9.3 Analyzing Two Historical Swell Events that Impacted Cloudbreak Reef at Tavarua, Fiji on July 12, 2011 and June 8, 2012

Thursday, 10 January 2013: 2:00 PM
Room 18B (Austin Convention Center)
Sam T. Wilson, Surfline/Wavetrak Inc., Huntington Beach, CA; and M. C. Willis, K. S. Wallis, and G. J. Rae

Two significant swell events impacted Tavarua's Cloudbreak reef, located in the Maamanuca Island chain on the southwest coast of Viti Levu, Fiji on July 12, 2011 and June 8, 2012. The first of these swells was generated by a broad low pressure system, which developed in the Southern Ocean to the south of Australia and stretched into the Tasman Sea, interacting with a strong area of high pressure over southwestern Australia. This interaction created one of the largest southwest swells to impact Fiji's coast in the past three decades, during which breaking waves of up to 35 feet were observed and surfed at Cloudbreak reef. In addition, this was one of the last big swells to be documented by Surfline's founder, Sean Collins, who passed away in December 2011. Less than a year after this historic swell event, another large southwest swell generated by a similar weather pattern impacted the same region and coincided with a major international surfing contest. Not only were these swells considerably larger than climatology, but they occurred during back to back years and were greeted by the best big wave surfers in the world. The surfers referred to the waves as some of the best big waves ever ridden. The meteorological ingredients that led to these swell events, such as the storm size, movement, and wind speeds, are analyzed and compared. The size of each swell is compared with the climatological average in the region and the impact of Cloudbreak's offshore topography on the waves is analyzed using high resolution nearshore wave model hindcasts.
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