It’s safe to say that this El Nino winter has lived up to its expectations. Time and again, the North Shore has been belted by one massive swell after another. The infamous Outer Reefs have sprung to life, Waimea has churned out more than its fair share of monsters, and Maui’s Peahi has been bathed in more gorgeous surf than anyone can remember. In short: the hype was real. Nothing about this winter has disappointed. And judging from the swell that’s beginning to filter into the lineup today, January 27, on what will be a day of days, the best is yet to come.
Whether you’re comfortably nestled in your cozy room at Turtle Bay or taking a stroll down the North Shore’s famous bike paths, the haunting-yet-captivating cadence of the swell is omnipresent. Like cannons, the crashing booms of hundreds of tons of water colliding with the reef permeate the air. Even hundreds of yards inland, swells of this ilk aren’t just heard, they are felt. When sets hit the 20-foot mark, they leave behind a salty mist that hangs in the air like cotton candy. And with conditions expected to be in the 40-foot-range by the late afternoon, only the crazed would dare to venture into the water. Turns out, there are plenty of brave-yet-crazed souls among us.
As I type, Waimea Bay is practically closing out, a feat you’ll rarely see. The Outer Reefs seem to be holding the best swell. And for those in the know, a few lesser-sung options near Turtle Bay are said to be offering up a few opportunities for those daring enough to test their mettle.
Firsthand accounts of the swell from the likes of North Shore legend and WSL commentator Ross Williams paint a hairy picture of the conditions at Waimea via an Instagram post:
“Choking on my ego right now. Paddled out with Kelly Slater [to Waimea] and got smacked right back to shore with a broken leash. Mason Ho got smashed minutes before us and offered us lunch if we could make it out. His bet was safe. I really wanted to get back out there but these sets kept coming in!”
Choking on my ego right now. Paddled out with @kellyslater and got smacked right back to shore with a broken leash. @cocom4debarrelkilla got smashed minutes before us and offered us lunch if we could make it out. His bets safe. Really want to go back out but these things keep coming in. @casualluke is owning it right now! Caught a big close out and backed it up with another fatty. Put him in what ever comp he wants! #thebaycallstheday? Taken in @cathystgermans yard
A video posted by Ross Williams (@rosswilliamshawaii) on Jan 27, 2016 at 5:30pm PST
While the conditions were undeniably within the realm of the Eddie Big-Wave event, the comp didn’t run. Perhaps the forecasts underplayed the conditions, but the swell was well beyond the 25-foot threshold needed to run the contest. On his Instagram account, Slater recounted the gauntlet he faced at Waimea and chimed in on The Eddie:
“Well that was fun…Sitting here watching closeout sets roll through after getting sent to the beach trying to paddle out. First time I’ve had a walk of shame at Waimea. I think everyone thought the swell was gonna arrive late, but it ended up being easily big enough for The Eddie today. Probably too big on a few sets, actually. Stay safe…”
If you’re lucky enough to be on Oahu’s North Shore, follow Slater’s advice and watch from the safety of the beach. This will truly be a swell that history will remember—just be careful not to be (quite literally) consumed by it.