Windsurfing, surfing, Maui, The Gorge, and random rants.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lots of wind, not so much waves, but change is a comin

Julia and I arrived about two weeks ago, and dutifully checked into Kanaha as soon as we got off the plane to hear that the trades had been mostly absent during the three months we were gone. Some people claimed only about three days of sailing for the whole winter. Well I'm not saying this winter on Maui was bad or anything. It's going down as one of the best winters for waves in almost 40 years. But windsurfers had to deal with some light wind, go out on the kona days, or learn to surf. Learning to surf isn't a bad option if you ask me.

Someone who I know had a lot of fun light wind sailing days this winter is Nick Warmuth. I've decided that Nick is the king of making light wind wave sailing days look exciting.  For instance take the very sad day that Julia and I were leaving early last December.  We were staying in Waiehu near a local beach known for occasionally good surfing called"Sand Piles", which is really one the rockiest beach around, with a shallow sharp reef known for cutting feet.  In fact I cut my foot pretty nicely on my last surf session there, just stepping out of the water.  So it's not a great place to learn to surf or practice slogging your 80l wave board when there's not much wind.  But that's exactly what we saw Nick doing as we drove down the road to the airport.  I took a few shots (too bad I didn't have the newer camera)...

The important thing to note is there was no wind that day. But there was Nick putting on a show.  BTW - about twenty feet in from Nick is a sharp reef that's only about two feet deep, so any kind of fall could potentially hurt. I didn't see Nick fall.

Before I forget, Waiehu had some beautiful sun rises that we had the pleasure of seeing most every day (I get up early so I can get my work done early).  You're always seeing nice sunset pictures from Maui, but the sun rises can be just as dramatic.

So some people like Nick had some great light wind wave sessions this winter. Others waited for the trades to kick in.  And they showed up about the time we arrived in Maui in late February.  In fact we've sailed 12 out of 14 days that we've been here so far.  And we could have sailed another day (March 1) if we had decided to drive way over to S-Turns where it turned out to be epic.  (and now we know the drive can be worth it). 

Not only has the wind been back, but it has been down right cranking.  Now some people credit Julia and I with bringing back the trades.  But I do believe our good friends Brian and Becky deserve more of the credit.

You see, they showed up last spring for about a week in March, and while they were here it blew hard, almost too hard every single day.  Then they left and so did much of the wind.  In fact for many weeks in   April last year we had nada wind (which was very unusual).  So sure enough, Brian and Becky stay with us from March 1-10 and this featured a couple of the windiest days we had here since, you guessed it, their last visit.  And I'm going down on record and calling last Wednesday the windiest trade wind day ever.  At least that I've ever seen.  There were gusts to near fifty at Kanaha (and I think 55MPH in some of the windier places).

In fact it was so windy that I didn't even bother to rig and go out (Julia ripped it up on her 3.7).  Which might seem like a weird concept, seeing as how we're considered Gorge sailors and high wind is supposed to be our forte and all that.  But Julia keeps track of all the days we sail, and it turns out that we sail more days in Maui (90) then the gorge (52).  So I guess we can now call ourselves Maui sailors who visit the Gorge in the summer.  And though we all love high wind sailing on the Columbia River, with the big smooth swell and all that that brings, nuclear wind here in Maui is really not all that pleasant.  I've decided that unless there's some waves worth chasing, I don't want to go out if the wind is too much for my 4.7.  Just say no to 4.2!  Well, I should add this only applies if I'm also tired and have already sailed ten days in a row.

So back to the wind. It was so windy I saved the iWindsurf chart for the day.

Note that the wind was just a touch gusty, with the peak hitting 45+ around 1-ish.  Now compare this to today, with a much more normal trade wind blowing.

Ah yes, steady 4.7 wind almost the entire day.  Now all we need is some waves.  So where are all those waves?  Well as it turns out, the strong high pressure systems that create the super strong trade wind often keep the pacific storms weak and far away and therefore, no waves.  You can see this pattern when you look at the pacific weather map from Wednesday when the wind was really cranking.

Those twin highs north of HI were sending the cranking gusty trades at us, while the lone storm was being quickly shoved far north and away.  But the good news from the wave side of the equation is this is all changing and it looks like we're headed back to a more winter like pattern.

Now we see the highs being pushed east and two big low pressure systems are centered north of HI with a juicy fetch aimed right at the islands.  From the Oahu surf forecast...

Outlook through Thursday Mar 18: a northwest swell that will produce surf well above advisory levels on north and west facing shores will arrive Sunday night and continue through Tuesday. Another advisory-level northwest swell is possible Thursday.

Which means 10-20 ft waves are possible from later Sunday through Monday, going down slowly and then coming back up again.  In other words, waves all week.  Ahh, but the wind is going to be hit and miss.  Light trades this w/e and then gusty NE wind on Monday, followed by little wind until Thursday.  But no worries, Julia and I just bought two surf boards and I've actually been hoping for some no wind surf days.  Plus it looks like an extra bonus south swell is headed here next weekend.  Life is good!

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