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Thursday, January 19, 2012

MLK Weekend, Sick, and the Ultimate Wave

Did you all have a good MLK weekend? It was pretty bitter cold here in New York City, the kind of cold that settles into and chills your bones. It's weird that there really hasn't been any snow in our area yet this winter. We've had a couple of quick flurries but nothing has stuck. Aside from huddling inside and trying to keep two active boys occupied over three l-o-n-g days, I managed to spend a good part of Sunday and Monday in bed, sick with a stomach bug of some sort. I think that I slept for a good 20 hours out of a 24 hour period.

We did manage to venture out one morning to the Liberty Science Center, just across the river in New Jersey. We pass by all the time on our drives to and from Ed's parents' house in South Jersey. We've just never pulled off the exit ramp to check it out. This past weekend, we finally did. And this is what greeted us when we entered into the museum...

At least if I wasn't feeling well, I was going to watch a little surf movie. Have you seen this? Yes, The Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D is a bit cheesy and commercial (pretty much an ad for Suzuki and Quiksilver) but it was a nice escape from the cold for 20 minutes or so. Plus, when was the last time that you watched a 3D movie? The movie shows Kelly Slater hanging out with Raimana Van Bastolaer, one of Tahiti's most famous surfers, and searching for a perfect ride at Teahupo'o. I think that the most entertaining part of the movie was when Kelly and company go out and surf waves on an outrigger canoe while they wait for a good swell.

Despite the cheesiness, the movie did talk a little bit about how waves form which brought me back to my high school and college physics classes. But since learning about wave formation and surf forecasting was one of my resolutions for the year, I paid attention. I know that this is old news to many of you but it was a good refresher for me.

How waves are formed:
Waves are created by wind. Wind causes disturbances on the surface of the water by transferring energy to water. With more turbulence i.e. a storm, wavelets collide with each other, some canceling each other out and some amplifying each other, causing the wave to get bigger. As the wave gets bigger, the wind has more surface to grab a hold of, amplifying the wave more. As waves get bigger, they disperse from the storm's center into more organized swell. It's this organized swell that creates good, surfable conditions many miles away from where the swell originated.

The one thing that I had forgotten was the in a wave, the actual water molecules don't move much. It's energy that's being transferred between the water molecules which causes the wave motion. This energy travels along until it encounters an obstacle like a sandbar or a reef which stops the movement of energy at the bottom of the wave (trough) while the peak of the wave continues to travel forward at top speed. This causes the peak to rush forward, curl over and crest.

Here's a great article from Surfline on the surf mechanics of Teahupo'o. If you haven't read it, it's a pretty cool look at the conditions that have come together to create one of the most intense waves in the world.

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At January 21, 2012 at 2:43 PM , Blogger Surfing Grandma of OC said...

Most Surf Movies are a bit Cheesy and they do seem like adds for surf merchandise.. BUT they are entertaining. Especially if you are a surfer ;-)

At January 21, 2012 at 8:38 PM , Blogger Christine said...

Yes, cheesiness aside, the movie was a nice escape and gave me the warm fuzzies about surfing in general. BTW - I finally got a chance to get the book that you recommended and can't wait to start reading it!

At January 25, 2012 at 12:49 AM , Blogger luschen said...

One thing I learned from the Surf Simply "wave science lecture" was the importance of the wave's period. I always though a long period was just good because there was more time in between the waves to paddle out. But a two foot wave with a 15 second period will break a lot bigger than a two foot wave with a 5 second period. This is because the longer period wave has a lot more power and "drags" along the bottom of the beach sooner than the small period wave. And the long period waves are more organized too. I like to look at the webcam for my "local break" (I wish) - and compare it to the surf report for the same break - After doing that, I realize that a 5 foot swell with a 6 second period is usually pretty awful, but a 2 foot swell with a 12 second period is usually pretty awesome.

At January 25, 2012 at 11:47 PM , Blogger Christine said...

I think that's a great exercise to do. I know that surf reports aren't always accurate and you never really know until you head down to the water, but I'm starting to see some patterns and to get a little bit of a feel for decent conditions for me at Rockaway.

BTW - I think that since you've mentioned taking your kids surfing in NC, we're considering taking a trip down there with our boys so thank you for the tip!


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