Olympic surf forecast
In just over a year's time the best athletes in the world, surfer's included, will be saying sayonara to the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics begin on the 24th July with the closing ceremony just over two weeks later on the 9th August.
Surfing, of course, is part of the roster and it's been alotted an eight day window to run the four day event. The window is the 26th July to the 2nd August.
Now, much has been said about the quality of surf the five ring circus can expect, it's high summer after all, and after ditching the wavepool the organisers have no safety net. But what does anyone outside of Japan really know about the consistency of Shidashita Beach?
Located in Chiba Prefecture, Shidashita is at the far southern end of a 50km sandy stretch that faces southeast into the Pacific Ocean. The 'Shida' end has many rockwalls set perpendicular to the beach to halt erosion, around which sandbanks build up.
The expectation is that the North Pacific will be quiet so we went back through six years of data, to see if that was the case for the 26th July to 2nd August. This is what we found:
2014: Very small waves during the early part of the window are offset by a huge 5m south-southeast typhoon swell right at the end of the period.
2015: Very small mid-period south swell for the entire window.
2016: Mostly small easterly trade-swell ahead of a large south-southeast swell that built to 3.5m at the end of the waiting period.
2017: Very busy year. The waiting period began with a big east-southeast groundswell that built to 3.3m, which was quickly backed up by a moderate to large south-southeast swell, and the window closed with a monstrous 10m(!) typhoon swell out of the southeast.
2018: This year had a big mix of swells - all mid-size but of varying directions - for the start of the period but they all faded away to a small background easterly trade swell.
2019: Six of the eights days were very small, but then it jumped up to 3m from the south-southeast for the end of the period.
Is it possible to discern a pattern from that information? Admittedly, it's more active than expected, so there appears a good chance the Games will get waves, but the next question is what sort of waves? With everything from languid trade-swell to 10m typhoon swell, all breaking over shifting sandbanks, the surfers are gonna need a broad-spectrum quiver.
The surest thing is that the Olympic surfers will be sent out in a range of conditions, none of which will stack up against the perfection of the wavepool, yet there's also an argument that the fairest way to crown a winner in a one-off event is to have them compete in a wide mix of conditions.
Though I doubt the non-surfing viewers will agree.