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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another November To Remember?

Last year we stayed for the entire month of November and experienced an awesome combination of early winter swells and mostly consistent (and not too strong) trades. This was of course a prelude to a winter season that produced some of the biggest waves seen in many years (perhaps 30). It also happened to be an El Nino year. But there was a downside to that, at least from the windsurfing perspective - there was virtually no wind from early December until mid February. But this was a very good thing for most everyone else on the island, especially Jaws photographers and big wave surfers. Actually there was another downside - the lack of trades for most of the winter resulted in a very dry year and we can see that impact in all the brown vegetation on Maui. A lot of the grass at Kanaha has turned to sand in fact. Hopefully we'll get enough trades and rain this winter to bring back some grass and green things up.

So this year has the exact opposite pattern - instead of the naughty little boy we get La Nina (his twisted sister). Such sister years typically feature high pressure cells which dominate the north central pacific. These mountains of air leave little room for the deep storm systems needed to produce our giant waves. Meaning that, unlike last winter with a seemingly endless parade of high surf warnings and Jaws breaking weekly, big wave days could become infrequent guests. And this past October has fit the La Nina pattern so far. Actually there was a decent swell at the end of September (which we just missed), and from then until last week there wasn't much for waves. Over the past couple days we had another small NW bump (and some fun at lowers), but for the rest of this week (and in fact the rest of the month) it looks extremely windy with only wind swell and chop. Plus a few small NW bumps here and there but nothing very exciting.

This brings up the subject of which month is the best month for a windsurfer to visit Maui. I'd say any month can be fine, but windsurfers want trade winds blowing a decent % of the time, so this rules out the winter months (December and January). February, March and November trend toward more waves, with the potential for really big surf, but also with a decent chance of skunk-age. To me that's a reasonable trade off if you can spend an entire month here, but for shorter stays there is too big risk of nada wind. (though the newer wave boards work so well in light wind that this is not as big an issue). Also if you have any inclination for other water activities (such as surfing) then the extra chance for decent waves makes these months a good bet IMO.

But for most folks, it seems that October and April offer the best chance for some waves and decent wind. That's the reason we (and the board testers) would usually pick our two week Maui trip during these transitional months. Though I should mention that some years we got skunked at least one week anyway, so there's no guarantees - be ready to surf or simply enjoy the beach on your vacation (no so bad). Now up until last November, I didn't realize that we had never experienced any "real waves" during these shorter October/April trips. And I know that it's pretty rare for these months to have anything more then a moderate swell, though again for many people that's all they need.

I should also mention that it blows hard almost every day during the summer months, May-September. Almost too hard in fact, and there's very little chance for real waves (though south coast surfing can be had). But if you want guaranteed wind and lots of it, a trip in the middle of summer is for you.

Anyway, last year we were here for our first November, and it was awesome (see my older post about that). Easily the best conditions we had experienced here until, well last March, which was even more awesome (bigger waves and more consistent wind in fact). And now another November is fast approaching.  Considering the La Nina forecast, would it be too much to ask for anything close to last year's conditions?  With that in mind I spun up the GFS/NOGAPS weather model to show next week's north Pacific maps.  And here's what I got for Nov 1...

That's one giant bomb of a low pressure system spinning up just south of Alaska, with a fetch reaching from the Bering Straits to nearly 30 deg south and aiming pretty close to our tropical islands.  It's too far away to make wave height guesses, but something significant looks pretty likely next week - the first week in November.  Yeah!

OK, lots of words and few pictures so far.  And I really like pictures, so lets throw in a few.  Last evening, on the tail end of the daily "commute", we spied the sun setting behind the West Maui mountains, and pulled off the Haleakala highway to take a few shots.  Be sure to maximize and play as a slide.  Enjoy!

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