Winter of Storms is not just surfing ….

from magic seaweed

Whilst not as vast as Hercules coastal wave heights should exceed anything we’ve seen during the previous three storms. © 2014 Magicseaweed

Strike Four on Saturday is an absolute monster, forecast to be the largest and perhaps most damaging yet with poor surfing prospects. Similar to today’s storm it’s likely to do little but wreak havoc on already hard pressed communities in Northern Europe.  It’s hard to maintain unbridled passion for surf in the face of severe coastal destruction. Take a moment to reflect on the damage and, perhaps, hope that enough is enough for this winter at least.

The story of these recent swells is one of coastal destruction. Where Hercules set up prime surfing conditions in much of Europe, these storms which followed have brought little in the way of great surf for most of us. Instead we’ve witnessed the continuing rapid erosion of sand and cliffs, direct damage to structures and buildings, and ongoing coastal flooding. Much of this is attributed only indirectly to the giant waves but much more a function of huge astronomical tides (caused by the alignment of moon and sun and the moon being particularly close to the Earth) and as importantly a large storm surge.

This surge is set up by three main mechanisms associated with the giant storms that have created such large waves and strong winds: the first is simply the low pressure in the storm lifting the surface of the water above its normal level. Secondly the wind (gusting up to 90mph near the coast here) creates a ‘wind set-up’ – simply pushing water in front of it towards the coast. Thirdly the waves themselves generate a rise in the sea level as they break in shallow water. Where the past couple of storms have seen tides near their absolute maximum, today’s storm arrived with a more typical spring range tide. None the less taking these extra effects into consideration we saw coastal defences breached and considerable additional damage.

The only good news for coastal communities already suffering is a return to neap tides almost 1.5m/5ft smaller than we saw at the peak of that last swell which should go some way to mitigating wave action.

Forecast heights at peak of the swell at Sennen / Seven Stones Lightship, Cornwall, England

Hercules (6th Jan): 28ft@21 seconds
Take Two (1st Feb): 28ft@19 seconds
Brigid (5th Feb): 30ft@18 seconds
Strike Four (8th Feb): 35ft@19 seconds

*Anyone surfing/shooting this storm or interested in press please email

At Dawlish in Devon the only railway line between London and Devon/Cornwall has given up its long battle with the Atlantic. It really was a picturesque part of the journey.

An empty Spanish cargo ship split in half on a breakwater near Bayonne on the Atlantic coast today. Drifting after its engine failed, the Luno crashed into the breakwater at Anglet, snapping neatly in two.

Ten boats have now sunk following the breach of the inner harbour. Fishermen and the emergency services are battling to remove boats from Porthleven’s inner harbour now the tide has dropped. © 2014 Mike Lacey Photography

Fistral Beach before and after the recent storms. You Can see how the protective layer of sand has been washed away allowing the high tide wave action to undermine the beachside property. That’s Alan Stokes jumping for joy in the summer. © 2014 Jason Feast Photography


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