Diary: Hawaii's XXL Opening Day

Magicseaweed

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Updated 53d ago

One of the strongest storms of the season so far rifled into Hawaii on Wednesday – and right here, we'll bring you all the updates as clips and images filter through over the next few days.

Around 7pm HST yesterday, big wave surfers downed tools after an incredible day of XL swell. The likes of Jaws, Honolua, Waimea and the outer reefs were stars of the show. Right now, material is filtering through to MSW HQ – so we'll keep this blog running as things come in from today/this evening and into tomorrow. MSW's Matt Rode is on the ground, reporting live from the North Shore. Here's how the past few days panned out.

Wednesday December 2

Your on the ground man Matt, on yellow and green board, waited two hours for this thing.

Your on the ground man Matt, on yellow and green board, waited two hours for this thing.

© 2021 - Mark Lee

Up at 5:00 am to stretch and prep, the first thing we noticed was the 9:00pm reading on Buoy 1. Located approximately 12 hours northwest of Oahu, the buoy had hit 19 feet at 18 seconds—which means that sometime in the early morning hours we were going to see some very serious surf on the Seven-Mile Miracle.

As far as anticipation goes this was one of those that you spend eight days tracking and stressing over. Usually when a big swell pops up on the long range, it ends up downgrading but this one just kept upgrading and upgrading.

Zeke Lau and Caio Ibelli share a moment at Waimea.

Zeke Lau and Caio Ibelli share a moment at Waimea.

© 2021 - Keoki

Finding a ski to get out there was tricky. At the same time I was looking for a ski for Sarah Lee (photographer) Twiggy was on the hunt too. Fortunately my paddle partner Nick Jones had a buddy with one that hadn't been claimed yet. The problem being, Nick was a firefighter and on duty all night before the swell, and he had to respond to a bush fire at 2am. So he was operating on basically zero sleep. Sarah met me at the channel at 7am to shoot the paddle out, and then she went and met up with Nick. They made it to the lineup by about 9 o’clock, by then we had already been in the water for two hours.

Emi Erickson takes off deepest at Waimea,

Emi Erickson takes off deepest at Waimea,

© 2021 - Keoki

We thought it was going to enormous. Like, 60 foot closeouts. The channel that we are paddling out at was closing out every five to 10 minutes on the inside some guys were getting dragged down the coast, other guys made it out with dry hair.

Yeah, that's Italo at Waimea.

Yeah, that's Italo at Waimea.

© 2021 - Keoki

Waimea was packed at first light, both in the lineup and on shore, but the long period swell made for long waits. A number of chargers headed to the outer reefs, where conditions were pristine and waves were a solid 15-20 foot (Hawaiian). These are the kinds of days that you remember as some of the best of the season, and yet today is literally opening day on the North Shore. Sea breezes came up at around 11, so the action shifted further to the protected peak at Waimea.

Honolua, yesterday.

Honolua, yesterday.

© 2021 - Mike Parsons.

Around 25 of us found our way out to a roping left-hander, where Kalani Chapman, Keala Kennelly, and John Roseman were all standouts. Meanwhile, Twiggy, Mark Healy, Jamie Sterling, and Nathan Florence snuck away to paddle another, reportedly bigger outer reef, while dozens of tow teams zipped along the coastline looking for their fix.

Photographer Sarah Lee, along with MSW's Matt Rode, found themselves here yesterday.

Photographer Sarah Lee, along with MSW's Matt Rode, found themselves here yesterday.

© 2021 - Sarah Lee

As sunlight faded here in Hawaii, the Waimea buoy was still pulsing. There’s a good chance that tomorrow will be on the lower end of the XL spectrum, but still big enough to keep the wax on the rhino chasers. Meanwhile, the forecast for next Monday is looking pretty much identical to today.

Winter is finally here—and from where I'm sitting, La Nina doesn’t seem like such a brat after all.

Tuesday December 1
The day before the swell reached its peak, there was drama on the North Shore: Around 15 people had to get rescued at Sunset Beach last night—15 surfers from a pack of 70, most of whom were qualified watermen and women, if not pros. The waves had been firing all afternoon as the swell filled in—perfect size and conditions for Sunset—but anyone keeping an eye on the buoys knew that things were going to get serious right before dark.

Here's how Jaws was looking on our at-a-glance forecast.

Here's how Jaws was looking on our at-a-glance forecast.

Sometime between 5:00 and 6:00pm, the Waimea buoy hit 10ft @ 22 seconds, and Sunset went from perfect 10-foot teepees to utter chaos in the space of about two minutes. Boards broke, leashes snapped, the current went crazy, and lifeguards on skis were pulling people out left and right. More than one well-known local charger claimed he almost drowned. And yet by the time the sun set last night, the swell had only filled in halfway.

Remember, keep an eye on the forecast for this XXL event, HERE.

Cover shot of an exposed reef off Oahu by Sarah Lee