The biggest swell since 1995 is still sending waves to the South Shore (albeit much smaller than a few days ago), and I still can’t seem to wrap my head around what we just saw.
Starting last week before July 20, when Tahiti went Code Red for only the second time, we knew something special was going to happen. But whether this was actually going to be an historic swell, or just another “big south” remained to be seen. Before this swell, the most recent benchmarks were last August’s swell (which peaked at around 4 at 17 on the buoys), the 2011 Code Red swell (4.5 at 18), the 1996 swell that Mike Stewart chased from Tahiti to Hawaii to California and then on to Alaska (estimated at around 7 feet at 20 seconds), and the “Kamehameha Day Swell” on June 13, 1995. That last swell was the one that everyone remembers as being the biggest and best. Threes was supposedly six to eight foot and as good as it has ever been, and more than 200 people were in the lineup at one time.
But how was this swell going to match up? Would it be a repeat of 1995, a “big but not historic swell” like last summer, or something in the middle? That was the big question as the buoys started to show the swell on Friday.
By Saturday evening, it was clear that this was no ordinary swell. Barbers Point buoy hit 6.5 feet at 21 seconds, Bowls was maxed out, Hawaii Kai was third reefing (but super windy), and reports from the Westside were all sorts of epic.
We knew that the swell was likely to peak overnight and early Sunday morning, but we didn’t know if it would get any bigger than it already was. But early on Sunday the buoys went apocalyptic—8.5 feet at 20 seconds, easily the biggest reading on the South Shore since at least 1995. The buoy at Bowls got blown away, Waikiki was huge lines of white water stacked to the horizon, a handful of guys were out at Castles trying to connect two-mile lines to Canoes (like Duke Kahanamoku did in 1917), and a number of the North Shore’s gnarliest chargers were surfing a legitimate 12- to 15-foot outer reef—within view of Honolulu!
It turns out “historic” was the perfect descriptor for this swell, which ended up lasting a full five days. There was small, background, 23-second-period swell on Friday, Saturday was bigger than anything in 20 years, Sunday was even bigger and legitimately XL, Monday was still six to eight foot and would have qualified as the biggest day of the summer pretty much any other year in the past decade, and Tuesday was still three to four foot! This was literally the biggest South Shore swell since Hawaiian South Shore opened, so I hope you all had a chance to get out there and catch some bombs. Enjoy the normal sized longboarding on the forecast, but pray for surf. Here's hoping it’s not another 25 years before we see waves like this again!Video by