Swell, wind, tide line up perfectly an “all-time” El Niño day for surfers
by Ed Solt
all photos by Brad Jacobson of CivicCouch.com
After a week in which the ocean reminded them that she still can get flat, local surfers were greeted by a surprisingly strong northwestern El Niño winter swell Friday morning.
What made this particular swell unique is that it fell well under the radar of forecasters and media attention. As a result, the morning was largely shared among local surfers.
“It was as good as it gets with the best of the best — just the boys,” said Matt Meistrell, who held his own dropping into XXL sets. “The crowd was weak so I sat on the peak.”
Waves averaged around double overhead. Offshore conditions added another element to an epic day.
“The sand is perfect out there,” said local ripper and big wave charger Chris Wells. “All of the wind has caused the sand to shift.”
Wells had just caught a bomb on the outside. After dropping in, he projected a hard line off his trademark backside bottom turn. On the upside, climbing up the face of the wave, he laid a solid backside slash. He then chased the collapsing wall before straightening out and riding in on his belly. An avalanche of whitewash chased behind him.
“There’s a triangle formation and the swell was hitting it perfectly,” he said, drawing a triangle in the sand. His wetsuit seemed to be steaming from stoke. “It was peaking and buttery out there.”
The talk on the beach was about a barrel Tracey Meistrell came out of earlier that morning. Tracey routinely manhandles waves on which most are left chasing the shoulder. His frontside hacks on large faces cover distances. The sprays from Tracey’s hacks are as strong as “firehouses,” a term local surf Godfather Michael Luhrsen instructs his surf disciples to strive for on all turns.
“The boys were hooting all down the beach when Tracey pulled into a near unmakeable tube,” said Wells. “Tracey was saying that it was the best tube of his life. And that is saying something.”
Another familiar face was legendary surfer Chris Frohoff, a Manhattan Beach native and a former pro surfer and finalist in the 1986 Pipeline Masters.
“I’ve only been out here two times this year,” Frohoff said. “I’m stoked to score the best day so far.”
With the lowering tide came less makeable waves. Dropping in led to a do-or-die-down-the-line rush, leading to a decision — either kick out, flying twenty feet in the air, or be annihilated by thick lip.
“The swell from the north peaked early during the high tide. Many surfers waited for the lower tide and by two it was too late, game over,” Wells said. “In the South Bay you need to be like a hawk buzzing around ready to strike for the perfect window of swell, wind, and tide. When you master these things, you are almost there.”