Pico Alto 2011 vs 2012

With the Billabong Pico Alto Big Wave World Tour event live and running we thought we’d take a moment to compare this year’s swell with last year’s epic. The numbers are below, but the webcast is live now – what’s your call for the wave size?

The 2012 swell is a monster, with satellite confirmed 40ft seas at its peak generated by a broad fetch of 50knt+ winds.

What differentiates it at a glance from the 2011 swell is its southerly latitude. 2012′s swell peaked about 800 miles further south-west from Peru than the 2011 equivalent. With both storms peaking with seas in that 40ft range this extra distance should equal smaller swell height and potentially longer peak period on arrival in Peru.

Model forecast data for the 2011 storm suggest a peak in the 14ft @ 17 seconds range, with this year 12ft @ 18 seconds being the top numbers. In this respect the model prediction is in line with our expectations given the relative positions of the storms, with slightly larger conditions for 2011.

Fortunately we have a wave buoy in the Eastern Pacific that allows us some degree of corroboration. These are the readings around the peak of each swell. Again we can see the position of that 2011 storm producing a swell size slightly in excess of this year. Albeit with the variation reported from hour to hour we’re seeing peaks in the 15-16ft range on both¬†occasions.

The final verdict? The webcast is live now here. Last year was called at 35-40ft - how big would you call it today?