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Historic Surf Season in January: El Niño

January 30, 2016, marked a remarkable period in the world of surfing, particularly for the Hawaiian archipelago. Renowned for his contributions to Waves, a Brazilian portal specializing in surf, Ricardo Taveira, the owner of Hawaii Eco Divers, shared his insights in a recently published article. Taveira, a seasoned surfer and professional diver, delved into the exceptional surf season experienced in Hawaii during January, emphasizing the impressive swell that struck the archipelago on February 27. This event coincided with the strongest El Niño phase of the 2016 season.

To explore Taveira’s testimony and view the amazing pictures of this extraordinary day, visit THIS LINK. Despite the underlying fear and anxiety associated with such formidable waves, Ricardo employed the techniques taught in the apnea training offered at Hawaii Eco Divers. These techniques were crucial in helping him control his breathing and mentally and physically prepare to surf the colossal waves, highlighting yet another historic swell at Waimea Bay.



El Niño’s Role in Amplifying Hawaii’s Surf

The 2015-2016 El Niño event was one of the strongest in nearly two decades, comparable to the record-breaking El Niño of 1997-1998. El Niño, characterized by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, has a significant impact on weather patterns globally. For the surfing community, especially on the U.S. West Coast and in Hawaii, El Niño often translates to larger and more consistent swells. This is due to the increase in the frequency and intensity of North Pacific storms, which are known to generate some of the largest waves seen in these regions​​.

During this particular El Niño phase, the North Pacific witnessed a series of large, swell-producing storms that traveled from West to East. These storms are formed under conditions of greater baroclinic instability, where strong temperature gradients intersect with pressure gradients. This setup facilitates persistent convective energy, resulting in powerful winds and significant wave generation. The unique proximity of El Niño storms to the U.S. West Coast allows the bulk of the wave energy to concentrate on the coastal boundary, maximizing the height of the waves once they reach the shore​​.

Furthermore, El Niño storms typically follow a more zonal direction, driven

by subtropical atmospheric flows, differing from the traditional sub-polar low-pressure systems. This directional shift plays a crucial role in the formation and trajectory of these massive swells. The 2016 El Niño event was no exception, delivering some of the largest surf the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii have seen in nearly two decades, as highlighted by surf forecasting analyses from Surfline​​​​.

405417_630x420Ricardo Taveira’s Experience and Expertise

Ricardo Taveira’s firsthand experience with the 2016 El Niño-induced swells at Waimea Bay underscores the importance of skill, preparation, and respect for the ocean’s power. His ability to harness the techniques from apnea training not only allowed him to successfully navigate these challenging conditions but also speaks to the broader significance of understanding and adapting to the ocean’s rhythms and moods.

As Hawaii and the global surfing community continue to witness the awe-inspiring power of nature through events like El Niño, it’s essential to acknowledge the blend of excitement and caution that comes with surfing such formidable waves. Surfers like Taveira serve as embodiments of this delicate balance, showcasing the synergy between human skill and the raw force of nature.

To stay updated on the latest in surfing and ocean conditions, particularly regarding how phenomena like El Niño influence surf seasons, keep an eye on Hawaii Eco Divers’ blog and other reputable sources that provide in-depth analyses and real-time updates on oceanic and weather patterns.

In conclusion, the 2016 El Niño phenomenon not only brought about a historic surf season in Hawaii but also offered valuable lessons and insights into the intricate relationship between oceanic weather patterns and surfing conditions. It’s a reminder of the ever-present need for surfers and ocean enthusiasts to remain informed, prepared, and respectful of the ocean’s immense power. Through experiences like Ricardo Taveira’s and the broader surfing community’s engagement with these natural events, we gain a deeper appreciation for the ocean’s dynamic and sometimes unpredictable nature.




Photos: Gary Miyata

My Journey with the January 2016 Swell

The dawn of January 30, 2016, heralded a day unlike any other in my life as a surfer. On that morning, as I gazed upon the restless waters of Waimea Bay, I knew I was about to face the ultimate test of my resolve and skill. The ocean, fueled by the most powerful El Niño in recent memory, was awakening, preparing to unleash a swell that would go down in history. The air was thick with anticipation. Surfers from around the globe had converged on Hawaii, drawn by the promise of colossal waves created by the extraordinary climatic conditions of the 2016 El Niño event. The ocean’s roar was a constant reminder of what lay ahead – a swell that was both a surfer’s dream and challenge.

As I paddled out, the enormity of the waves became apparent. These were not just ordinary swells; they were the ocean’s titans, magnified by the intense climatic phenomena of El Niño. Each stroke towards the lineup felt like a step closer to a mythical battlefield where the brave dared to tread. Then it appeared – a wave so vast it seemed to touch the sky. My heart pounded in my chest as I turned my board, paddling with a mix of fear and exhilaration. The wave lifted me, and for a moment, I was part of something colossal, a force beyond comprehension. The world narrowed to the thunderous sound of water crashing around me. I stood up, guiding my board down the face of this watery giant. It was more than a ride; it was a communion with the raw power of nature, a dance with a force that was at once terrifying and awe-inspiring.

Riding the wave felt like an eternity. Time lost meaning as I became one with the ocean’s rhythm. Every turn, every maneuver was a testament to years of experience, a dance with danger and beauty interwoven. As the wave carried me towards the shore, I realized that this ride was a defining moment in my life as a surfer. As the wave dissipated, leaving me to paddle back to the safety of the shore, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and humility. I had ridden one of the greatest waves of my life, a product of the extraordinary El Niño of 2016. The beach erupted in cheers, but within me, there was a quiet sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the ocean, for the lessons it had taught me, and for the rare opportunity to ride a wave that was a true gift of nature.


As the sun set on that unforgettable day, painting the sky in fiery hues, I reflected on my journey. The January 2016 swell was more than a surfing event; it was a reminder of our deep connection to the natural world, of the respect and awe that the ocean commands. This story, born from the historic swell of January 2016, is a testament to the spirit of every surfer who seeks to commune with the sea.

It’s a narrative that intertwines the ferocity of nature with the human spirit’s resilience and courage. It’s about facing your fears, embracing the unknown, and emerging transformed by the experience. In riding the titan wave that January day, I didn’t just conquer a swell; I deepened my bond with the ocean. It was a dance with the mightiest elements of nature, a moment where time stood still, and I stood at the very edge of the possible. The 2016 El Niño swell at Waimea Bay wasn’t just a physical challenge; it was a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage to the heart of surfing lore. It was a day when the ocean unveiled its most profound mysteries, allowing me to touch the essence of what it means to be a surfer.

As this tale finds its way into the annals of surfing history, let it be a source of inspiration and a reminder of the respect we must always hold for the ocean. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or someone who simply marvels at the ocean’s grandeur, remember that every wave tells a story, and every ride is an opportunity to connect with something far greater than ourselves. This journey, set against the backdrop of the historic 2016 surf season, is more than just my story; it’s a celebration of the surfing spirit, a tribute to the ocean’s ever-changing canvas, and a reminder of the timeless dance between humanity and the sea.