World Meteorological Day * groundswell
Living in Los Angeles my first exposure to surf forecasting was deciphering 1970s LA Times weather charts, and their diamond backed, Aleutian low pressure curves the only clue as to when said swell might arrive. During the winter I could walk down the street to check the surf, not to mention kibbitz with all the fellow surfers once at school for the day. Summer was a whole ‘nother matter tho, and one had to become masterful at not only gauging the smattering of newspaper supplied info, but also in trusting one’s intuition (if one even had a smidgen of any suspicion as to what that might be).
Also local knowledge of wind and tide was a great aid in making preemptive strikes in relation to new swell, with the more dialed in you were, the more likely you would score less crowded waves.
Come the 1980s the “expertise” of the surf forecasting vigilantes became less of a cause celebre as the advent of the local phone surf reports took sway. And for the those of us who ventured beyond the 976 for pay phone calls, we were treated to National Weather Service/NOAA recordings, replete with wave intervals and heights, buoy readings, wind direction and conditions, tidal flows and levels, and any small craft advisory or high seas/storm warnings. There was even an underground few who were up to speed on their local marine short wave/ham radio reports, which in theory was a huge advantage timing wise.
And this was all before the worldwide Web and our now very own, ocean prediction center, just a click away on our home or away computer.
Regional surf reports and forecasts from the world over courtesy of Surfline.
The surf vigilante has gone digital, and via the spectacle christened as the surf cam, we now have non stop, around the clock monitoring of our fave local surf break of choice, and (rather accurate) weekly forecasts, and oft broken down to the hour, by wind, swell and tide, which virtually removes the calculus from the equation.
California specific surf forecast from Spitcast.
What was once a most ephemeral offering, is now much closer to being classified, quantified and qualified.
Devotion by Michael Lorenzini, oil on canvas
groundswell * seven * surfer tarot
The groundswell is godsend. Tell a surfer by his board, but tell him that the Mother is Lord. Groundswell brings the unconscious to conscious and is subtle indicator that our Mother has been at work. Her wish is to reintroduce an olde world lesson of our ancient sea, to her new native sun. Like her ocean children, each swell bears an essence unto its own, a message immemorial. Of pelagic origin, her waves of transport, bear our deepest memories of the collective unconscious. Surfboard and swell become vehicles for our self realization. With surfboard as chariot, the surfer harnesses the ocean’s energy upon our wave of translation. As we ride in harmony with the wave, we sense a beautiful inner ecology, still untamed and wild within. We feel alive and vital. We rejoice as, like long lost soulmates, wave and rider fulfill inevitable tryst. As we ally with the wave, it becomes of us to learn of both ocean and life. As we have chosen to be a surfer, we live our whole life around the pattern of the sea. Our relationship endures, as we keep silent vigil over our Ocean Divine. With tools of divination, we decipher cryptic forces. We listen intently to short wave band radio for marine weather reports. Buoy readings, prevailing windspeed, and wave interval in seconds, are all harbingers of things to come. The surfer is studied, and knows bottom contour in relation to direction. “Swell direction is the most important variable.” Velocity of windfield and distance traveled overseas, determines wave size. The farther the fetch travels, the bigger the swell. With weather charts, we map out wind, swell and tide matrix in our mind. Satellite photos give the big picture. As weather prophet, we learn to track ocean cycles over time. We know timing is of the essence, and as we ready for swell to commence.
Dragon waves by Victoria Trujillo, acrylic on wood
The groundswell is the domain of the wavehunter. He hears the siren call of the seaborne dragon lady, and treats her with all due respect; but his charge is in answer to his wail within, symbolic banshee to the she-demon about. Like fated ocean mother-in-law, she swells and leaves without a trace, but is rogue wave that we all must face. However, as gentleman surfer and surf authority, he is in agreement with the Unseen meteorological hand. He has honed the tools of his trade and uses ocean weather patterns to predict vagaries of wind, swell and tide. Often arriving unannounced and ahead of schedule, the high seas commence, come hell or high water. Driven and determined, its regular undulations are without distraction and loathe to deviate. It doesn’t arrive willy-nilly like windswell, but in uniform. Groundswell is the strong and silent type, impetus for wicked displays of power. The high surf warning is intimidating and a bit haughty, a reminder that “honesty without sensitivity is brutality.” Ambitious and after material foundation, groundswell is vehement upon arrival. Focused swells follow through and finish off, tenacious in their attention to detail. Although rarely seen, gargantuan groundswell is overwhelming for most all, and will manhandle the lone rider and board. As big wave sea monster, open ocean swell is impulsive and not easily satiated, having worked too hard and too long in coming. There is struggle indicated; but the surfer of stealth is not scared off. Undaunted and with compelling purpose, he knows the best waves precede the distant storm front. Fully prepared and expertly equipped, he will travel most anywhere to preempt the groundswell harvest, and ensure that surfer and swell meet at optimum best spot. As surf stag, he is all about new swell and the next wave. Every swell is fresh challenge. With never enough waves in the bank, he knows groundswell heralds a decision. He receives summons to the wavefield as big swell warrants his welcome.
To prevent longterm temperature change, we have wind which distributes our atmosphere’s heat; but when colder, denser and heavier air, moves under and replaces the adjacent warmer air ahead, the contrast in temperature produces a source of intensity. Willful and undaunted, the disturbance grows overzealous, and is susceptible to abuses of power. Energy naturally flows clockwise in our northern hemisphere, but the unstable moving air blows counterclockwise around the center of our mid-Pacific mosh pit, spinning presumptuous, low pressure pinwheels, angling across ocean expanse and towards our coast. For some, our minds create distraction and we follow detours to find diversion. And when we hear the siren call of that same, seaborne dragon lady, we instead treat her with an undue respect. In denial of our wail within, we are not yet ready to enter the fray and face that demon about. Unable to vanquish our fear, we withdraw in retreat, thinking it best our next wave be left for tomorrow’s new day. We cannot go it alone. Self betrayal hinders our emotional development and as we are not long to hear, “you shoulda been here yesterday.” The groundswell is ephemeral, and for many tomorrow never comes. Here today and gone tomorrow, swell is fickle and tide forever in flux. Overtrumpeted, from the wrong direction, and not hitting right, the swell is not doing it anywhere. We hadn’t seen the charts. A lot of talk and not much show, we grabbed the glory before it was ours. Overgunned, we were counting greenbacks before they made the banks. Now we’re broke and “crying wolf,” again.
original painting by Remi Bertoche
Surfing is good direction. When our Mother Ocean serves up her surf smorgasbord, everything’s working. All thought of work ends and we drop everything to go surf. How have you designed your life? “Luck is the residue of design.” Accomplishments come from deeds, not words. Be singleminded in your drive to succeed. Be dedicated. Pay attention. How studied are you? Are you studied enough? Arrogance is the fear that we are not good enough, that we will never be enough. Are those office currents undercutting your self worth? Do you feel like you’re ever enough? Will you ever be satisfied or content? You know how ocean bottom affects waves. Do you know what’s at the bottom of this? Ride out the swell. Tune into conditions, tune into your self. Have you been too cold, maybe a bit too heavy? Undo your flat spell, get out from under that front. Is your willpower running low? Keep things in perspective. Reassess that loss of dignity. You’re not caught in the grays, there’s a rainbow in sight. The rainbow spectrum is the color of life. Do you miss the surreal, experiential side of our Ocean Divine? Connect with the disconnected. The cavalry is coming. You know there’s a bigger swell and better wave to be had. The status quo will be upset, but you don’t have to run that gauntlet again. Carpe diem. Throw down the gauntlet, it’s time to stir it up. You’ve honed your tools, you’ve honed your trade, it’s time to take your equipment to the test. It’s your destiny. Let it happen. You cannot control the wave, only yourself. “The edge of beauty moves with grace and appreciation; the edge of ugliness cuts with ignorance and disdain.” Move with the integrity of the ocean.