SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SURFERS MIGHT NOT KNOW IT, BUT THEY ARE BENEFITING EVERY DAY FROM RESEARCH DONE DECADES AGO BY LEGENDARY OCEANOGRAPHER WALTER MUNK, WHO DIED EARLIER THIS MONTH.
KPBS REPORTER ERIK ANDERSON SAYS ONE OF MUNK'S LASTING GIFTS IS HIS WORK PIONEERING SURF FORECASTING.
TM 13:56:32 - 13:56:34 "The water level is definitely higher."
23 year old Taylor Moreheart scans the ocean at San Diego's Tourmaline Surf park, between Pacific Beach and LaJolla.
TM 13:57:01 - 13:57:13 "umm, this guy's got a really good wave. Really it's kinda of like looking at it and seeing who's having the most fun and kinda like feeding off their energy. Really yah."
Moreheart started surfing here when she was seven. It was something she did off and on since then and now she counts it as one of her passions.
TM 13:53:03 - 13:53:08 "I think it's really just the connection you feel with the ocean, the ocean controls my mood."
Moreheart has had plenty of company through the years. 72 year old Lynn Sparks has been dipping his toes in the San Diego surf for six decades. When he started, it was quite an effort to get to the beach.
LS 14:01:42 - 14:02:03 " We just carried the board, double carried down the hill here. And we went in the water no matter how bad it was. And we got really cold and we had to run all the way down the beach to the Safeway, or Foodbasket that was down there on Garnett and get a bunch of wooden crates so we could make a fire just so we could go out one more time."
Sparks and his friends didn't have the luxury of wet suits or surf forecasts, He never knew until he got to the beach what the conditions would be like.
LS 14:03:07 - 14:03:15 "You just had to come down and check it out. Until you got a car you just went down and whatever there was there you went out and had fun with it, with all your friends."
Hitting the beach when the waves were rolling was a gamble in the old days.
14:27:58 - 14:28:04 "It was all quite hazy and no one knew when the waves were going to be good."
Scott Bass reports on surfing conditions for KPBS. He says committed surfers allowed the uncertainty of the ocean to shape their lives. People chose jobs, schools, or even partners that were flexible enough to let them change plans at moment's notice if good waves were rolling in. Bass says science has changed that.
14:30:30 -- 14:30: "we're not so much at the beck and call, a hope and a prayer that we're going to be there when its good. We can plan our lives a little bit better. Knowing that hey in three days the wind and the swell is going to be great. So you don't have to worry for the next two days you get your responsibly taken care of."
Surf cams beam current conditions over the internet and forecasts have become much more sophisticated. Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Dale Stokes credits famed oceanographer Walter Munk.
DS 13:50:06 - 13:50:26 "Walter's work was instrumental in figuring that out and that forms the basis of a lot of surf prediction that you see on line today. They've just sort of tweaked the calculations a little bit based on Walter's original theories and that's what we use to model surf hitting the coast all around the world."
Munk pioneered his surf forecasting models for the military. He famously predicted wave conditions on D-Day, clearing the way for the Allied invasion of German occupied France. But Stokes says it was Munk's far reaching work after the war that cemented his title as the father of surf forecasting. He set up research stations from the stormy Antarctica to Alaska and tracked waves as they moved across the Pacific.
DS 13:47:27 - 13:47:45 "Where ocean swells and where waves originated and how they travelled around the world and Walter was instrumental in solving some of those problems."
Munk's illustrious career ended earlier this month with his death, But his contribution to a signature Southern California passion will live on well into the future.
Erik Anderson KPBS News}