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Pattern Shifts in North Pacific As Winter Starts and La Nina Kicks In

You may have noticed news headlines about the “cyclone-strength atmospheric river” impacting the West Coast this week and wondered what exactly that meant. From a natural disaster standpoint, it essentially means that the jet stream is funneling a ton of moisture toward the coast and causing massive flooding, as well as a ton of snow in the mountains. This is good news for all the snowboarders out there who are celebrating Mammoth’s early opening on Friday, October 29, but bad news for anyone who lives in areas that suffered from the recent fires, as they are likely to see a ton of erosion in the form of mudslides and landslides this week.


Pattern Shifts in North Pacific As Winter Starts and La Nina

 Photo from the Lost Angeles Times

What this means from a surf perspective—which is what most of us are concerned about—is that winter has come early, and it’s starting with a bang. Maverick’s went XXL today, which is pretty rare in October. Unfortunately, the swell arrived with bad weather and south devil wind, so the big wave spot in Half Moon Bay didn’t exactly have an epic opening day. But the swell was certainly large—historic, even, for this time of year—and spots farther south are currently pumping. Sandspit was firing this afternoon and Southern California/Baja will be lighting up tomorrow. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s firing here in Hawaii too!

After months of flatness on the North Shore (interspersed with a couple of moderate swells), we are currently looking at a very exciting two-week forecast. The North Shore should be in the head-high to double overhead range all week, then the first in a series of XL+ swells fills in on Sunday. Following the recent trend (likely caused by the strong La Nina that is now beginning to impact atmospheric conditions), most of the swells will have a pretty steep north element to them. But that’s nothing to complain about in late October and early November, especially if the wind goes light/variable, as it is currently forecasted to do. Sunday and Monday should be in the 10-12+ range (Hawaiian scale), then a second swell fills in Tuesday and Wednesday with similar numbers. After that, there is increasing confidence that Thursday will push into the 15+ range, which is a legit XL swell and a reason for the big wave crew to get excited after a long summer of training. After that, we are looking at around another week of overhead to double overhead+ swell with relatively good wind conditions.

At the same time, there is still a bit of south swell on tap, so if you live in Town and prefer your waves in the more user-friendly range, there’s no reason to drive all the way out to the Country. A good run of chest- to head-high south swell fills in on Wednesday, followed by a week of small but surfable waves for Town shorelines before another potential head-high+ south swell hits mid-month.

Long story short? La Nina may be sticking around all season, but thus far, it’s looking like a pretty good start to winter for Hawaii.