January's Forecast Travel Best Bets: Start 2019 Off Right, Go Surfing – Surf News

2 hours ago | Updated 1 hour ago




January 1st serves up a reset on vacation (and cough-cough, sick) days for the 9-to-5 surfer. The holidays are stressful, the lineups are thick, and there isn’t a more therapeutic way to start a new year and ease back into the daily work grind than with a soul-refreshing surf trip. You owe it to yourself, and for the betterment of your company, to get your head straight before tackling 2019. Properly prepare yourself, mentally and physically, for the long, rough 365 days that lie ahead.

Have a pick from the collection of travel destinations our expert forecasters recommend for January and hit the road. Once you’re back, we can start planning for your next trip during Spring Break….

LOLA’s opening swell salvo to kick off 2019 — where do you want to head for surf?

South of West

Baja is built for Best Bets. Not only for alliteration but for the 1000+ miles of coastline that runs the entire gamut of surf setups. There are openly exposed beachbreaks, perfectly tucked-away points, and deepwater big-wave magnets.

Baja winter surf

Above: Tyler Warren, Baja-bound. Photo: Jeremiah Klein | Top: Caribbean winter wonderland. Photo: Klein

While Baja appears on most surfers radar as a summer sojourn, it’s the North Pacific firing on all cylinders that allows some of the finest nooks along the Pacific side of the peninsula to do their best work. Climatologically speaking, January is prime time for swell creation over the mid-latitudes, making Baja a fitting Best Bet to start your 2019.

Read: Expert Premium Forecast Analysis for Baja

With the onset of El Nino a near certainty through the next couple weeks, and a North Pacific storm track looking the part, swell looks to be in abundance for Baja through much of January. A large-scale pattern shift brings storms closer to the US West Coast through the first half of the month — which bodes well for large surf.

Check: Northern Baja High Res Wind Model

Conditions favor Central through Southern Baja to start as low pressure systems bring periods of onshore flow to northernmost Baja. After a series of midsize or better swells, things may cool off a touch through the middle of the month which serves the areas openly exposed to capitalize on any swell the NPAC dishes out. The second half of the month looks promising as the storm track is poised to stay active over the North Pacific.

Baja surf forecast

Extended range LOLA outlook (**subject to change**) shows more, potentially solid swells for the second week of the month.

Everywhere Islands, Nothing but Islands

Pohnpei surf forecast

Micronesia’s crown jewel, P-Pass. Photo: Swilly

When most think of tropical Pacific paradise, they think of Hawaii, Tahiti, and Fiji — especially when it comes to surfing destinations. Rightfully so, as these places are incredibly beautiful and receive some of the best surf in the world. They are also some of the more accessible and mainstream travel destinations. Meanwhile, thousands of other islands dot the Pacific between the more well-known locations. Micronesia is one such region of Oceania which includes a cluster of approximately 2100 islands in the West Pacific and is a forgotten realm of the world to many. Some of the more well-known islands within this region that may ring a bell are the Marianas, Guam, Marshall Islands, and the Caroline Islands.

View: Micronesia Surf Forecast

Like all islands, exposure to potential wave action is 360°, although the window to receive significant swell may range from wide open to completely blocked, depending on where exactly the other neighboring islands are located. During large swell events, the less exposed spots can actually be a good thing for most surfers — we’re talking deepwater swell energy breaking over shallow, living reefs in many spots.

Another great aspect of islands is that conditions will be ideal somewhere, it’s just a matter of finding breaks exposed to a given swell and finding a favorable wind scenario. It may take a little searching but it’s out there, either around the island you’re already on or hopping over to other nearby islands by sea or air. Basically, it’s pretty much a guarantee that somewhere will be good or at least fun.

Check: Wave Heights Around Micronesia

Littering the ocean to the west and southwest of Hawaii, many of these islands are well exposed to northerly-angled swells that spawn from winter storms rummaging across the North Pacific. Not only is January traditionally the most consistent month of the year for the strongest storms in the North Pac, but the overall storm-track tends to favor the Northwest Pacific as well, developing storms and swells closer to Micronesia. January is typically one of the, if not the, strongest and most consistent month of the year for northerly swells in Micronesia.

Pohnpei surf

Islands can receive swell from any direction but January is prime time for North Pacific juice.

Right on cue, the storm track recently shifted and solid north swell will impact exposed islands of Micronesia over the first several days of 2019. Looking further out, long-range models indicate that a series of more Northwest Pacific storms will soon follow, dishing out a couple more sizable pulses through at least mid-month.

For a wildcard – although most active from May to October, typhoon season runs year round. There is always a chance for a possible tropical cyclone to flare up and deliver swell to other exposures across Micronesia. And like Hawaii, many of these islands also receive tradeswell which can be a good option to explore on days when no significant swells are running.

Caribbean Tropical Two-Step

Panama surf forecast

Bocas Del Toro, Panama. Photo: Klein

The Caribbean is the East Coasters go-to travel destination, just as Baja serves the West Coast. Even though we’ve seen a fairly active storm track provide a decent amount of surf, our internal surf report archive suggests that January is one of the worst months of the year for pretty much every metric we use. The Caribbean is still a good destination to escape the weather and increase your surf odds this winter, but it will take a little ingenuity to maximize your reward.

See: Panama’s Caribbean Coast Forecast

The Caribbean side of Central America saw a nice run of waves over the back half of December and the medium to long-range computer model guidance suggests the trend will continue for the early part of January. Surf here is generated by the interaction between the Atlantic ridge and the semi-permanent low over Columbia that produces strong tradewinds over the central and eastern Caribbean Sea. This pattern typically breaks down closer to Central America resulting in generally lighter winds and better conditions —- an ideal scenario for consistent, punchy surf.

Read: Expert Forecast Analysis for Puerto Rico

The year opens with solid, well-overhead swell that backs off some into the first weekend of the month as overhead surf keeps going. Winds are elevated with this first round of swell but still lighter for portions of the coast. And with this much swell running, there should be options to hide from the winds and power of the surf. After that, it looks like we’ll see more seasonal-sized surf for the second of the week of the month. This sets up fun, chest- to head-high barrels that won’t run through your entire quiver like the surf at the start of the month will. As we move closer to mid-month, it looks it’ll be time to move northeast to the islands and hunt for more solid swell.

Caribbean winter surf

The new year kicks off solidly for the Central American coast of the Caribbean — then head to the islands mid-month for north swell.

We expect a bit of a pattern shift the back half of the month which would favor the more northerly facing breaks in the Caribbean, including the Greater Antilles and Leeward Islands. Storm activity over the Eastern US and Western Atlantic should set up better potential for more consistent and bigger NW to N swell activity during a period which looks to coincide with periods of lighter tradewinds (and smaller surf for the Central American breaks). That is an ideal scenario for quality surf at many of these island breaks exposed to the N/NW Atlantic swells.

Our surf report climatology suggests that January offers the largest average surf, most days with ‘FAIR or better conditions’, and the most days that are ‘chest high or bigger’. Given what looks to be a rather slow start to the month in the islands, the last two weeks could be a good time to finish off your Caribbean surf safari.

Know before you go

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