So, Where Do These Waves Come From, And Should We Care?

From a long way away, and if you cared, you would enjoy the beach more
BY: DAVE KAMENA

Did you ever wonder what its like to surf a huge winter swell?

I’ll begin with a confession. I don’t know what its like to climb on top of a huge wave because I stay away from any wave that’s more than double overhead. I’ll drop off all kinds of steep stuff on my skis and mountain bike, I’ll drink a quart of syrup and shotgun a king can of Milwaukee’s best, I’ll jump off a cliff that’s way too high… but I don’t want any part of a two story house of cold water falling on my head. But every so once in a while I’ll get myself in that position and things get scary.

Early December brought a series of strong swells from the great white north. The storms in the northern hemisphere are strongest in the winter months, and those storms have lots of wind. The wind blows over the water and creates ripples, displacing tiny areas of low pressure on the back of each ripple. Those ripples turn to whitecaps, falling over each other for many miles as they gather energy and grow ever bigger. Over their journey of many hundreds of miles they churn along and join forces with others as they lengthen and grow ever stronger.

Over thousands of miles they continue to work together and force themselves into bands of energy,  and the farther they travel the more energy they have. This is called a long period swell, and this energy must eventually dissipate.

Surfing a wave is actually riding the stored energy of the wave as it is forced to release its power in shallow water, (like a continent or an island). Some waves break quickly when the water goes quickly from very deep to very shallow. Others, those which break on a gradually more shallow shoreline, break slowly.

One of the biggest waves ever ridden was off the Todos Santos islands a few years ago, where the very deep water suddenly turns to very shallow rocks. This encourages surfers from all over the world to flock to hotel Coral in Ensenada to rush over to the islands whenever a huge swell is predicted.

These same waves hit our world famous surf breaks, from Rosarito to Ensenada and beyond. Some of our best breaks are found in the Bay of Todos Santos, where an environmental group called Save the Waves has recently established a ‘World Surfing Reserve’. This reserve exists to identify and protect the top quality surf breaks that exist in and around the Todos Santos bay, and is one of only seven in the world.

If you didn’t know we have a special coastline here in Northern Baja, you are missing out, so go take a walk on the beach now.

Back to my personal experience with big waves and surfing; You’ll find me in the water when its big, but I’ll most likely be in the channel watching some of the great local surfers we have here as they paddle for the set waves on those big days. Sure, I’ll pick off some of the smaller ones, but it’s enough for me to be in the crystal clear water, with the excitement of a thousand miles of storm power crashing around me in one of the most beautiful, least populated places on earth!

More information on saving good surf beaches can be found at www.savethewaves.org.