15 December, 2017 15 December, 2017

Swell Hunters – Off the Charts

“Off the charts”. You’ve heard and used the phrase plenty of times. But it sure takes on a more meaningful tone when used in a surf context. Those purple, orange and red swirls and unflinching soldier-straight arrows have the capacity to raise and lower a surfers blood pressure faster than news of Zuma signing off a Russian nuclear deal. 

When it all comes together and the pulse startes racing. ©: Shot Bru / Marc Francis

And well it should. The technological age has given us more chances of scoring quality waves than ever imagined. The better you know your desired waves, and their nuance, tidal preference and wind direction, the more useful these charts become. 

There are a host of surfers who make snap decisions based chiefly off the abundance of graphs and charts readily available on the internet. There’s a crew of local big wave riders who take full advantage of this information. 

So, to score solid, clean surf, as well as enhance their international profile and burnish their reputations, they have to be on point with every swell. What better way to increase the strike rate than by using the prodigious tools they have at their fingertips: highly sophisticated websites such as Surfline, Wind Guru and Stormsurf are just a click away.

A successful swell chase looks something like this. Jred at Peahi. Phot: AJ Messiers

Joshua Anthony Redman, the November winner of the Striped Horse “Wave of the Month” competitions is one of these surfers. Flush on his 1000 bucks cash and a special delivery of Striped Horse lager, Josh articularly elaborates on the finer details of the swell hunting process; “Chasing swells has to be one of the most stressful things for a surfer to go through! From the time you see that swell appear on the charts a week out, you are constantly checking your phone to see how the swell is tracking and how it’s constantly changing.”

A rather risky business by nature, and even in preparation, it seems. So what’s the ideal mindset to approach with? “Well, I check the Stormsurf website to see the actual wave models and then cross reference that with pretty much every site, such as Windguru, Magic Seaweed, Surfline, you name it. Checking all sites helps to get an overview of the swell and the conditions as the forecasts often vary a bit.”

Matt Bromley hunted the swell of the century in indo, and paddled into this perfect mostrosity in 2015. ©: Brent Bielmann

Of course there’s a human element to the sacred swell chase, and connecting the dots with the heavy water tribe is a key component of this experience.

“There’s a lot of phoning of friends happening around these times, chatting about what everyone thinks… If you’re feeling something it’s always nice to hear someone confirming it!”

But it’s still very much a hit and run scenario, as you are still at the mercy of the natural world after all. Josh continues “As you get closer to the day you start to get a more accurate forecast, but things are never certain and pulling the trigger to chase a swell across the country or half way across the world is always a big gamble.”

Would you take advice from these mad men? Of course you would! Photo: Seth Migdall

Gambling. So they’re basically Surf Junkies? Swell addicts!? Well, and in the purest sense of the word – very much so. There’s no better way to describe these men and women. The ocean and wave riding experience is essentially an alchemical transformation of turning liquid into serotonin and adrenaline, to be sent swiftly coursing through your veins, for hours at a time. 

I mean this is what we’re all after at the end of the day isn’t it? So, how do you ever know if you’ve made the right call? Mr Redman knows both sides of the coin; “this is where the stress kicks in! To try make the right call is very stressful at times and if you decide not to go because it doesnt look too favourable, you still have this gut wrenching feeling all the way up until you wake up on the day and get a report that the waves were not on and you made the right call. I swear you get this sick feeling in your stomach if you miss waves! That shit is real”

James Lowe rolling the dice at Sunset, Cape Town/ Photo: AVG

It most definitely is real. An organic process is being deciphered by high powered equipment and translated into usable data for the intrepid few upon which to base dangerous surf trips, often to rugged and heavy ocean destinations. Now that’s “off the charts.”


*The Striped Horse Challenge presented by Zigzag in association with Hurricane Surf will be rewarding the winner with 30k cash, a return flight to Hawaii and 10k to the photographer/videographer that captures it.

Find out more about the Striped Horse Challenge here.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *