By Mary O’KEEFE
Recently my daughter showed me a surf video she saw on social media. It was of Sebastian Steudtner, a surfer from Germany who set the Guinness World Record in 2021 for the biggest wave ever surfed. It was an 86-foot wave at Praia do Norte Nazaré, Portugal. I am not a surfer but I can appreciate this tremendous accomplishment and when you watch the video his skill is evident.
And, of course, when I watched it my mind went to the movie “Escape from LA” and climate change (yes, it is not easy being in my head).
In the 1996 movie “Escape from LA,” Kurt Russell’s character S.D. “Snake” Plissken, a convicted bank robber, was sent to Los Angeles where “undesirables” have been deported, to retrieve a stolen doomsday device. This followed the previous movie “Escape from New York.”
In one chase scene, one of strangest car chases ever, Plissken caught a wave from a tsunami and surfed down the middle of downtown Los Angeles. Perhaps the best part was his surfing buddy Pipeline, played by Peter Fonda.
Throughout the entertainment business surfing has played the background in several screenplays, from a group of surfing bank robbers in “Point Break” to the Vietnam War and Robert Duvall touting the smell of napalm in the morning in “Apocalypse Now.” There are even surfers going to other planets like in the book “Songs of Thalassa” by Brian N. Tissot.
Despite that there are surfers all over the world and, to be honest, better waves than in California, surfing is iconic to the West Coast. I know that when I saw Kurt Russell riding a wave in the middle of LA there was a sense of California pride that washed over me – and I am not a native Californian and I have never surfed! Yet I felt like applauding for the West Coast. The waves crashed and a Beach Boys’ song seemed to magically start.
There is a mystique to surfing, to chasing that perfect wave, and when watching Steudtner and his 86-foot wave that magical fusion of human and environment is even more obvious.
Part of this mystique comes from the waves themselves – how they are influenced outside the realm of Earth’s atmosphere.
“The Moon and Earth exert a gravitational pull on each other. On Earth, the Moon’s gravitational pull causes the oceans to bulge out on both the side closest to the Moon and the side farthest from the Moon. These bulges create high tides. The low points are where low tides occur,” according to NASA.
The simpatico relationship between surfers and climate is historic. In an article from Scripps News professional surfer Shaun Burns was quoted, “As surfers, you know, we’re kind of the stewards of the ocean. We’re able to see firsthand the changes that climate change is having on the ocean.”
He spoke about already witnessing what climate change has brought.
“I don’t know if there’s an exact moment,” Burns is quoted in Scripps News. “I think just growing up and seeing the cliffs around here eroding day by day and just understanding that just one simple rock change or one part of the cliff that breaks can change a wave.”
As reported in Scripps News, Dr. Dan Reineman, a scientist with California State University Channel Islands, and a surfer, has studied the relationship between coastal resources and coastal societies. In 2017 he gathered data from over 1,000 surfers from 105 surf spots in California on their present-day preferences for surfing.
According to the study, “16% of the surf spots evaluated are in danger of what’s called ‘drowning,’ meaning the waves won’t break anymore, and 18% are threatened but could adapt if natural systems of the shorelines aren’t disturbed. Meanwhile, 5% could see a rise in optimal surfing conditions with rising sea levels.”
The Surfrider Foundation has looked into how climate change has and will affect the surfing communities as well. As sea levels rise there will be fewer beaches, so even those of us who like watching waves will be affected.
But as waves flatten in some areas of the world they will rise in other areas. California has a whole lot riding on its waves, not only for surfers but residents and tourists with their holiday money; all that will be affected by climate change. As for California surfers, they may need to do a lot more traveling to find that perfect wave.
For more information on surfing and the video of surfing the record-breaking wave visit these sites: https://tinyurl.com/2s3wdhz4, https://tinyurl.com/bdeu4pje, https://tinyurl.com/2bw9rtb6.
For those of us inland, there is a wind advisory still in place. It began yesterday at 7 p.m. and ends today at 6 p.m. Winds are supposed to gust from 40 to 60 miles per hour, according to NOAA.
It is expected the winds would peak last night and be calmer during the day today.
There is a potential for another rainstorm on Sunday night through Monday. This will be a weaker storm than what we had faced earlier this month with much less rainfall totals. The rainfall is expected to be a quarter of an inch at the most, according to Ryan Kittell, NOAA meteorologist.
“Most significantly will be cold temperatures with it dropping to highs of 50 [degrees Fahrenheit],” he said. “And snow levels down to 3,000 feet.”
Beyond Monday, Kittell said, there is little hope for rain through the end of next week.