Print

Dennis’ Tidbits 

By DENNIS McTIGHE 

May 21, 2019

The swells are swell 

Dennis 5Most uncharacteristic of May, Pacific storms have been invading all of California with a pattern of weather more typical of late February or early March with generous amounts of snow down to 5,500 ft. We’re talking significant snow totals over the last few days, up to three feet of new snow and here on Sunday evening it’s dumping up there again!

A little over a week ago, it was warm up there with rapid snowmelt as high temps approached the 70 mark at the 6,000-foot level and lows at the same altitude were above the freezing mark. Sunday, the hi-lo at 6,000 ft. was 34-27 with heavy blowing snow with winds up to 50 mph.

Down in the lowlands, hefty rain amounts up to five inches or more are pelting the Bay area, setting all kinds of May rainfall records. Previously, San Francisco’s wettest May was 3.81 inches in 1957. May of 2019 has shattered that record with a total so far this month of 5.71, and we still have ten more days left in the month. The Northwest is getting some rain from this latest system but the brunt of the action is focused on California. May in Laguna averages about two tenths of an inch. Our wettest Mays were 1977 with 2.62 inches and 1.31 in 1990.

Finally a healthy Southern Hemisphere swell visited our coast with three strong days last week. The welcome swell came from 195 degrees and it was a long period (17-19 seconds). The standout spots were Malibu with six-foot sets trying to accommodate the 75-100 hungry riders. Lower Trestles loves this direction and everybody knows it. Body count: 75-100. 

Laguna’s Rockpile Point offered several well overhead sets with that usual hairy takeoff right in front of those big rocks, hence the name Rockpile! Brooks Street had a few Second Reef sets but the inside doesn’t really shine on this direction and wave interval. It closes out a lot. A severe angle (160-180 degree) shorter interval (10-11 seconds) is needed for the inside to really work. The best tide is 3.5-5.0 ft. 

Brooks is positively a one-person wave, or supposed to be, but when the inside is firing, count on two to three dozen players out at any given time. Point Loma, just south of San Diego, has a very compatible bathymetry to accommodate these long period swells on almost any tide. Baja has a whole host of assorted point breaks that welcome this direction. Laguna’s south swell window is 160-225 degrees. The more severe angle, the better the wave.

There’s a wave in Newport that’s really elusive, that only breaks correctly maybe three times in a good year. The stars almost have to line up but when they do, 15th Street in Newport morphs into a wave as heavy and hollow as Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore, the only real difference is the bottom. Hawaii’s version explodes over a very shallow and dangerous coral reef where our version is all sand bottom.

In all my years, I’ve only seen 15th Street (Newport Point) huge and perfect at 10-15 ft. plus at 10-second intervals and an angle of 160-165 degrees. Only a Mexican hurricane can make the spot work magic. Heavy riders from Hawaii have ridden the spot for years, ever since the place first gained notoriety in September of 1966, compliments of a Category 5 hurricane that was creeping along to the NNW about 250 SW of Baja’s tip just inside our swell window. The last time “The Point” really fired was in late August of 2014 from Category 5 hurricane Marie.

Finally, we’re still waiting for that first 80-degree day in Laguna. Don’t count on that happening anytime soon! 

Stay tuned, ALOHA!