Conditions must be just right for the Pretty Big Wave World Tour.
In between watching stunning Pipeline heats, you have no doubt had your eyes glued to swell forecasts, especially if you live in California. Oh there is so much swell coming, such large swell that the National Weather Service took the unprecedented step of warning potential ocean goers of “certain death” if they dared touched toesies to the sand in Sonoma and Monterey counties up by San Francisco.
Of course we know that California’s iconic big wave is up there too, Mavericks, catching all that swell. Forming all that swell into towering waves.
Surfline, the World Surf League’s official wave forecasting website, describes the morning thusly:
It’s absolutely macking today! XXL WNW swell has filled in overnight and has good exposures in the 2x-3x overhead real, while standouts see 3x-4x overhead surf and deepwater magnets go into the 5x-6x OH realm with a few bigger bombs as well. Winds are light SE now, allowing for clean conditions although the ocean is still a little mixed up from last night’s weather. Tide is full but dropping to a 1.4′ LOW at 1PM. Be very careful and use good judgement, there is tremendous power out there!
And the World Surf League did use judgement, last week while that swell was getting built, and called the Mavericks Big Wave World Tour event off for Monday and Tuesday preemptively.
Today, with too many big waves on the horizon, the event was cancelled for the rest of the week and let us turn to the San Francisco Chronicle for more:
The Mavericks surf contest — which had already been delayed a couple times in the past few days — has been postponed for at least another week.
“We will not be running the Mavericks Challenge this week and will wait for more optimum conditions,” World Surf League Big Wave Tour Commissioner Mike Parsons said in a statement Sunday afternoon. “The wind is good and conditions will be clean, but the swell will be dropping through the day on Thursday and we won’t have the consistency we need to run an excellent event.”
The surf near Half Moon Bay is expected to be the biggest of the year Monday — waves may reach 50 feet — and it was thought at one point that Tuesday might be an option, but it was ruled out on Saturday for safety reasons.
A quick perusal of Surfline’s Mavericks webcam shows many big waves. I am not a big wave surfer so cannot speak to their quality but maybe you can?
Toledo goes down throwing punches at Backdoor, one doggy door away from a ten.
Pipe Masters, Day 2: Filipe Toledo goes down swinging at ten-foot Pipe on “epic, epic day!”
"Each of Kelly Slater's rides I took as personal rebuke, as kick in the nuts."
How to make sense of this epic, epic day? Feel free to riff below, there’ll be lots of meat left on the bone.
The sun was just cresting the mau’ka over Mokule’ia when Toledo hit the water against Benji Brand in wobbly, glassy six-to-ten-foot Pipe.
How do you rebuild after a disastrous performance like his round one showing? Ten minutes passed with no waves ridden. Minutes composed of seconds and micro-seconds, thousands and thousands of Pottzian nervous moments piled like bricks on the psyche of Filipe Toledo.
He scrapped for the inside and took off deep on a legit Pipe wave, ponying over two foam balls to get an eight. I scribbled “world title wave”. Brand took the lead and with a minute and change remaining. Toledo, needing a 3.76, scrapped into a mid-for for the win.
“Lets talk about pressure,” said Rosie Hodge. Filipe physically buckled, folded in half. A bodily response that said more than any words could about the mental state of the second time challenger.
The dual heat format: Oh please God, can we have that at every location when the surf is pumping. To see waves being ridden, or at least attempted, made turning away impossible.
Kieren, I know you are reading. Please, make it happen.
Owen Wright had a 100% make rate in a lineup now being strafed by end to end close-outs, and with makeable waves at a premium, still lost. Wildcard Seth Moniz double pumped no hands through an open cavern and with the joie de vivre of a teenage shoo-ey at a sunlit beergarden on a Sunday afternoon greased a lofty punt on the end section.
He moves through the pipe lineup like a young Ali.
Sinuous, smooth and note perfect with his strikes.
I’ve already forgotten who Kelly Slater surfed against in heat six. He rode a 6’3” round-pin Tokoro four fin.
Wave 1: a clean teepee Pipe wave. Easy make.
Wave 2: Kelly packs a brutal close-out at Backdoor. Extreme punishment reel getting back out.
In his extended podcast with Joe Rogan Kelly made pains to say surfing didn’t require that much strength or conditioning training. He looked gassed. Like Conor McGregor getting mauled by Khabib Nurmogomedov.
Did you secretly and shamefully smirk behind the safety of a keyboard like me? Where’s your cardio now eh Kelly?
Wave 3: Pipe wave, no exit.
Wave 4: No exit, big sets feathering through the line-up.
He can’t take much more of this punishment, surely.
Wave 5: Backdoor bomb, bodysurfed out. No make.
Wave 6: Pipe wave, no hands entry to the tube. No exit.
He did what he needed to do to beat Willian Cardoso, which admittedly wasn’t much. But what he did do was an intense sparring session, with a ton of intentional punishment at the worlds heaviest wave. How can you comprehend that from a 46-year-old who spends most of his time sitting in a trailer under a tree hundreds of miles from the ocean?
Ryan Callinan showed an almost insane level of joyfulness in the kind of gnarly Pipe line-up that would cripple a working man. Like a grinning labrador fetching a stick with the aggression of Jake the Muss being asked to cook eggs. And the stick was a brown snake. He packed closeouts, he flirted with extreme take-offs under the axe all with a goofy grin, that, as Ronnie Blakey rightfully noted “you couldn’t wipe off his face with a cricket bat”. He did to Italo what Italo does to Medina: come at him with such a super-abundance of extravagant energy and skill that he makes his opponent effectively shrink and disappear down a rabbit hole.
To lay a pitch perfect passive-aggressive period on his performance Kelly Slater when asked by Rosie what he thought of Ryans bomb quipped straight back “what, the one he didn’t make?”
It was starting to feel like one of those rare vintage Kelly days, when that lethal combination of magic and ultra-spiteful competitiveness drips out of every pore and infuses every second with possibility.
Wilko finished his career as a CT surfer, most likely; with an air drop out of a Backdoor bomb that went straight to the beach on the final buzzer. As a Finale it wasn’t without a certain sad theatricality.
In the presser afterwards he confessed to feeling “sad and confused”, then, looked upwards at Rosie Hodge in an off-the-shoulder Laurel Canyon ’67 blouse and, looking somewhat heartened, added “but I’m sweet”.
Seabass called his Rnd3, Ht 5 clash with Griffin Colapinto “psycho” and that is money. Both dropped out of the sky on unmakeable waves that are fun to be cavalier over but could really have been “death on a stick”.
Gabe Medina came up against the smiling, boyish assassin Seth Moniz. Title on the line. Here we go again, as Medina put it. First wave: outrageous gambit. An insane drop, technically threaded tube through multiple heaving backdoor sections to a full sand-bar close-out. Medina sqeaked out the doggy door and got false cracked by the lip as he did so. It was a 20 if he stayed on his feet.
Moniz was critically under-scored for a backdoor bomb, coming out after the spit.
Judges compounded the error by over-scoring Medina for a technical but manufactured tube-ride. By the heat and the days standard, the point spread was distorted by a point. Medina answered a seesawing lead change with a another technical ride with a Tom Carroll bottom turn to late turn under the lip and that was the heat. It should have been closer but it was another brutally efficient win to Medina.
Wilson packed close-outs with the best of the psychos- there were markers being laid down here that were far more significant than heat wins. Lines in the sand everywhere as to who would go and who would go missing. Julian did not go missing. One clean Backdoor make was enough to dispatch a hapless Miggy Poops.
Last heat of the day. Kelly v Filipe in backlit 10-foot Pipe. Please allow me to detail the Kings rides as they occurred. It’s unusual, but the performance deserves a permanent record.
Wave1: Straight off the bat, cute little snap into tube at Pipe. Make.
Wave2: Non-make Pipe.
Wave3: Backdoor, non-make.
Wave4: Pipe, non-make.
Wave5: Pipe. Clean make. Up under a pitching section. Vertical slash. 6.93.
Wave 6: Heavy Pipe wave. Chopes style high-line. Non-make.
Wave 7: Deep tube Pipe. Fell off in tube, regathered board, stood back up in tube and came out with arms up. Miracle ride. Non-make by judges.
Wave8: (Final Ride) Perfect Backdoor tube on a bomb. Came out after spit. Best wave of the day. 8.67.
Filipe, on the wave behind and needing a close to perfect score, threaded a deep, long Backdoor tube that would have been a ten. Non-make.
Each of Kelly’s rides I took as personal rebuke, as kick in the nuts. They made me feel churlish, mean and small and simultaneously exalted.
Pipeline is on and fabulous right now. It is Sunday, San Francisco is about to disappear from the face of the earth and Oahu’s North Shore is putting on a fabulous show. Are you still not watching? Oh, tune in right now and directly but leave BeachGrit open so we can chat online with babes all day. I mean with each other and maybe Jen See.
Filipe Toledo, current world no. 2 just beat Hawaiian wildcard Benji Brand in Round 2 Heat 2 in the dying seconds.
An almost shocker, an almost absolute shocker which would have gifted countryman Gabriel Medina the 2018 World Title.
I suppose Julian Wilson can still make a move?
Can Julian Wilson still make a move?
Back to Filipe, such a nail biter of a heat. Such stress. The swell building, coming in from the north northwest according to Momentum Generation standout Ross Williams. The time, ticking down. Filipe following Benji Brand in the lineup a little bit lost. A little confused. Carrying a 3.76 for minutes. Looking, peeking. “He can go right, he can go left, he just needs to get up under the hood…” Strider said from the water.
Then Filipe snagged a small one but stayed in the barrel forever then kicked a little air at the end.
Under the hood.
“Sketchy times for Filipe…” said Ross.
Then he dodged a bullet and won.
Filipe Toledo told Rosie in the post-heat interview, “It’s definitely a new feeling for me. This year it’s more special. For the situation to be so close and competing against Gabes and Jules… pressure pressure. I’m happy to surf real Pipe.”
A very large swell is headed toward San Francisco promising waves so big, so bawdy, that the National Weather Service, not known for poetic over-pronouncements, informed folk who live Sonoma and Monterey counties if they go to the beach between 9 am on Sunday and 9 am on Monday then they risk “certain death.”
You recall, of course, that the World Surf League sniffed the possibility of large to extra-large waves many days out and preemptively postponed the Mavericks event, which they then also postponed Tuesday and are now keeping fingers crossed for Thursday when the waves will hopefully be between shoulder and head high.
The storms forecast to pummel the Bay Area this weekend—one Friday night and a second, much larger one anticipated Sunday—will bring a particularly dangerous element to San Francisco’s coastline, as the National Weather Service [NWS] warns of huge and potentially deadly waves.
NWS is predicting a “very large west-northwest swell late [in the] weekend.” According to science info site Sciencing, “swells are collections of waves produced by storm winds raging hundreds of miles out to sea, rather than the product of local winds along beaches.”
The NWS forecast warns that this weekend will be the “largest wave event this season” on SF shores, with “large breaking waves” ranging from 25 to 50 feet in height, or even exceeding that in “favored locations.”
According to the wave warning:
A potent storm system […] will create a dynamic fetch zone where the strongest winds of the storm system will continuously increase the energy within a swell train on the storms southern flank, resulting in a very large, long period wave train aimed at the California coast. […] The largest waves are then forecast to arrive Sunday night through Monday morning, with peak swells of 17 to 21 ft at 19 to 21 seconds expected.
All fine and good and topped off with the tweet…
I wish I lived in San Francisco. I mean, no I don’t not at all but if I did live there I would use this coming storm to practice my Lt. Dan fantasy. I’d borrow one of Erik Logan’s SUPs, lash myself to the paddle and make history.
But do you live in the Bay Area? Would you be brave enough to go to the beach and give live updates? Not for us… legally I can’t ask… but for your social media pals?
Monsters of Surf Photography: Jack English and “the biggest wave ever snapped out at Pipeline!”
"...by no means was it like those pretty days we all see at Pipe."
We would all be kind to describe the 2018 iteration of the Air Reverse Masters in thoughtful and prayerful memory of Andy Irons as “wonky.” Those big, clean lines haven’t quite appeared though they might today. The gaping barrels have been missing. Do you think they will come back? Do you think we’ll get our Pipeline?
Let’s hope but while we’re hoping let’s also reminisce over the epic shot above. Jack English, a monster of surf photography, snapped it out at sea of Liam McNamara and describes it as “the biggest wave ever ridden/photographed at Pipeline.” Here’s Jack!
Chas: Describe the day…
Jack: When I first got down to the beach it just seemed like just a normal big day at Pipe. Then when I was on the shore waiting to jump in I just remember feeling all alone. There were no other photographers around and it was a sunny morning, but with the waves being so giant for whatever reason it just made the sky really dark. Looking back at it now it was just one of those naive moments in time.
How’d it feel?
Once I was outside and into the lineup thats when I realized I was way out of my league. It was giant, messy and unorganized – by no means was it like those pretty days we all see at Pipe.
Who else was out?
I was the only photographer out their and then some time later Larry Haynes arrived. I remember seeing Mike Stewart and Shane Dorian – Dorian did make some comment to me relating how crazy it was out there. This was one of those day’s that separates the men from the boys! (ed. note: Or women from the girls…)
So Liam got this monster wave. Then?
Well the crazy thing was I only took one photo of Liam’s wave. Remember these were the days where we shot film and I had only 36 frames so when you paddle out to a spot like Pipe you’re always going to be very conservative with how many frames you shoot. I am really proud of myself to focus so heavily on this exact moment to when to take this picture – I have no idea why I didn’t go trigger happy on this thing. When your shooting so close to the action everything seems to be in slow motion – it’s really scary as your trying to just survive the surf and at the same time get the shot.
How’d you get back to shore?
Getting back in was way worse then getting out. So here I am floating around knowing I am so out of my lead so I ask Larry what’s the best way to get in – and he just points straight towards the Gerry Lopez house and says paddle straight in that way. I was like fuck that – there’s no way in hell I am going to paddle straight in because I thought by doing so I would get sucked back out or sucked towards Backdoor. So instead of taking Larry’s advice I swam towards Pupukea and the whole time I could see a lifeguard on a ATV riding along the shoreline watching me. I kicked and kicked and felt so hopeless trying to get worked by a wave once I reached Ehukai and eventually hitting the shoreline near the showers. I just remember when I first felt the sand against my flippers I waved to the lifeguard as a sign that I’m all good – When I got to the shore I couldn’t feel my legs.
What makes Pipe special?
I think what makes Pipe so special is the way it breaks so close to shore and so perfect looking. I don’t know why it is, but Pipe seems to be the one wave on the North Shore where surfers need to prove themselves and where you gain respect from everyone in the surf community.
You’re onto a new project, Sea of Seven, tell me about it!
Sea Of Seven is a new company that I started with my daughter. Over the years I have less and less interest wearing anything surf related – I think with age you get tired of being a walking billboard for these big surf brands. I don’t want to dress like I did when I was 17 – my interest have changed over time and I wanted to create something I thought was cool. I just felt like if I’m going to wear a tee of some sort I would rather have something that I created being with my vision or using my images.