Surf Competition’s Demanding Standards Require Patience and Perseverance
True to wave and weather data collected in Hawaii over the past four decades, the cold water currents along the equator of the present La Nina pattern continue to keep the lid on winter waves. Based on statistics, the best chance of an “Eddie”-sized swell for the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea Bay is down to just one day between now and the February 29th conclusion to the event’s holding period.
But it can happen, as it did on New Year’s Day of 1999, when Hawaii’s Noah Johnson posted the ultimate win of his career.
The precise requirements of the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational have led to the competition being held at Waimea Bay only six times in its 23-year history. When Johnson won in the La Nina winter of ’99, it ended almost a decade of waiting for the right day. The last time the event ran was in December of 2004, won by Bruce Irons (Hawaii). Two of the six competitions were held during La Nina years, and despite fewer large swell days typical of the pattern, there is usually less wind to interfere.
This winter has already seen one borderline Eddie day on December 3, just three days into the holding period. The event did not run as 20-25 foot Hawaiian scale surf did not materialize until the afternoon. Holding criteria for the event stipulates that waves must be at least 20 feet Hawaiian scale (translating to 40+ feet faces) for the duration of the day’s competition.
Historically, it has been the timing of the swell, not the size of the swell that has been the greatest limiting factor. Of the 12 La Nina years on record, the number of days per season for swells in the range of 25-30 feet varies from zero to two days, for an average of 1.4 days during the November to February winter surf season. In the slightly lower category of 15-24 foot surf, there has been an average of 16.4 days across La Nina years.
The odds might be slim, but as any surf forecaster worth his salt will tell you, when it comes to weather, never say never
Week Ahead Forecast: Looking ahead, a moderate northwest swell is forecast to start building late Tuesday. This will be followed by a larger northwest swell on Wednesday night, into Thursday. Surf along the north and west facing shores of Oahu may surpass high surf warning levels – 15 feet (wave face heights in excess of 20 feet) on Thursday.
Stay tuned to the Quiksilver Big Wave website for further updates.