On a dark and stormy night, Kelly Slater had a stroke of inspiration...
Kelly could be on some remote island in the middle of the Pacific or half-asleep on a plane in between 5 time zones, but when inspiration strikes, he always figures out a way to communicate it. A few months ago, Kelly was up late checking out wind-maps to get a sense of where to surf the next day. As he watched the Jet Stream spiral the winds, bending and twisting them into eye-catching patterns, he realized how visually striking this natural wonder really is, sort of a cross between river rapids and Van Gogh's Starry Night.
Kelly texted our design team with the idea to celebrate the Jet Stream on a pair of our 100% recycled Nomadic Trunks. The team at Outerknown was stoked to run with Kelly’s idea, and as we looked deeper into this natural phenomenon, we realized we're not just celebrating the natural force behind making waves, but a phenomenon that's part of a deeply, mysterious science.
For most surfers tracking swells is a part of life. If you want to find good waves, understanding the patterns of the Jet Stream is key. For Kelly it’s become a ritual that borders on obsession. As his buddy Kurt Munro recounts in CONTINUANCE,
“I’ve never seen anything like it. If there’s gonna be good waves somewhere in the world, he’ll be on his phone all night looking at the forecast.”
What makes the Jet Stream so damn fascinating? It starts in a place called the tropopause, one of the lowest levels of the atmosphere, roughly 12 miles above sea level on any given day. Here the Jet Stream flows across the sky creating a cold and fast wind, so powerful, that even airplanes have a hard time flying against it. Jet Streams dictate so much of the Earth's weather, but studying this atmospheric current is a fairly new addition to forecasting, discovered after the 1883 Krakatoa volcano eruption. As scientists tracked the sky after the eruption, they noticed an ‘equatorial smoke stream.’
A Japanese scientist in the 1920s continued to watch the winds atop Mount Fuji, followed by American badass pilot Wiley Post who in 1933 became the first man to fly solo around the world. His expeditions helped scientists discover what jet streams were all about. Wiley studied the winds in a pressurized suit he invented that allowed him to fly over 20,000 feet off the ground.
Then with World War II, and flight-paths traversing the world’s skies, scientists began connecting all the dots to form the foundation of wind-mapping today. If you can understand the Jet Stream, you have a solid idea of what the weather will be, and what kinds of waves will develop along its path. Like all forecasting, it’s a fickle science with new insights being discovered all the time. Maybe that sense of continued discovery is part of what makes it so enduringly fascinating –– and why it’s such a big part of Kelly’s everyday routine.
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