A week out: a simmering Olympic surf forecast


  • Tropical cyclone surf likely for Olympic event opening days
  • Wind and conditions will be determined by the location of the tropical activity
  • More swell lines up for the middle and end of the competition window

No one has studied the Western Pacific weather maps and tracking surfing on Japanese beach at Shidashita – the birthplace of Olympic surfing beginnings – as much as chief forecaster Kurt Korte has done in the past five years. And over the past month, he’s rarely looked away from his screen, constantly refreshing the next run of the forecast model, looking for the next chunk of data to consume. So if Kurt is starting to get excited about the potential of several tropical cyclones stacking up over the next couple of weeks, isn’t it time we got pumped too?

Watch live webcam: Shidashita

It’s southern Japan in the top middle with the contest site just off-screen. The cloud mass in southern Japan is In-Fa – it will move west outside of Shida’s swell window before the opening ceremonies. But watch this space later in the week for another tropical cyclone to form – this is the one we are watching to produce swell at the start of the event.

Over the past couple of years or so, Kurt has heard various reports about “how bad surfing will be for the Olympics”. Now he’s in a place where he can actually start talking about “how good this could be.” For the latest and greatest news, we’re going straight to the Source, International Olympic Competition Surf Forecaster Kurt Korte:

“We’re only in the early days, but every run of a forecasting model is enticing. How would a typhoon pass near Japan, the winds turning offshore and the mixed direction swell pumping for one of the opening days? That’s exactly what three of our most reliable forecast models show Sunday morning (local Japanese time). If that doesn’t excite you, how about a multi-day easterly swell race with your head held high through the meat of the contest window? Yes, we also have it in the charts today. Honestly, the forecast for Shida is pretty damn bright at this point. We’ll just need to figure out which days will have the best combination of size and favorable conditions.

“We have a few things to watch out for in the tropics next week. Tropical Cyclone In-Fa takes shape in southern Japan. It is likely to become a typhoon in the next few days. It’s too early and it’s going too west to help the contest. Later this week, another system is likely to form in that same region – but this one is heading north into the Shida swell window instead of moving away. We’re still figuring out the timing of this system and how close it might get to Shida, but it will become more focused in the coming days. Note: it won’t take a powerful typhoon to produce waves overhead. Stronger is not always better.

Swell height animation shows In-Fa intensifying and heading west towards Taiwan this week, before the event begins. This will not impact the surf forecast for the Olympics. The system that develops at the end is the one we are monitoring to send swell to the opening of the contest.

No wonder Kurt laughed so hard – having too many surfing choices is always a good problem for a forecaster. Look for updates on the tropics throughout the week and detailed predictions for Kurt’s contest.

* Editor’s Note: Surfline Chief Forecaster Kurt Korte will be releasing official forecasts from the sands of Shidashita Beach. Check back for her first detailed outlook on July 18.

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