Storm in a teacup

Interesting to see how pumping waves in the Mediterranean Sea are often associated with weird borderline climatic conditions. Storms lashing especially the French Riviera are rare, but not unheard of. There’s usually a few prominent cases every year, of which only a few deliver actual swell up to our southeastern shores. The Mediterranean provides relatively little surface area making it tough for tropical like storms to develop, however it happens and when it does, storm in a tea cup is really what it’s all about.

This one was generated last week by a 992 HPa depression a hundred miles or so west of Corsica island. This configuration is a best-case scenario as it turns on solid south swells, two magic words for hundreds of desperate guys in this part of Europe.

Ghost sessions

As of today, ex-tropical cyclone Nadine has lasted approximately 19 days. Nadine has probably opened the door for a few depressions in the Mediterranean. This is likely to continue since she re-developped a second time into a tropical cyclone on September 24, and is forecasted to move north northwestward in the eastern Atlantic for the next days. So there was a few surf lately in the Mediterranean caused by a couple of moderate wind storms, nothing great, just typical med sessions.

More than anywhere else, surfing in the Mediterranean requires a lot of reactivity. You must always be on the lookout to enjoy these sporadic swells. Right place, right time, conditions come and go in a blink of an eye quite literally. We had another demonstration of how fast and unpredictable this can happen just the other day.

The wind was blowing steadily since hours, producing a decent windswell but pretty bad waves because of a strong onshore everywhere. There was a little hope that the wind could drop a bit in the late afternoon. So I decided to wait for that, hoping that the swell wouldn’t completely disappear in the meantime. I was quietly installed in the back of my van, laying in the convertible sofa bed installed specially so as to keep an eye on the conditions outside.

An hour or so has passed in the muffled sounds produced by gusting winds over the car. Quite suddenly, without any apparent reason, the wind died. This was quite unexpected and to give an idea, these webcam videos show how conditions were like, before, and half an hour later.

Click to Watch VideoClick to Watch Video

In a matter of minutes, the wind picked up again, increasing in strength but in the opposite direction. It only took a few time for the wind to switch 180°, changing the conditions from depressing to almost not bad with now the offshore growing a nice white mane on top of the breaking waves.

That’s when a heavy thunderstorm broke out. Dark clouds followed by intense rain, hail and lightenings hit the area very quickly. The situation could have felt like the end of the world. The storm was big enough to cause a short blackout reported in the local news, but fortunately there was no damage. It was also probably the reason of the rather strange wind behaviour. Such manifestations of nature are not so common, but the chain of events wasn’t finished yet. What happened just after was also funny.

So I was chilling out in my van waiting for the wind to calm down as most meteo models had predicted, and I didn’t expect what was about to happen at this point. The parking was empty and there was barely no one on the beach. The moment I noted the wind had changed and the storm hit, it was glassing off and waves got far better. It all happened rather quickly, but cars started right away to fill up the parking and guys in wetsuits were already into the water. The situation was unreal. While I thought I was alone, all those guys showed up in the middle of this dramatic weather almost at the same time. They just came out from nowhere and did that at the precise moment when the wind turned offshore!

Needless to say, it wasn’t the session by myself I had imagined in my van. Sometimes, I really wonder how med surfers get their information. Anyway, it wasn’t the session of the year but the surf wasn’t too bad.