The Official Start of Winter Arrives With a Bang

Today marked the solstice—the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere—and we certainly had a lot of winter activity to celebrate. The biggest swell of the year steamrolled through the Pacific, bringing large swell to Hawaii before blasting the West Coast with back-to-back XXL pulses.

The action started on the North Shore, where the Pipe Masters, Triple Crown, and world title were all decided on Monday. Joel Parkinson retired, Jesse Mendes just barely squeaked by Parko for the Triple Crown title, and Kelly Slater made the semis at Pipe after making one of the most amazing wipeout to in the barrel recoveries we’ve ever seen. But the real story was the Julian Wilson and Gabriel Medina battle. Wilson had to make the finals to have a chance at the title, and managed to do that—but unfortunately for him, Medina also made the finals, where he absolutely dominated (as he had throughout the event).

Medina ended up winning the Pipe Masters after clinching his second world title in the semis, and with the qualifying season wrapping up the week before, it’s now official—Brazil is dominating men’s competitive surfing. Four of the past six world titles have been won by Brazilians (John John Florence being the only non-Brazilian to win since 2012). Out of the 11 events held on tour this year, the only non-Brazilian to win a contest was Julian Wilson. And next year’s roster on the world tour is nearly half Brazilian. People have been talking about the Brazilian Storm for a few years now, and it’s starting to look like they weren’t kidding.

At the same time that Medina and Wilson were duking it out at Pipe for the title, Maverick’s in Central California was being hit by one of the biggest swells we’ve seen in the past decade. The day started out wild and rugged, with waves up to 60 feet on the face detonating on the big wave slab in Half Moon Bay. The day started as a tow session, but soon the paddle guns came out, and by evening many of the world’s gnarliest charges had wrangled a few beasts.

The swell made its way down to Baja on Tuesday, where a core crew of underground chargers (plus Gary Linden, Greg Long and Coco Nogales) surfed Todos Santos. While Todos wasn’t as big as Mavs (due to the northwesterly swell direction), there were still a few waves in the 40+ range on the face.

Then on Wednesday the focus was back on Mavs, where a second swell filled in with buttery conditions. Not as big as Monday’s swell, but way better, this pulse turned Mavs into the perfect slabbing A-frame that we all have come to know and fear—and the boys who showed up put on a clinic. Mavs is usually surfed as a right, as it’s possible to shoulder hop the slab section and ride safely to the channel. But people have been talking about the left for years, and a few people have tried their hands at it. The left requires you to take off directly in the slab section, which is borderline impossible on a wave this big. But if you were to make it, you could theoretically pack a monster barrel—and that’s exactly what guys like Nic Von Rup, Torrey Meister, and Manny Resano did on Wednesday evening and Thursday.

Things have finally started to settle down as we come into the weekend, but only for a few days, as Maverick’s will probably go again on Sunday, and Hawaii has a number of moderate to XL swells lined up on the long-range forecast. It’s a good time to be a surfer in the North Pacific—and the scary thing is that winter only officially started today!

Happy holidays, and may all your Christmases be blue, sunny, and full of barrels!

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