"It is not time to panic." Or at least that's the word from Big Wave World Tour director Gary Linden. After a historic El Nino season last year, it very much looked like the Big Wave World Tour was the new Dream Tour, but what a difference a weather pattern makes. This year El Nino's bitchy little sister, La Nina, has settled into the North Pacific, and hence put a halt on any consistent run of winter swell. Look no further than the pathetic conditions the Triple Crown has had to run in for what a surf world with no waves looks like.
"Very often during La Nina years we have better waves in November and December going into the winter season, but then strong high pressure usually builds to dominate the North Pacific in January and February resulting in smaller waves as storm activity is pushed farther north," explains Surfline forecasting guru Sean Collins. "Now, the thing about these strong high pressures systems is that they are anchored very high up into the upper atmosphere, so they may move around a little to fill in some low pressure areas resulting in a few swells for us, but they usually snap back into position and can lock into place for long periods up to a couple months."
So, with lengthy bouts of high pressure and minimal swell-producing storms, the obvious question would be: is the Big Wave World Tour sunk? After all, it's hard to run big-wave events when there's not much more than a ripple out there.
"La Nina does decrease the amount of big swells, but not the size of the ones that do come through," Linden optimistically points out. "Selecting the day will still be crucial and perhaps expectations will have to be considered. Built into our points system is the value placed on the size of the surf during the event, potentially eliminating the fear of running an event in minimum conditions in respect to the overall impact on determining the year-end champion."
Also on Linden's side is the fact that three out of the five events on the Big Wave World Tour schedule have already run, meaning all they need is a day at Maverick's and a day at Todos to finish the season out.
"We've already had a very good year," affirms inaugural Big Wave World Tour champ Carlos Burle. "The event at Chile went with good waves, not huge, but definitely good. The contests in Peru and Oregon had they're best conditions ever. Pico Alto was great, solid 20-foot plus and very consistent. Oregon overcame all expectations -- huge conditions, sunny skies and offshore winds. Now we're dealing with this lake of an ocean, which it is pretty bad because we can't even train, but I'm pretty sure that at some point Mavs and Todos will play their part before it's over."
And while there's a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking, forecasting science may back up the assertion that the proverbial tide will eventually turn.
"What is interesting this year is that high pressure is already beginning to dominate the North Pacific in November and December resulting in smaller swells," explains Collins. "These types of high pressure system typically only last up to a couple months as there is always a cyclical rhythm to our long range weather -- I don't think I've ever seen them last up to three months. So while this may be bad news for most of December and possibly into January, the storm track door could very likely open up in January and February as the high pressure system breaks down. La Nina years don't necessarily mean bad surf as we've often had great swells during these cooler periods, but we typically have to deal with these stronger high pressure systems in the North Pacific. Right now might be a good time to catch up on all those obligations you've been putting off, so you can be ready to be on it in January and February."
That being said, go out and get your holiday shopping done early, attend all those Christmas parties, and whatever you do, don't put your pintail up on Ebay just yet. The winter is far from over. Heck, technically it hasn't even begun, and that's a fact Linden, Burle and Collins are all banking on.