Interlude: Bali’s early surf prognastication tool

In the late 80s and early 90s, before the Internet era and NOAA wave models, some of us in Bali had access to the Australian’s Bureau of Meteorology’s Indian Ocean mean sea level pressure analysis. This chart, hand-drawn by a BOM meteorologist from satellite data, was faxed to ships’ and yachts’ weather faxes, including boats in Benoa. Copies of the fax would make the rounds, but only amongst a few, and jealously guarded.

This is the current BOM chart for today, and I am playing Surfline here with the red arrow. Days and days of swell are coming. You don’t even need the modern surf forecast. Just a glance at the MSLP chart tells you that. From the H’s and the L’s marked on the chart, the more expert prognosticator can even say what the prevailing winds will be, in this case trades.

next swell

One time in the early days, Brett B. pranked us by expertly re-drawing the new chart, showing a big-ass low spiraling across the Indian Ocean. Word spread that the biggest swell of the year was on its way in a few days. Guns were dusted off and repaired. And on the appointed day, the faithful gathered early at dawn at Nusa Dua, their guns at the ready, and lo, it was only two foot.

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3 Responses to Interlude: Bali’s early surf prognastication tool

  1. Matt says:

    I remember those days-I still use the synoptic nowadays, even with all the other prognostications available. I’m trying to teach my own surfing kids how to read a chart, as they reach for their smartphones! There’s nary a grom about today that could read one of those charts, time marching forward………

    • The computer knows all. There’s no more driving down to the beach to check. “Internet says its going to be tiny.” Of course, one can now access a couple Bali webcams, Ulu and Canggu.

      • Matt says:

        There is something positive to be said about Webcams (amongst all the negative), in that they at least may have some environmental and time waste benefit……not sure whether that outweighs the negative, however!

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