidated than yesterday from the very beginning. The lack of the offshore wind and of the clouds made the rocks in front of the take off much more visible and I pulled back quite a few times. Somehow, it seemed a more dangerous session right away.

Yesterday I had at least 5 epic waves and today I got beat up. Restaurants 1 - GP 1.
I doubt there will be a tie breaker this trip.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

2018 fiji trip day 1

I find it appropriate to start the first report of my 2018 Fiji trip with an empty Cloudbreak beauty.

Let's make it two. The ant eater trunk lip was a clear indication of solid size and low tide. Considering that the day before I spent more than 10 hours in a plane (the Fiji Airways Tuesday flight has a stop over on Christmas Island) and that I slept barely 5 hours at the hotel I booked in Nadi (the Namotu week only starts Saturday), I wasn't feeling exactly 100% and wisely decided to pass.

Perfect waves like this made the possibility of a quick paddle out very tempting though.

The other decisional factor was that I had a board with which I only had 2 surfs: a 6'7" Maurice Cole that I scored at the last minute on Craigslist after I realized that my boards were all too small for the forecast. I'm not a fan of big waves and I happily don't really own a proper gun or stepup.

Same guy, different wave. Later I heard of a pretty bad injury happened to a really good surfer warming up for the weekend upcoming massive swell. He took off at Shishkebabs, bailed, fell on his board and completely blew his knee. I think I made the right call.

I actually ended up making the call for the whole boat, as the surf guide was honestly a bit unprepared (didn't even know the tides!). "Let's go check Swimming Pools, it'll be onshore, but still very light, so most likely clean. And then for the second session we move to Restaurants, where the tide will be mid and rising and the wind from a much better offshore direction".

This is the only shot I took at Pools before jumping in the water for a pretty fun session. Mostly head high, but with some head and a half sets. If you ever surf Pools in Namotu, my best tip is: keep your eyes open when you duck dive. Not for safety, but for enjoyment. The reef is SO beautiful and the water is SO clear.

Below are three shots I took AFTER a ridiculously good session at Restaurants. In my previous two Fiji trips, I never really had the pleasure to score this incredible wave in good conditions. Not that I particularly missed that, since I had plenty epic surfs at Cloudbreak, but I was definitely curious to see how good the wave that so many friends told me about was. A wave so good that Barbarian Day's author William Finnegan and his buddy decided to camp on a uninhabited Tavarua for a few months shortly after it was discovered, and surf it by themselves whenever it was breaking.

Unfortunately, the photos don't even remotely close render the perfection that I witnessed in that hour and a half around the mid tide. When a set came (and that happened pretty consistently too, making the already light crowd almost invisible), EACH SINGLE WAVE was a 10. And if you think I'm exaggerating, these are the words of a Brazilian guy I met in the lineup: "I've been here four months, and this is the best day at Restaurants. Not the biggest, but the best shape for sure".
And as he finished his sentence, a new set loomed on the horizon and we were both scratching for the outside, so I couldn't ask him the fundamental question: "and how did you manage to be here for four months???"

Thanks to the enlightening book "The untethered soul" (which I will never stop recommending) , in the past few years I've been in a head space in which I'm just loving life the way it comes to me, without trying to change it to make it conform to the way my mind thinks it should be.
But in the case of this day, that took no effort at all, as it already was the way my mind wanted it to be. Actually, a lot better than that.

And it might get even better, as it looks like I'll live long enough to enjoy this sunset. Wish me luck though, you never know when we're gonna go... (whether we go fast or slow, John Cruz would add).

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tuesday 5 22 18 morning call

Three shortboard sessions for me yesterday, as I needed to tune up the boards I'm taking with me to Fiji. This is the last Maui morning call until June 4th. But I might be able to post Fiji updates from the road, don't know yet. Here's the lovely little island of Namotu where I'm going to be staying for one week with the Kamala Kamp.

With a forecast like the one below, the ocean surrounding it will look quite a bit different than that. My first possible surfing day is 5/24 and my last one is 6/3. I should be able to surf Cloudbreak the last four days, but the other days are going to be a hunt for a break that is not too big to surf, which is most likely going to be pretty crowded. Sunday/Monday, I'll probably just watch. Not the best forecast for my taste (way too big), but I'll enjoy it anyway.

4am significant buoy readings
South shore

2.8ft @ 14s from 139° (SE)

2.1ft @ 14s from 158° (SSE)

2.8ft @ 13s from 144° (SE)

South swell coming down in period ever so slightly and today should be another good day on the south side, with slightly smaller sizes than yesterday. You guys enjoy.

North shore
5.9ft @ 8s from 90° (E)

Just windswell at the buoy, the waves at Hookipa should be fairly small.

Wind map at noon.

North Pacific shows a small/weak fetch in the NW corner.

And that's the very strong fetch in the Tasman Sea that is going to produce the first batch of big waves for Fiji. The one behind should be even stronger. You guys in Maui will benefit too, with a couple of SSW swell in a week.

Morning sky.

Monday, May 21, 2018

6.30am lahaina side is still belly to head high and very clean. Ukumehame light offshore.

Monday 5 21 18 morning call

A shortboard and a longboard session for me yesterday. This is the first spot I surfed.

I passed on the foiling, but conditions looked fun.

And that's how good 30 knots of offshore wind make Thousand Peaks look. Unfortunately you can't really surf it like that, but if you're lucky/patient enough, sometimes you can find a temporary lull in the wind and score short, uncrowded, really good sessions.

3/4am significant buoy readings
South shore

3.3ft @ 14s from 194° (SSW)

2.4ft @ 14s from 175° (S)

3.2ft @ 15s from 152° (SSE)

South swell slowly coming down in period, yesterday probably saw the biggest sizes in the water. Some spots like shorter periods though, so I just like the whole cycle of the rise and fall of a swell. Plenty waves on tap also today for the south facing shores of this wonderful island that humans call Maui.

North shore
6.8ft @ 9s from 77° (ENE)
2.4ft @ 5s from 63° (ENE)
1ft @ 13s from 325° (NW)
Below is the graph of Pauwela together with the Surfline forecast. Fortunately I figured a way to have the indication of the day on top of the three days without having to read the absurdity of their automatically generated "generic" wave face forecast. As you can see, most of the energy today will be provided by the easterly windswell, with the addition of a low medium period NW swell. I drew a red line to connect its indication on the buoy graph (light green) and the forecast (light blue). The 11s energy that was in the water yesterday seems to have disappeared, but it might be a temporary buoy thing. Also notice the orange line towards the end of the period. That is a swell that will come from the fetches happening right now (check map below) and is predicted to reach around 3f 14s on Wednesday/Thursday.

Wind map at noon.

North Pacific keeps showing nice little NW fetches in addition to the trades' windswell one. Pretty good May for the wind propelled wave riders so far.

South Pacific shows a very intense fetch SW of the Tasman Sea. I'm going to Fiji tomorrow and that's a bit scary.

Morning sky.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

6.45am lahaina side is belly to head high and clean. Ukumehame windy.

Sunday 5 20 17 morning call

Shortboard, prone foiling and longboard sessions for me yesterday.

Brother Alika is not a light weight, but he flies pretty high (bit too high in this case).

Chuck got the pump back out dialed and he will be the guy to blame for my upcoming heart attack while trying to do the same. SO much work.

Thanks to the bypass, this beach became one of the quietest beaches I've ever been on Maui. Absolutely delightful, but it's not gonna last long, as I presume they're going to open that short piece of road again when they're finished with the construction.

And while I was doing all that I was doing (including being at work at 2pm), the windsurfers were hitting the waves at Hookipa. The photos are by Jimmie Hepp from this gallery.

Dear Surfline, is that waist or stomach high? Maybe they use Hawaiian body parts...

4am significant buoy readings
South shore

3.4ft @ 17s from 140° (SE)

3ft @ 15s from 172° (S)

3.4ft @ 17s from 154° (SSE)

The numbers at the buoys are the biggest of the season so far, and today is going to be the biggest day so far. Waves and high crowds everywhere from Makena to Lahaina is my easy prediction on a sunny Sunday.

North shore
7.1ft @ 8s from 77° (ENE)
3.7ft @ 11s from 347° (NNW)
Decent numbers at Pauwela for this time of the year, the windsurfers will have fun again.

Wind map at noon.

North Pacific shows a NW, a NNW and E windswell fetch.

South Pacific offers a fetch in the Tasman Sea.

Morning sky

Saturday, May 19, 2018

6am lahaina side is inconsistent knee to occasionally waist high. A little bigger in town. Bad wind at ukumehame.

Saturday 5 19 18 mjorning call

A prone foiling session for me yesterday. On the north shore, the NNW swell did arrive and the windsurfers enjoyed the head to logo high waves. Photo by Jimmie Hepp from this gallery.

4am significant buoy readings
South shore

1.6ft @ 17s from 194° (SSW)

1.5ft @ 17s from 164° (SSE)

New LOW long period swell on the rise. Here's Pat Caldwell's description of what happened.
A pair of austral winter-caliber low pressure systems tracked SW to SE of New Zealand within 5/10-13. Both were fast-moving with ocean surface winds mostly zonal. Angular spreading should bring in swell locally.

Below is the collage of the Maps of May 11, 12 and 13 that shows the fetches directly aimed at us in red and the main swell direction and its angular spreading in blue. The onset of a swell generated down there is slow even for fetches aimed more directly at us, since the longer period sets have 7-8 days of time to distance themselves from the slower shorter period ones trailing behind. But in case of the angular spreading, the consistency is even less, as the amount of energy that manages to disperse away from the main direction is obviously less.

North shore
4.9ft @ 10s

3.1ft @ 6s from 69° (ENE)
2.8ft @ 7s from 72° (ENE)
2.2ft @ 9s from 346° (NNW)
2.0ft @ 11s from 329° (NW)

Below are the Pauwela graph and the new (horrible) Surfline offshore swell forecast. The line indicating the current swell is the purple one, if you can spot it. The rising blue one on top is the mounting windswell. The indication of the wave face size is (as usual and as for every other surf forecast sites) completely useless, but now I have to show it if I want to include the indication of the day. Waist to stomach high... where? Everywhere on the north shore? Hopefully Jimmie Hepp will be shooting the windsurfers at Hookipa again and tomorrow we'll see much bigger waves than that.

Here's my approach, once again. Look at the offshore swell forecast. Compare it to what the buoy is reading. Go to your spot and observe the wave height. If you do this for a couple of weeks, you'll know already much better than ANY spot specific forecast on the internet. Cheers.

Wind map at noon (NOT updated this morning).

North Pacific shows a small and weak fetch in the NW corner and a building E windswell fetch.

South Pacific has a small fetch way down the Tasman Sea.

Morning sky.

PS. If some other Surfline user doesn't like the new look either, here's the email I sent them. Please contact them too and ask them to go back to the old graph. Thanks.

Attached is a comparison of the page I check the most on Surfline: the Maui offshore swell forecast.

It's pretty evident that the old graph was much easier to read, as it has thicker and more solid lines, with brighter colors.
I also liked that you could turn each single swell off the chart (didn't find that option on the new one). And lastly, I prefer the sliding bar MUCH better than the four separate groups of days, as it's a lot easier to see the continuity of the swells throughout the 17days period and focus on the set of days of my interest instead of the preset ones. This last part got even worse on the cell phone, as there it shows only one day at the time.

I  might be a peculiar Surfline user (I don't even bother checking the spot forecasts, as with my local knowledge all I need is the offshore swells prediction), but IMO that page is now worse than it used to be.