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‘Largest swell in decades’ pounds Hawaii; California is next

Waves to 40 feet create spectacle; Mavericks surf contest to commence Friday

largest swell

“Largest swell in decades” photo is a screen shot

A massive north swell is arriving in California and expected to build Thursday night into Friday morning, signaling a green light for the much anticipated Body Glove Mavericks Invitational surf contest at notorious Mavericks near Half Moon Bay.

How powerful the swell turns out to be and what type of conditions prevail remain to be seen. But it’s the same swell that slammed parts of the Hawaiian islands on Wednesday and Thursday, luring throngs of spectators to the shores.

Hawaii News Now described it as “the largest swell in decades” and published a slide show showing massive waves breaking on Oahu’s North Shore, near the fabled Waimea Bay.

A headline atop a Honolulu Star Advertiser story on Wednesday screamed, “Surf up to 40 feet expected to roll in today.”

As a result of all the publicity, nightmare traffic jams ensued on the highway leading from Oahu’s south side to the north shore. The problem for surfers, however, was that strong offshore winds created stormy conditions, leaving most of the popular spots unrideable when the swell was peaking Wednesday.


One of the more compelling snippets of footage was a video clip showing an enormous wave breaking in slow motion at Shark’s Cove just north of Waimea Bay.

The footage, shot with a high-speed camera, was captured by Tyler Rock of Hawaii-based Freesurf Magazine. The wave face measured perhaps 40 feet. In a 24-hour period, the clip was shared more than 6,000 times on Freesurf’s Facebook page.

“If you could compare these waves to an animal, what kind of animal would it be and what would it eat for lunch?” Freesurf asked Facebook users.

Mike Latronic of Manulele Incorporated, which owns Freesurf, said that although the people in the foreground appear to be too close for comfort, they were not in danger.

However, sea level is usually 30 feet below the road on which the bystanders are parked and standing. The tide and surge from the swell, and the towering waves, placed this surreal scene at eye-level.

“I’ve lived here for 35 years and have never seen a wave go over those rocks,” Latronic said. “But [Wednesday] they were about 10 feet from going over the road.”

The high surf advisory is in effect through Friday morning, just about the time many of the world’s best surfers will be paddling out at Mavericks, which is an offshore break infamous for its cold, green water, an occasional great white shark sighting, and ominous-looking breakers that inspire a deep respect—also known as fear—among even the world’s best.

The Mavericks contest is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., with the finals set for about 1:30 p.m. The event will air live via webcast at Universalsports.com.

–Find Freesurf Magazine on Facebook and  Instagram

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