Timmy Reyes, reporting for El Niño duty. Photo: Glaser

Timmy Reyes, reporting for El Niño duty. Photo: Glaser

Talk surrounding this year’s El Niño might be overcooked, but the buzz is justified. Forecasters predict it’ll turn into one of the strongest, stormiest Christ Childs on record. Surfers the world over are planning their steps to catch every serious wave they can, because small potatoes year after year hold nothing to the equivalent of an atmospheric, once-every-three-years prime rib. Fortune favors the prepared. You need to know your spots.

Timmy Reyes has earned such a name as a systematic, globetrotting tube hunter. The Southern California native competes for part of the season in the ‘QS, but once he returns home from Hawaii, his quiver is packed and ready for wherever a swell takes him, which just last week sent him to Nicaragua. Studying conditions early and charting trips are critical in scoring waves that emerge from the woodwork like paranoid celebrities.

“It's kind of like every week, your best friends say, ‘Let's go here,'” Reyes says. “Then you talk about it and then, ‘We're going here,’ and then it'll change in the last few hours before your trip, with 100 phone calls. Getting ready for swells is one thing, but getting ready for a season of swells, like El Niño, is a whole different thing. It’s exciting to think that we might possibly score this year.”

After four days in Nicaragua, three days of perfect six-to-seven-foot peaks, one day of weird onshore winds, and one poked eye [“I was thinking, ‘Ahh, I can’t call you right now! I need to rest my eyeball before I call!’“], Reyes shared with us some zones and waves he’s excited to chase during this year’s El Niño season.

One of California's rarest gems has Reyes stoked for the arrival of El Niño. Photo: Keith

One of California’s best breaks has Reyes stoked for the arrival of El Niño. Photo: Keith


“The last time that we had a good El Niño, I was pretty much a grom, still in high school. It was around the time I started riding really good waves; I knew that I wanted to pursue getting barreled and riding big waves, as well as chasing the ‘QS and stuff. [That year], I remember seeing a lot of Sandspit stuff. I remember hearing that it was amazing, breaking almost once a week for a long time. I know Bobby Martinez pretty well, too, and he was surfing there quite a bit, so I saw a lot of photos and videos during that time.”

Satiate your big-wave appetite with a trip to Mavs. The best is yet to come. Photo: Ginsberg

Satiate your big-wave appetite with a trip to Mavs. The best is yet to come. Photo: Ginsberg


“Mavericks is part of a huge checklist, waiting for the right days. Obviously with El Niños, there's a chance for it to get pretty huge this year, and I could probably back myself up with a couple of really big waves and good rides. The swell that came recently doesn’t even come close. I was laughing at the latest forecast [at Mavs], to be honest. The water is 65 degrees right now, and the air is not that cold. Those are big waves for sure, but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm pretty sure that for all the top guys in the water that day, that's definitely not what they're looking for either. They’re waiting for the big stuff.”

A heavy lip along the Emerald Isle. Photo: Ellis

Scoring on The Emerald Isle? It could happen. Photo: Ellis


“I’m really thinking outside the box here. Scotland and Ireland have always been on my radar. El Niño seems to be drier up into the north. A lot of that stuff tends to stay on a northern track, and it tends to be drier than a typical winter for those guys. So I'm looking into doing stuff like that, because you might get those crispy offshore winds whether you're in Ireland or Scotland, and because you'll probably get some really clean days with El Niño. They could still be good for big swells.”

Patience and southern wanderlust could put you within a stone's throw of a Baja beauty this El Niño season. Photo: Ellis

Patience and southern wanderlust could put you within a stone’s throw of a Baja beauty this El Niño season. Reyes, turning a profit on his perseverance. Photo: Green


“Of course, if it does end up being one of those big stormy swells that are pretty much unrideable and unsurfable in California, we have the ability to go to Baja. Baja is always on the radar. The local breaks in Baja Malibu are always doing something, but if you want to look a little further south and see what you can find way down below, in the nooks and crannies, the trip is worth it. Hopefully we can get down there this year. It's probably been three years without riding any good waves down there. Hopefully we’ll luck out this time around.”

Caption on ice sculptor

El Niño might bring the chance to switch boards, with the right amount of snowfall.


“The other places I'm looking forward to is anywhere where I can snowboard. Up in the north, it could be pretty dang good. It'll be interesting to find out if we can hit the mountains this year during a crazy El Niño season. That would be rad.”

“With all the traveling I've done this year, I've been putting my spots in certain places that I could potentially go back to later on. I'm super stoked that the season is happening again and that I'm young enough to surf all the waves, and to put some mileage on my body. If I was in my mid 50s, I might catch just a few. But now I'm like, ‘I want them all. Let's bring them all on.’"

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