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Local surfers still anticipating big El Niño swells this winter

Leadbetter Point is known for its long rolling waves during the winter season and is situated between the harbor and Shoreline Park, Thursday afternoon, Dec. 3, in Santa Barbara. The waves here attract longboarders and paddle boarders and is a known beginner’s surfing spot.

GRADY OLSON, Channels Staff

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With the right conditions for the much anticipated El Niño indicated, surfers around the area are now playing the waiting game for the waves.

“I’m getting a little antsy now at this point,” said City College student Cooper Hamilton. “This summer was pretty slow in terms of waves around here. Just waiting for that first big swell to finally hit that I’ve heard so much about the past few months.”

But Hamilton should be able to satisfy his craving for surf soon according to Earth and Plant Science instructor, Michael Robinson. “Usually when we do get big storms it is later in the season in December and January,” he said. “So I am not surprised by what we have seen so far.”

Based on recent reports, weather models are signaling that a strong El Niño will continue throughout the region through the winter.

“When we talk El Niño, we are talking change in air and water temperature and pressure in the Pacific, more specifically the tropic Pacific,” Robinson said. “So what they have found and why they are calling this El Niño ‘Godzilla’ is because not only have they found a change in temperature and pressure that indicates an El Niño, but a dramatic change in temperature and pressure from past El Niños.”

According to Hamilton, he has noticed a dramatic change in the water temperature. “I was surfing in my trunks up until Halloween almost, it was crazy,” he said.

A lot of surfers Hamilton said he’s talked to out in the water are like him, patiently waiting for the swells that are supposed to come with that warm water. One thing to pass the time that surfers are doing is making sure their equipment is ready and there won’t be any issues that could keep them out of water.

“I just finished patching up the couple dings I had on my bigger wave board and also bought a new leash,” said Christain Arballo, former City College student and now member of the UCSB surf team. “Just don’t want for that first big swell to hit and my leash snaps first wave or something like that. When your wetsuit zipper breaks off and you have to wait up to two weeks to get in fixed, you probably are going to be missing some waves.”

Equipment isn’t the only thing that Arballo is making sure is ready to go but his health according to him is the most important.

“When it rains a lot obviously the water gets nasty. All those storm drains that have been building up all dry season are now emptying out directly to the lineup,” he said. “You definitely want to be keeping up with your vitamins. Probably going to be surfing a lot in the rain or right after it in the next couple months and being sick is another thing that keeps you out of the water.”

One big difficulty is the uncertainty of when the storm will come.

Hamilton hopes that this winter Santa Barbara will finally get some good waves and more frequently.

“I just want to start getting the waves that we’re famous for,” he said. “The islands block a lot of the summer swells since they are usually coming from the south. I’ve been driving down to Ventura and Oxnard a lot lately to get waves which isn’t that bad but I live in Santa Barbara for a couple reasons and one of them is not having to drive to far to find waves.”

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Local surfers still anticipating big El Niño swells this winter