Purple Blob Report: Summer 2014

Newport Point- Hurricane Simon
Newport Point- Hurricane Simon

Record breaking Pacific Tropical season, solid Southern Hemisphere energy, early start for the Northern Hemisphere, warm water, moderate winds, clear skies: the 2014 summer surf season was/is phenomenal. An all-timer, a comparison for epic summers of the future, literally one for the record books. Wave-riders are battered and rashed… but smiling in remembrance of summer and excitement for winter.

Velella velella
Velella velella

 Summer has the potential for weak storm tracks and minimal swell. Last summer was terrible. This summer was special. Purple blobs sent swell from various directions. Minimal marine layer allowed for plentiful sunny days.  Four thunderstorms graced San Diego in July and August. The water temperature moved into the 70’s in June and remained mostly trunkable well into October. The appearance of millions of velella velella- aka- ‘by-the-wind sailors’ on our beaches was seen as a positive omen by many water-people. Peter Hamann of San Diego Fishing Adventures says, “This summer was exceptional! The warm water allowed fish that normally stay deeper south to move north and provide us with amazing fishing.”

The 2014 Pacific Hurricane Season is one of the strongest since accurate measuring began in 1971. The Accumulated Cyclone Energy or ACE index, which measures overall storm energy, sees 2014 at 45% above the average as of press time. The season doesn’t officially end until Nov. 30th. SwellWatch forecaster, Nathan Cool remarks, “I’ve never seen so many hurricanes form in the NE Pacific in one year that took a northward trajectory, bringing not just swell to SoCal, but also torrential rain to inland areas.”  With 21 tropical storms, 15 hurricanes and 9 major hurricanes, 2014 compares favorably with the benchmark 1992 season.

Notice the "Record Warmest" off the coast of Central America where storms form and off Baja where storms enter the SoCal swell window.  Photo: NOAA
Notice the “Record Warmest” off the coast of Central America where storms form and off Baja where storms enter the SoCal swell window. Image: NOAA

Very warm water in the entire Eastern Pacific and low wind shear in the upper atmosphere fed a healthy storm track moving westward off the coast of Central America. The season started fast as Hurricane Amanda formed on May 24th. June and July combined for 5 tropical storms but nothing substantial. Then August exploded.

Hurricane Genevieve started in the East Pacific, then passed through all three North Pacific basins. She strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane south of Hawaii and was reclassified as Super Typhoon Genevieve after passing over the International Dateline. She then moved north and met her demise over cool water.  Hurricane Iselle followed, moving west and reaching Category 4 status. On Aug. 7th, she (now a tropical storm) was the strongest tropical cyclone to ever make landfall on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Next, Hurricane Julio strengthened into a Category 3 as he moved to the NE of Hawaii, delivering fun surf to places unaccustomed to such tropical swell. Hurricanes Karina and Lowell reached category 1 status as they moved into the California swell window. Lowell delivered a fun sized pulse of tropical swell that was a hint of things to come.

Aug. 7th- Four Hurricanes in the North Pacific  Photo: Global Wind Map
Aug. 7th- Four Hurricanes in the North Pacific. Image: Global Wind Map

Beginning on Aug. 10th, the National Hurricane Center monitored a tropical wave as it moved off the coast of Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean. Nine days later, a low pressure system crossed over Panama into the Pacific. Above average water temperatures and low wind shear allowed for rapid intensification and on Aug. 22nd, the NHC classified her Tropical Storm Thirteen-E.  Just six hours later, she became Marie. Moving into the SoCal swell window on a N-WNW track, she strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane with 160mph winds on Aug. 24th.  

 

On the evening of Tuesday the 26th, abnormally long, 18” tropical forerunners began to show at south facing beaches that could handle the SSE direction. First light, Big Wednesday, the 27th: 25ft. Wedge freight trains off the Jetty, perfect 12ft. Malibu reeling past the Pier, 15ft. Newport Point as good as California gets. The wind stayed down for the rest of the day and everyone near the coast was treated to a decadal spectacle of Ocean power and beauty.

 

Hurricane Odile approaching Baja. Photo NASA
Hurricane Odile approaching Baja. Photo NASA

Two weeks later, Hurricane Odile made landfall on the Baja Peninsula as the strongest storm ever to do so, with 125mph winds on Sep.15th. The widespread damage to Cabo San Lucas is a terrible reminder that these storms aren’t just fun swell producers but also extremely powerful and dangerous.  Hurricane Simon strengthened and took a favorable swell producing path during early October.  Tuesday the 7th saw another round of solid, clean hurricane swell lighting up Newport Point and Wedge. 

The Southern Hemisphere filled in the gaps nicely between hurricanes with consistent SW swell. There were no real standout southern hemi swells but it wasn’t dormant either. With a bit of patience, fun sets were always on their way… eventually.  Locally fun swell for southern exposures meant the surf rarely dropped below waist-high for weeks at a time. A glorious, fire-free Santa Ana wind event with pulsing SW swell lit up the California coast in early October. Even the North Pacific pitched in with a series of early season swells derived from typhoon remnants off the coast of Japan. 

Santa Ana dreams.
Santa Ana dreams.

Here are reviews from two Newport locals that have been in tune with summer surf for more than 50 years combined:

-Wedge Historian Mel Thoman says, “I’ve been recording “Wedge Calendars” since 1978 and that year remains #1 for size/shape/number of swells/conditions etc. 2014 made my Top 10 by the end of August and then vaulted into the Top 3 by October. It’s 2 or 3 for sure. The whole Crew charged hard with great vibes in and out of the water.”

Newport Summer 2014 Photo: Ron Romanosky
Newport Summer 2014 Photo: Ron Romanosky


-Long-time Wedge observer and pundit, Ron Romanosky, gave this review of 2014: ”This last summer’s swells rank among the top 5 in the last 3 or 4 decades.  Fantastic weather kept the waves rideable from first to last light far more than usual.  And let’s not forget the warm water!  By their performance in big waves, several of the young guns of Wedge bodysurfing now reside at the top of the list of Wedge’s top dogs. They/we know who they are.”

Purple Blob Review: Summer 2014
Consistency4/5
-No major Southern Hemis but plenty of swell around even between the epic tropical pulses.
Conditions5/5
-Sunny skies, warm water, minimal on-shore flow…yes please.
Intensity5/5
-One of the largest, most intense summer swells in California surf history and a series of other very solid swells. Not much else to ask for out of a summer season.
Overall- 5/5
-An all-time classic.

Winter 2014/2015 Forecast

To El Niño or not El Niño?  Eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures have fluctuated over the past few months and with them the predictions for El Niño. From very strong to moderate back to strong. My prediction: This is the beginning of a 3 year El Niño cycle. Starting moderate this year with low pressure dominating the Gulf of Alaska; bringing abundant NW winter swells to California and Hawaii. Along with reservoir-filling precipitation and feet of powder to all slopes. Then another strong tropical summer in 2015 and an epically strong El Niño winter next year. Pumping swell for years to come!
-KS

Sources
National Hurricane Center
Surfline- Hurricane Marie
Wikipedia- 2014 Pacific Hurricane Season 

Proning: Riding the Roots of Bodysurfing

Prone:

  1. likely to or liable to suffer from, do, or experience something, typically something regrettable or unwelcome.
  2. lying flat, especially face downward.
1912_Bodysurfers_Freshwater_Forbes_Myers_p1
Bodysurfers circa 1912

The Prone Form of bodysurfing is characterized by the rider leading with the head while aligning both arms parallel to the torso. Riding Prone, the bodysurfer experiences the Ocean nose-to-surface. This raw style puts the human processing center in full exposure to the elements. While riders still drop the wings and prone it from time to time, the prone position is the root of modern-day bodysurfing.

Postcard from Australia Circa 1911
Percy Spence : Surf Bathing – Shooting the Breakers, 1911.

If you were walking the beaches of Waikiki or in the 1900’s you would likely see Proning in action. The Prone position is the classical bodysurfing form. Riders would jump into waves before they had fins and ride straight as long as possible. To show style, a rider could hold up one foot and keep riding. It is unclear who was the first bodysurfer to break from Proning straight ahead to the beach. The break from prone form most likely developed concurrently with riding parallel to the shore with the breaking wave. There are many stories of people who began riding along the shore with one arm out the way surfers rode. Whether it was an early lifeguard on the California shores or native bodysurfing peoples of Polynesia or Hawaii it is clear our roots are in the belly-down, head-up position. As late as the 1960’s (footage below found on The Encyclopedia of Surfing), many bodysurfers around the world prefer the Prone position for wave gliding.

It could be argued that bodysurfing in the Prone position is a more intimate interaction. Bodysurfing on your belly leaves the rider eye to eye with the Ocean. The rider’s head is free from spray and the rest of the body is in full contact with the water as opposed to using a forward hand to plane. When riders use a forward hand to plane they naturally rotate their torso lifting one shoulder and some of the upper torso away from the water. This also causes a chain reaction pulling the head away from the surface of the Ocean. Many riders compensate for natural tendencies and force their face down the line, but in it’s most natural presentation Proning is the bodysurfer’s choice for feel.

The feeling may be multiplied by the vulnerability of the Prone Form. The most serious of injuries occur to a bodysurfer’s head, neck and back. There is no doubt that Proning, as the name implies, leaves the rider vulnerable to injury. Without a lead arm or arms, bodysurfers will make first impact on rock, reef and sand with their head. This is one of the many reasons the evolution of bodysurfing has moved beyond Proning.

When bodysurfers are in the layout position, leading with one arm, they are able to adjust to the changing steepness of the wave. This is mainly due to the great flexibility of the shoulder joint. If a wave suddenly turns from a mushy-spiller to a round barrel the rider can compensate with the lead hand to maintain planing surface. In the Prone position, bodysurfers are one-dimensional; therefore bodysurfers who ride Prone and ride it well are demonstrating expert ability. The Prone rider must be extremely observant of shifting wave movements, and then position him or herself with precision to ride out critical waves.

There are some riders who just like it. They may turn and Prone into the late barrel knowing there’s no hope of coming out the other side. His friends might even yell, “Canonball!” at the sight of such hopeless debauchery. Other bodysurfers look both ways and know the only way to feel this wave is to lock your arms to your side and launch straight for the sand. When the wave doesn’t give you left or right, you go straight simply because its fun.

Kyle and Kanea eyes up
The rider having the most fun…

There are variations of the Prone ride. In some old footage, you will see bodysurfers using one of their arms as a rudder to stall or change direction. When riding Prone, riders also vary the positioning of their head from down full speed ahead to chin fully extracted from the water and eyes at the sky. In all variations of this bodysurfing throwback, we share the thrilling sensations of wave pioneers long gone. We carry on the oldest wave riding tradition sliding on the surface with the purest joy.

-EJ

 

Sources:

No Lives Lost: The History of Surf Life Saving Club 1908-1958 via Surf Research

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Surf Research

Brush Strokes: Matt Beard

Beard 3d by RocheMatt Beard is a very talented and Ocean-inspired artist. Originally from Long Beach, CA, Matt now resides in Humboldt County with his wife and children.  He frequently roams the California coast in a large van full of “art and surfboards and friends and wives and childrens and on occasion even people from Oregon can be found hanging around back in there.”
Matt Beard Art
Here, Matt shares work from his new project: The Insinuation Series.
He provides a perspective that bodysurfers know well. 

What inspires the “Insinuation” project?
Waves. I love ’em. That’s what each painting in this series is all about. But instead of just painting a bunch of waves, I thought it would be interesting to try to convey a sense of a wave’s presence without actually showing the wave itself. The shadow from the wave falling on the surface foam left behind by the previous wave. The water drawing off the shallows. Subtle clues, but hopefully when they register with an ocean minded person, the blanks are filled in and the wave is suddenly imagined and felt instead of seen directly.

It’s easy to paint another picture of a wave, but its not so easy to conceptualize a fresh approach to something so familiar. When you stumble onto a concept like that it’s like discovering a new sandbar or reef on a crowded stretch of coast you’ve been surfing for years. It’s exciting. And you just want to score it as much as possible before the sand shifts or the crowds show up. I’ve only had a few sessions on this “Insinuation Series” so far, but I’m looking forward to more down the line.

*I’ll be showing the entire Insinuation Series, as well as a few other unreleased works, in my first proper art show in San Francisco at the Great Highway Gallery coming up in November/December. “Like Water” will feature the work of two other artists and friends as well, Aleks Petrovitch, and Alexander Schaffer Czech. The opening reception will be held on Friday November 14 from 6-10pm. Any art-minded ocean people within driving range of Ocean Beach, SF should get down, up, or over there.
Insinuation 7
When did you first recognize your artistic talents?
Trick question. I don’t think I’ve even met them yet, so I’m not sure I could pick em out in a crowd. Art has never been something I’ve really felt all that good at, I just find it one of the more meaningful and personally satisfying things I’ve found to do with my short time here. I guess if we’re going to call that talent, then that sense of “it’s-the-thing-for-me-to-do” really kicked in when I was about 16 years old, taking an art class in high school for an easy grade because the architectural drafting class was full. It was 1991 I think, the year Rick Griffin passed away. The tribute to his life and work in Surfer magazine that year was my introduction to the idea that art could really be anything you wanted it to be. That’s when I really began to explore freedom in art instead of thinking art was just this thing for old folks to do on weekends. By the way, I love old folks. And weekends.

Insinuation 8

What are your preferred mediums?
I’ve always painted with acrylics, enjoying their simplicity. I hate paint thinner. I like water. Acrylics cleanup with water. Oils need mediums and thinners and they smell and they just seem overly fussy. I use only 3 primaries and white for all my paintings. The limited palette is actually quite versatile, and I find that it helps create nice harmonies across the spectrum of colors since nearly every stroke on the canvas contains at least in trace amounts each of those primaries to varying degrees. I’ve done series of art on various substrates, but I always come back to canvas. Wood is incredibly beautiful to work with, where the grain can become part of the art, but I think there must be a drummer living somewhere deep in my psyche, because I just can’t get enough of the way a stretched canvas vibrates like a drum while painting. Animal was the coolest muppet. True fact. Anyone that denies that, must have inhaled too many paint fumes. And speaking of inhaling paint fumes, I sometimes figure that art itself doesn’t really have much to do with the object created anyway, it’s all about what happens in the mind of the viewer as they take in the object. Like how well written poetry or verse speaks between the lines and often what is said indirectly is more powerful than when it is spelled out verbatim. I think art is like that too, and I want my art to resonate and conjure up unexpected ideas in the viewers mind, so in that sense my most preferred medium really is the human mind.
Insinuation 9
What are your earliest memories of the Ocean?
Down at Bolsa Chica in Orange County I remember one day where the sun was hot and the wind was light and the waves were at least 13 feet and my dad took me out to bob around and float over the waves and I was terrified but not too muchcause I was with Dad. That’s what I remember anyway. Looking back I’m sure it was about 1 foot. I must have been about 2 or 3 years old. I remember the taste of salt too. It was trippy. Most water didn’t have any flavor. Something different was going on out there.
Insinuation 6
How does the Ocean inspire your art?
I guess my art is just a reflection in some way of my life, and the ocean is a big part of that. I’m a bit of an introspective weirdo, so the ocean is a good friend to have. Nothing beats a fun wave and total solitude. It’s not the smartest combo here considering the annual shark voodoo going on out there, but I still find myself gravitating to offbeat sandbars at offpeak times and spending a fair bit of time in the ocean alone. She feeds a color junky like no other. Just being in the ocean and riding waves is an immersive in-the-moment experience, and I find that while painting I can often tap into that same non-thinking-just-flowing headspace. It’s fun.
Insinuation 11
Do you ever bodysurf? What are your thoughts on bodysurfing?
It’s a bit of a rarity. Nobody bodysurfs here much. It’s cold, there’s big giant hungry fish swimming around, the water is usually murky so you can’t see more than a few feet. It’s not like those films we see of Hawaii or La Jolla where it’s all crystal and blissful to just swim around. But that said, I’ve never been opposed to the 20 minute naked man session when confronted with a good shorebreak wedge and lack of surf gear. I’m not good with swim fins honestly. Just never spent the time with em to get the feel, so yeah. I guess I just lost all connection with your readers right there. But seriously if it’s just little wedges with some cushion, not right on dry sand, bodysurfing is a blast. I’m glad somebody’s out there doing it proper. It’s not me, though. I’m just a giggling kook trying not to get broken.
Insinuation 12
 
 
 

Ode to the Pains

Weeks and months of good surf!
Cuts and scrapes and tweaks and rashes.
It hurts… but the pain is good.
It’s a reminder of pumping swell.
You have not been sitting on the couch.
You’ve been spending hours/days in the Ocean.

Hard rubber fins rubbing and grinding.
Hamburger feet.

Wear your foot ulcers like a badge of honor.
We all have them.
Some are worse than others.
But everyone that has bodysurfed hard knows the fun of gaping wounds on their feet.

Back of the neck, under-carriage, back of the knees, armpits…
Vaseline tried but the rashes are deep.
Walk awkwardly from boardshort rash…nod knowingly at the other bleary-eyed guy you pass
with the same painful stride.

Shoulders exhausted and sore from miles of swimming.
Neck and back tweaked from countless backwash bounces and wipeouts.
SPF 50 fought valiantly but your skin is still burned and cracked.

The human body is roughly 70% water.
The amount of water in your ears and head and sinuses has to push that closer to 80%.
Your sinuses drain down the front of your shirt at the most inopportune times.
“What? I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you. Could you please repeat that? What? Huh?”
Can’t hear a thing.
Its like holding a seashell to your ear except you actually have the Ocean in your head.

If you’re a wave-rider and none of these things currently afflict you…
Bummer, we’re sorry to hear that.
Hopefully you feel that good pain soon.
-KS
IMG_0136

Visions of the Month: October 2014

Drasko Bogdanovic
Drasko Bogdanovic
Regisson Ferreira
Regisson Ferreira
Jason Hackforth SuperBiscuit
Jason Hackforth @SuperBiscuit
Ryan Johnson
Photo by: Ryan Johnson
Photo: Lance Jencks Rider: Daniel Anthony Castillo
Photo: Lance Jencks Rider: Daniel Anthony Castillo

 

Thanks for all your entries! For a chance to have your photo in our Vision of the Month collection, send in your photos to swelllinesmag@gmail.com and label the email “Vision of the Month.”  Please include name of rider and photographer.