So big! So powerful! So sneaky!

I am not a weather professional.

Let me repeat: I am not a weather professional.

What I am is an ocean amateur. 

What that means is, every time I see a “sneaker wave” warning, I think to myself, “Well, they aren’t actually being ‘sneaky,’ these waves, they’re exactly what anyone looking at the buoys and forecast would expect.” Of course, most people don’t look at the buoys (even people who should, like surfers and folks who fish off the jetties), so in the interest of public safety, announcing, “Sneaker wave alert!” is far more effective than a long-winded explanation about long-interval swells. 

(Those National Weather Service folks know what they’re doing – they are the weather professionals!)

If you do want to look at a buoy that will tell you exactly what is happening at the moment out in the water, the 212 is a nice local option (observe that the water temp is all the way down to 49 degrees). You can click on the “Latest NWS Marine Forecast” link to see what the National Weather Service anticipates will happen next; do remember, however, that weather forecasts are useful, but no substitute for real-time observations. You know how sometimes the forecast says sunny, but the outside is socked in with fog? The same goes for the marine forecast – sometimes there’s a long interval between what is “supposed” to happen and what actually is.


How serious is this weekend’s predicted swell? Hard-core enough that our surfy neighbors to the south have announcing the rebirth of the Maverick’s big-wave surf contest.

Jonesing to see the big waves closer to home? Here’s a couple relatively safe viewing locations (remember, avoiding the ocean completely is the safest thing of all):

  • The Humboldt Bay entrance – stay far away from the jetties themselves, don’t trample on the dune plants, but stand up on the trail portion of the high dunes for a spectacular show of ocean power.
  • Trinidad lighthouse – you’ll get lots of your classic whoosh-splashsplosions with all the seastacks around and from the elevated vantage point you’ll be out of harm’s way and able to admire the magnitude of the swell.

Need a preview?

Here’s a video 

Please pay attention to the tides as well. My favorite tide chart is here. If you spend a lot of time at the beach, you can pick up a paper tide booklet at the surf shops or outdoor stores – very handy. 

Again, the safest thing to do is not go near the ocean. 

It’s fun to be smart about outside stuff.

Underwater Parks Day, Saturday, Jan. 19

Speaking of being smart about outside stuff, here’s a fun and safe way to be informed about the ocean: Underwater Parks Day! Join Ocean Conservancy (me) and Friends of the Dunes at the Humboldt Coastal Nature Center for a celebration of our newly implemented Underwater Parks! As of December 19, the North Coast is home to a network of Marine Protected Areas. We will have photos and videos, activities for kids, snacks and, weather permitting, a walk out to the Samoa State Marine Conservation Area, just north of Friends of the Dunes’ property.

I’ll be on KHUM 104.3/104.7 FM at noon today to give even more of a preview. You can also read about statewide celebrations (and see a really cute photo) on Ocean Conservancy’s The Blog Aquatic.