2020 JWAA Award Recipient : Rea Strange


Before swell forecasting was really a thing, before the internet, during a great age of discovery and science, there was one local man with great passion and love for the ocean and the weather who always made the right call. Rea Strange was a humble, hard working, and genius of a man who assisted in great break throughs in surf forecasting and helped to make the call for the Rincon Classic for all 17 years that Roger Nance and Jeff White ran the Classic from 1979-1996, and for the first six years that Surf Happens ran the Rincon Classic 2001-2006 with notable predictions for the 2002 event when it went from 2 to 10 feet on February (02) 10th, 2002 (link to below images and story from 2002), and the historic swell that graced the 2004 event with double to triple overhead surf. His ability to understand and interpret the weather and swells was second to none and enabled some of the most incredible calls of the Rincon Classic to be made. He could literally predict incoming swells down to almost the minute when the surf would get good along with the wind and water conditions.

Like the many surfers and legends of the 805, he did what he did because he loved it, not for the fame and accolades. It is with great pleasure that we honor Rea’s contributions to the sport and our local culture and recognize his family for the amazing accomplishments he achieved during his lifetime.

A list of just some of Rea Strange’s Achievements

  • Led the effort to develop methods to forecast long period swells
  • Developed innovative algorithm to forecast southern hemisphere swells reaching the northern hemisphere
  • Chief forecaster for the Americas Cup 1992 and 1995
  • Provided free forecasting for surfing contests throughout the Pacific including the Rincon Classic
  • Known by early big wave riders for his “Strange Sets”
  • Recognized for his uncanny ability to forecast the arrival of a swell within the hour
  • Above all, an enduring love of the ocean

Story of the swell 02/10/2002

By Chris Keet Rincon Classic Contest Director

One memory I have of Rea’s uncanny ability to predict the surf came in February of 2002 just in time for the first waiting weekend for the Rincon Classic. All other models and forecasts predicted that the surf was going to be flat a week out, but Rea said ” things can change quickly”. The Monday prior to the event the surf was still predicted to be flat and he once again said, “be patient, we have to wait until three days out, it’s the only way to truly know.” The Wednesday prior, the final cut day to make the call, I was sitting in Roger Nance’s office at the Surf N Wear Beach House as he spoke to Rea. That morning we had seen the Wave Track fax which predicted flat conditions for the coming weekend. I had told Rea I had dreams about a big swell coming that weekend, but it seemed they were nothing more than dreams. Roger looked and me and gave me a wink. There was a blob that had just shown up and Rea was convinced we would get a straight west, short interval, perfect direction ground swell, and that the dying swell for Saturday would hold at head high, and that the new unpredicted swell would come on extremely strong on Sunday at 10am and pump the rest of the day. We went on the faith of his call and pulled the trigger to run the event which was held on 02/09 and 02/10, 2002 and the waves indeed went from 2 feet Sunday morning at 7am to 10 feet (double overhead) by 10am. Attached are two photos from that incredible swell as captured by John Nordstrand of Joe Curren and Oliver Parker