Typhoon Diaries: Swell Updates From Goni & Atsani via Japan & The Philippines
Last week Coastalwatch Chief Forecaster Ben Macartney reported on the “Twin Typhoons” that were making their way towards Japan and the Philippines. As depicted above, Typhoons (Goni and Atsani) developed over the northwest Pacific Ocean and they are pretty much locked into trajectories highly conducive to pumping surf – not only across Japan and the Philippines, but also throughout the northwest Pacific basin.
As they hit land the Typhoons produced wind-speeds ranging from 35 to 130 knots and brought on surf conditions as predicted with waves between 4-8 foot in regions of South East Japan and the Northern Philippenes last week. Conditions did vary but as predicted some areas experienced good, clean swell.
Mike Psilakis from a board shaper from Sydney dropped everything and made his way to the Philippines on the hunt for great waves, while a friend of Coastalwatch, Scott Bailey was checking out the Japanese coast. Here are their diary entries from the dual swell event.
Mike took off on Saturday 22nd August as Typhoon Atsani was building momentum. He and his crew spent most of the first week with great 4-6 foot waves at the infamous Cloud Nine surf break.
“As the travel bug had started to give me the itch again, all sights were on Mexico. Southern ocean swells traveling from the opposite hemisphere, ending up on the shores of the diverse coast filled with sand draining points to thumping Escondido beach breaks. That wasn't the case this year, as I was snowed under with work. July for me, is peak board shaping season. The last minute Indo run. "Mike, need it in 2 weeks". Possible? (Why does everyone think about their step ups the last minute?) Maybe it’s a last minute swell run."
"As it turned out I missed the Mexican train this year. September for me, on the work front, is quite time. Also in my experience, not a good time for surf travel. A little to early for northern hemisphere storm systems as well. So when Sam Brown came in to order a couple of his trusty designs we've been working on and said that he needs them for his up coming trip to the Philippines, I was in!"
"As I was flicking through some info regarding swell consistency in the region the words came up "el niño". As it turns out this year is the strongest la niña/el niño weather pattern which means more likelihood of increased whether activity (typhoons) which is perfect for Japan /Taiwan and The Philippines. Before we knew it we were on the plane heading into Typhoon Atsani."
"After arriving we got to the Island of Siargao and we had some good days. Day 1 and 2 were obviously the best days as the typhoon was in a better proximity to the Philippines. Cloud9 was the best, but that came with a cost with the crowds. You can time it through the tides as crew only surf it around high tide. So if you're brave enough to handle the fin scrapping low tide, go for it."
"By boat, just 20 minutes off shore, there are a series of small islands and reef passes that we surfed which were fun and great to get away from the crowds. There are many other spots on the Island too. It’s just a matter of hiring a bike and exploring."
"The local weather systems made it hard to predict the winds as they are so variable. The Typhoon moved rapidly north so the swell was short lived but delivered fun conditions whilst it was circulating the region between 4-6 foot. We are here for two weeks and on the look out for Typhoons as we head to the more southern islands and a couple of secret spots."
Scott is based in Japan and made a journey around the most Southern prefecture on the island of Shikoku as he documented Typhoon Goni.
“The quality of the surf has been surprisingly high” said Scott. “The point break down west holds as much swell as it is given. The inside breaks were at around double overhead while the bombie out the back started to rear its beautiful face around a Hawaiian ten foot plus.”
“Myself and a buddy pioneered the outside break and still surf it largely to ourselves to this day. Some waves trench the entire point and with over a 1.5 km paddle to get out to the very back, you can imagine the leg burn by the end of any particular gem.”
“The swell peaked out at 5.6 metres at 16 seconds and some sets were pushing the 20 foot plus realm. The wind wasn't ideal but it was amazing to get out and grab a couple with only one or two takers.”
“A good few days on the hunt. It never got epic but then again we are spoilt with such quality over here that our ‘epic’ is considerably more refined than many venues around the globe. We seem to surf uncrowded line-ups more time than not.”
“We sleep on mattresses with our mosquito nets wrapped over the top under a full moon at most places. At the point break we actually set up in a graveyard over looking the break with only a WWII monument and the roving eye of a Light House for company. You sleep well as long as the poisonous centipedes cannot find away into your sanctuary and inject their poison into your system. This gets you dancing.”
“I surfed for three days and spent less than 50 bucks, gas and food included. It is amazing how cheap this place is when you know the correct way to do it. With over 30 typhoons a year on average gracing this area then you don’t have to wait too long for the next call to try your luck.”
“This year we have had protracted burst of swell which has really increased our chances of stumbling over the right place but most swells travel a lot faster and if you are not familiar with the vagaries of this area then you can easily find yourself a day behind and surfing in an ever tightening crowd.”
“Work this place out and you will likely never need to work another stretch of coastline out ever again. She provides, and all you have to do is surf until your arms give out and water is pouring out every single vent. The you have really arrived. Leaving is a different sort of conundrum altogether.”
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