The best surf of the season so far graced the east coast of the US this week, as hurricane Teddy, one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes ever, delivered some punchy, peaky tubes earlier this week.
And that rounds out a few back-to-back swells for the right coast, with the anything but cuddly Teddy making for the icing on a dazzling multi-layered cake.
If there's anyone finding their way under a thick-lipped curtain, it's Rob Kelly. “Hurricane season usually always produces a good amount of waves on the East coast but the past week or so have just been non-stop,” he relays to MSW.
It quickly doubled in size, becoming one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes ever
“Hurricane Paulette set the benchmark pretty high last week then this Teddy swell showed up and raised the bar even more. Teddy was a massive storm that took a somewhat similar track to Paulette but it mixed with a good amount of NE wind swell which helped break up the long period lines that usually closeout the beachbreaks here in New Jersey.
“That combination along with light offshore local winds when the swell peaked made for a pretty memorable day on Tuesday. A lot of hollow waves, really sore shoulders, and smiling faces on the Jersey shore, along with entire Atlantic Ocean I’m sure, after that run of back-to-back hurricane swell.”
Photographer Joe O'Connor said: “It was probably the best the east coast has seen this season. The surf kept improving. It started out as a longer period swell with long lines that our beachbreak doesn’t handle that well. Then the period dropped a bit and the surf got more peaky and stayed good until 5pm or so when the west wind got on it. Teddy delivered.”
Forecast: New Jersey Hurricane
Breaking down the swell signature for Teddy, MSW forecaster Tony Butt said: “Like most hurricanes-to-be, Teddy started off as a wave depression over on the eastern side of the Atlantic near Cabo Verde.
“This was around September 11 2020. By the 14th it had moved west, strengthened into a tropical storm and was able to be named. It continued to move west, and gained hurricane status on 15th, rapidly increasing to category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. A pulse of swell was already radiating out and heading for west-facing coasts in the Lesser Antilles, which began to arrive on 17th. At the same time, the storm continued to intensify, becoming a major hurricane and hitting Category 4 later on 17th, with sustained winds of 140 mph.
“Hurricanes, even though they have very strong winds and can cause major damage, also have very short fetches and move very fast – so the swells are often disappointingly short-lived and hard to pin down. But Teddy travelled for a considerable distance towards the northwest – in the same direction as the swell it was producing – and generated a larger-than-normal pulse of swell heading towards the East Coast.”
And as to what made Teddy so special: “Another thing that often happens with hurricanes is that they end up making landfall or coming very close to the area where the swell hits, meaning strong, unpredictable winds at best; utter destruction at worst. Teddy, in contrast, came up against a north-easterly airstream off the eastern seaboard of North America, which held it several hundred miles off the coast.”
But, there was a time when Teddy had weakened. “After stalling on 21st and briefly weakening, Teddy became entrained into that northeast flow, which pumped more energy into the system,” explains Tony. “It quickly doubled in size, becoming one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes ever, with an area of gale-force winds over 800 miles across. The large fetch on its western flank generated a further pulse of swell, which reached north-facing spots in the Greater Antilles around 23rd.
“Teddy made landfall in Nova Scotia on 23rd as a post-tropical cyclone. Conditions were hazardous, with winds of around 65 mph and wave heights of over 30 feet. After that, it finally weakened before heading off into the far north.”
We'll be running more images as they come in throughout the day.