An Unlikely Impact: Drought Provides Refined California Surf

By Katy Galimberti, Staff Writer
July 25, 2014; 8:00 AM ET
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As California continues to be plagued by intense drought conditions, some surfers are reaping what may be one of very few benefits to such a dry season.

The lack of storms make for smaller, "cleaner" waves according to Austin Gendron, a surf forecaster for Those missing storms are causing California to wait for relieving rains as drought grips the state. Still, some surfers are finding a positive connection.

"It all comes up to timing," Gendron said.

With less turbulence in the water, surfers can ride without being interrupted by another wave coming from behind, making for a tamer experience. As Gendron explained, you could surf during messier conditions, but most surfers would rather the type of waves California has been experiencing as a result of minimal storm activity.

As of July 17, all of California is considered to be in a minimum of severe drought with 36 percent of the state in an exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Conditions that brought severe drought to California also made for cleaner waves as area surfers enjoyed peak conditions past the normal time frame. (Thinkstock/istock/EpicStockMedia)

When storms that could provide needed rainfall to the state don't make it to land, the swells remain farther out at sea. Thus rain does not hit land and the waves are smaller, though more gentle.

December produces the best surfing conditions for central California, Gendron explained.

While the central coast of California is rarely without waves, Gendron explained that conditions this past winter were ideal. The conditions made the waves "surfable," rather than storms creating choppy waves that are typically "unsurfable."

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For example, San Francisco can be a dangerous location with strong currents, walls of whitewater surfs and bitterly cold air. Usually only expert surfers would be able to keep up with the untamed area waves. With the lack of brewing storms for the area, surfers with less experience were able to ride during favorable conditions.

"This past winter there were big days, but most of the time it was average with clean conditions which made it special for everyone who wasn't an expert," Gendron said.

Prime waves usually hit during the fall, but stretched into December and January, pleasing area surfers. The lack of storms did not bode well for California, however, as the area is still trying to overcome the severely dry conditions.

Until needed rainfall graces California, surfers will continue finding the best of an exhaustive weather impact.


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