Water water everywhere

By Daniel Holz | December 15, 2009 8:50 pm

Northern New Mexico is an absolutely fabulous place to live. But, on occasion, I wish I had a teleporter handy. One of those occasions would be when the “Swell of the Century” hits the Hawaiian Islands, as it did last week. It turned out to be more like the “Swell of the Decade”, but apparently was nonetheless quite spectacular. Spectacular enough to hold the Eddie, a big-wave contest that can only be held in epic conditions.
There’s some good video here and here. Conditions were apparently squirrely, so most of the footage consists of fairly spectacular drops leading to gnarly wipeouts. Every now and then someone (often Kelly Slater [at left above]) emerges intact. Unless you’ve been out in overhead+ surf, I think it’s hard to fathom just how powerful these waves can be. You’ve bodysurfed three footers, and you think you have a clue. But you don’t. For a little perspective, here’s an excellent video from a (professional) surfer who wiped out at Jaws (on the north shore of Maui; it only fires on big days [like last week]). He survived (more-or-less).

While Hawaii was being slammed by water horizontally, we got a vertical contribution (in the form of a couple of feet of snow). It’s time to go dust off my snowboard.

  • http://sifter.org/~aglisi Garrett

    It was a fantastic week for waves here in Maui. I don’t know about best of the decade, but definitely best of the winter so far — and it’s just getting started. Kitesurfing’s been good too. Consider an airplane as an alternative to a teleporter, without the philosophical quandary.

  • http://www.teamsikorski.com Spiv

    It’s a funny thing with the waves too; around here (Florida) we mostly get small swells, but hurricanes can be a great opportunity for overhead+ (especially offshore hurricanes). This last year we had two weekends that resulted in 12-15 footers.

    Not only is it completely different just by scale, but I’ve been informed by many friends that even if the waves are the same size they tend to be much more powerful overall in Hawaii. Something about the short buildup area (we have a slow grade, they have a sharp dropoff) and hardness of the floor (entirely loose sand vs. mostly rock and flow).

    Either way, as a small-time surfer who is happy to just get a good ride in every now and then, those are some intimidating waves pictured. I don’t think I’d leave the shore.

  • Jer

    Cold water waves pack a harder punch than warm water waves,same with the wind.
    By the way,Kelly should have won the Eddy,he was robbed.

  • spyder

    It is great that physicists promote surfing! Thanks Daniel for bringing this to light.

  • Sili

    I can usually follow along and get the gist of the posts on this excellent blog, but I have to admit defeat at this one. I’m in over my head.


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