The Wind Is Our Friend…Sometimes

“The wind is our friend, anyway, he thought. Then he added, sometimes.” These are the Old Man’s thoughts as he sails home after his epic struggle in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.  He is describing his life as a wise old fisherman and the plight of waveriders.

Wind is the most vital variable in all of surfing and waveriders are excessively particular about its existence. Thousands of miles from our coast, we want maximum, sustained winds…over a large area, for a long time. Locally, a few days later, we desire minimal wind or maybe light wind blowing from a very distinct, offshore direction.  That’s a lot to ask for and it’s the reason we cherish the days with swell and good wind.

The atmospheric condition which shall not be named. The moment it is mentioned, the conditions begin to deteriorate. “Bro, its soooo glassy out here!”…then the wind picks up, onshore.  “Good, the wind hasn’t picked up yet!”…the waves are textured one minute and blown out the next.

It’s a constant struggle. Its the reason we get up at 5am and blow off dinner plans in the evening. We want the best possible wind conditions. Wake up before dawn, groggily drive to your spot in the dark, check the palm fronds. Fist pump…it’s light offshore! But for how long? On average, dawn is the best time of day to surf. Diurnal, prevailing wind patterns guarantee an eventual onshore flow probably 360 days a year. Skateboarding was invented because surfers got frustrated by the afternoon onshores and looked for something to do once the surf blew out.

Dawn glass.
Dawn glass.

Each day, good conditions are fleeting. We dread the coming of the onshores. Sometimes the palm fronds and flags are pointed inland even before the sun rises. Sad face. Sometimes the wind is perfectly calm at dawn and stays that way through the morning. Sheet glass. Sometimes the wind is beautiful offshore at dawn before calming into glass through the morning. The ghastly onshores could bring the dreaded texture at 8am or 1pm…the later the better. Sometimes Santa Anas bring strong, grooming offshores all day.

Evening glassoff.
Evening glassoff.

The evening glassoff isn’t guaranteed but it is always anticipated. Sometimes it never comes. Sometimes the atmosphere teases a glassoff before picking up stronger onshore. Sometimes the first sets of a new swell are greeted in the late evening with perfectly calm winds and orange sunset water.

Sometimes we anticipate a swell for days. Good looking size, period and direction. Only to have it onshore at dawn and howling all day, ripping a solid swell to shreds. Other times, without expectations, a windswell will turn on super fun seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes it’s perfectly glassy all day but the surf is double over ankle. Sometimes it’s pumping but the devil wind won’t quit. But then there are those situations we dream about and mythologize. Perfect, pure groundswell…and a light offshore breeze for days at time.


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Swell Lines Magazine

Bodysurfing yarns woven 'tween crest & trough