Analysis: New buoy records Fiji swells
As groundbreaking as the 2012 Volcom Swell and the weekend's Ramon Swell at Cloudbreak have been, we've never been able to ascertain how big the open ocean swell was. That's because we've never had real time buoy observations to analyse the signature of each swell. There are no buoys in the path of Fiji swells. Nothing in the Southern Ocean, Tasman Sea, or around Fiji itself.
That all changed earlier this month when a new wave buoy was deployed off Fiji's Coral Coast, offshore from the small village of Cuvu, approximately halfway between Cloudbreak to the north-west and Frigates to the south-east.
In 1991 a buoy was deployed off Frigates, yet it only lasted a year, but this new buoy is permanent and will fill a crucial data gap in the South Pacific Ocean, while also helping calibrate global wave models.
The bonus for surfers is not only to geek out on the data from the weekend's back to back XXL swells, but also use the buoy to confirm the arrival of new swell energy across the region and plan trips out to the reefs.
Coming back to the past weekend (see images below) and we can see that the two swells weren't dissimilar in size at their peaks.
The first kicked strongly Friday afternoon and peaked overnight to a significant wave height of 4.67m before dropping steadily Saturday, while Sunday's swell pushed close to this size through the daylight hours, but then peaked at an incredible 4.91m at 11:20pm.
The main difference though were the peak swell periods, with Friday/Saturday's coming in just under 15s, while Sunday's was a stronger 17s.
Both swells, however, peaked under the cover of darkness. Considering what Ramon Navarro and Makua Rothman rode while the sun was up, it's worth thinking about what could have been. To put it bluntly: it's highly likely that even bigger waves broke at Cloudbreak during the night.
Next time, hey?
Sunday's swell which hovered above 4m at peak periods of 17s has set the new benchmark for swells in this region, and will be referenced in future years. As long as the buoy stays anchored in position!