Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
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On Saturday (3/2) North and Central CA was seeing swell from the Dateline peaking mid-morning with sets once an hour in the 12 ft range at exposed breaks and clean but with underlying lump. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were 1 ft overhead on the rare sets and fairly clean and well lined up when they came. Southern California up north was pushing shoulder high in the afternoon and clean with new dateline swell starting to hit. Down south waves were up to chest high and clean pushing from the south and fun. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting dateline swell with waves 8 ft (3 ft overhead with some bigger sets) and clean though the trades were a bit of an issue at unprotected spots. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell and wrap around dateline swell at 1 ft overhead and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Dateline swell was hitting the US West Coast and heading down in Hawaii but still providing decent sized surf. Make the most of it while you can. Another moderate north dateline gale was producing seas to 40 ft Sat AM aimed mostly east likely resulting in sideband swell for the Islands by Monday and more direct energy from the US West Coast mid-week. A smaller system is forecast for the Western Gulf later in the workweek with 36 ft seas aimed east. Not much of anything to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/2) the jetstream was flowing flat over Japan with winds 160 kts the splitting heavily just off the coast with the northern branch ridging hard up into the Western Bering Sea, then pushing east some before dipping south over the Western Gulf forming a trough there with 150 kt winds flowing down into the trough, then ridging north again and pushing into British Columbia. Some support for gale development in the West Gulf trough. The southern branch tracked southeast from Japan over the dateline and just south of Hawaii before ridging north and joining the northern branch while pushing over the Pacific Northwest. Over the next 72 hours winds are to build off Japan reaching 190 kts with the jet flattening a bit and the ridge dying. The northern branch is to flow east-northeast remaining south of the Aleutians with the West Gulf trough tracking southeast and positioned just off Northern California by late Tues (3/5) continued support for gale development in the trough. The split point is to move back east to the dateline. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to totally flatten traveling flat west to east on the 30N latitude line and not splitting until reaching a point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii by Fri (3/8) but winds speeds dropping to 140 kts. A trough is to build on the dateline tracking into the Western Gulf at that time. But by the weekend with winds speeds so anemic, the jet is to again split just off Japan pushing up into the Bering Sea with no clear support for gale development indicated.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/2) a broad gale was centered over the Eastern Aleutians generating 45 kt northwest winds (see north Dateline Gale below). Another broad gale was building over the Kuril Islands (see Kuril Island Gale below).
North CA: Expect utility class swell arrival on Saturday (3/2) building through the day reaching 6.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (12 ft). Sets madningly inconsistent. Swell holding near 7.0 ft @ 15-16 secs on Sunday (10.5 ft) then fading Monday. Swell Direction: 295-297 degrees (partially).
North Dateline Gale
A gale tracked to the dateline Fri AM (3/1) producing 45-50 kt northwest winds with seas 28 ft at 43N 177E (324 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). Winds built in the evening to near 55 kts and still from the northwest targeting Hawaii well with seas 39 ft at 46N 175W a bit south of the Aleutian Islands (333 degs HI, 298 degs NCal). 50 kt west winds held Sat AM (3/2) just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas near 41 ft at 48N 171W aimed mostly due east (341 degs HI, 304 degs NCal). By evening the gale is to be fading with winds 40 kts and seas fading from 39 ft at 47N 167W (302 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 35 kt northwest winds to be fading in the Gulf Sun AM (3/3) with seas fading from 32 ft at 46N 160W (298 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 30 kt westerly winds and 26 ft seas to push southeast reaching 42N 149W Mon AM (3/4). Utility class sideband swell for Hawaii and maybe a little more for CA, but with weather.
Hawaii: Rough data for planning purposes: Expect swell arrival Monday (3/4) with initial energy building to 6.0 ft @ 17 secs late (10 ft) (330 degrees) peaking Tues AM (3/5) at 7.8 ft @ 15-16(12 ft) still from 335 degrees.
Kuril Island Gale
Yet another small gale was developing off the Kuril Islands on Sat AM (3/2) producing a small area of 45-50 kt west winds with seas on the increase. By evening a reasonable sized fetch of 45 kt west winds is to be off the Kuril Islands generating 34 ft seas over a small area at 42N 153E (309 degs HI). Sun AM (3/3) winds to be fading from 40-45 kts generating 38 ft seas at 43N 160E (312 degs HI, 302 degs NCal) but quickly fading. Winds down to 35-40 kts in the evening with the gale racing north and seas fading from 34 ft at 45N 165E (316 degs HI and 303 degs NCal). This system to be gone by Mon AM (3/4).
If all goes as forecast there some chance for decent background swell for the Islands, but far less for the US West Coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (3/2) light winds were in control of the California coast while a weak high pressure system lurked just off the coast. Light rain down to Bodega Bay Sat PM with 1 inch of snow for Tahoe. A weak front is to push onshore over CA on Sunday AM with light rain for San Francisco northward and maybe 2 inches of snow for Tahoe. North wind is to build in behind quickly in the AM at 15-20 kts for all of North and Central CA, but not exceeding that mark, held at bay by broad but weak low pressure moving into the Gulf. A quick decay in north wind is expected by Monday AM as the low moves up to the Pacific Northwest (northwest winds 10 kts or less) with almost calm winds on Tues (2/5) before turning south for Central CA late AM. Rain down to Monterey Bay late. South wind and a front pushes into Central CA Wednesday with rain starting at Morro Bay moving down to only Pt Conception late. 6-8 inches of snow for Tahoe. Wind turning to north 15 kts Thursday as the low moves onshore and high pressure builds in behind. Maybe scattered light rain over the Central Coast and 2 inches of snow for Tahoe. North winds for Southern CA too. A north wind blowout likely Friday for the entire state as high pressure takes control. Strong low pressure moving into the Gulf though. Still north winds Saturday for North and Central CA but light in Southern CA.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast. A small gale developed producing 34 ft seas over a small area in the mid-South Pacific on Fri (3/1) at 60S 140W. No real swell to result, but it's a start. More similar spurious activity is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours one more small gale is forecast developing on the dateline Wed (3/6) slowly tracking east-northeast with winds building to 45 kts and seas to 30 ft at 39N 172W in the evening. West winds Thurs AM and seas to 36 ft at 42N 166W (292 degs NCal) fading in the evening from 35 kts and seas 32 ft at 42N 158W (291 degs NCal). This is something to monitor if one is to believe it will actually form.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Saturday (3/2) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 0.48. The 30 day average was rising to -4.98 with the 90 day average down some at -4.40. The falling daily and 30 day averages are reflective of the fading Inactive Phase of the MJO. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated moderate west anomalies extending from Indonesia over the Maritime Continent (160E) then giving way to light if not near neutral easterly anomalies over the dateline fading to neutral anomalies just east of there and extending the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was trying to make slow headway east but was being held at bay by the fading Inactive Phase of the MJO. A week from now (3/10) westerly anomalies are to make no headway and east anomalies are to resurrect themselves slightly over the dateline. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be exiting east out of the Pacific, but not fading quickly and holding off the Active Phase of the MJO from, making much east headway beyond the Maritime Continent.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/1 suggest the Inactive Phase of the MJO was gone with the Active Phase in control of the West Pacific centered just west of the dateline. That still seems a bit optimistic. Beyond, the models are in reasonable agreement (but the statistical model still slightly more aggressive) suggesting the Active Phase solidifying it's grasp on the West Pacific and reaching the dateline 8 days out. The dynamic model continues to be much slower in this evolution, suggesting little if any eastward motion of the Active Phase through the West Pacific with the core not reaching the dateline 15 days out (3/16), lodged at 165E. It's too early to know what will happen but assuming a 50/50 split in the models, that still puts the Active Phase at 175E and in control of the critical West Pacific region. A slow transition to the Active Phase is likely.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). As of now (2/28) a pocket of 1.5 degree above normal water that built under the dateline (at 175W) and at first glance appeared to be shifting east reaching 140W, is going nowhere and if anything is dissipating. Conversely a pocket of -2 deg C cooler than normal water that has been blocking it's eastward progress south of Southern CA (120W) on the equator and 150 meters deep is gone, with what appears to be an open path for warm subsurface water to track east. now all we need is some real warm water to run through that path. At the surface an almost neutral temperature pattern is trying to return after having cooled some the previous month. Slightly cooler waters cover the equator from the dateline to a point just off Ecuador. In short, temperature on the surface remains a mixed bag but are mostly hovering near or just under neutral, with no clear indications of going either warmer or colder.
Projections from the CFSv2 model continue to improve in small increments over the past 2 weeks. They suggest a return to neutral water temps by March and inching upward to +0.3 degs C by April, +0.5 degs by July then to +0.75 degrees by October. That's almost El Nino territory. But a consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Spring Summer and early Fall 2013 with no warming indicated.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that has not materialized with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This season is more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. Longer term the expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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The Mavericks Invitational Big Wave Surf Contest is scheduled to air on CBS on Thurs (2/7) at 7 PM (PST) replaying again on Sunday (2/10) at 7 PM. Set your DVR.
'CBS This Morning' with the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest - See a nice morning TV show piece on the Mavericks Contest held Sun 1/20/13. The show aired Wed 1/23. Interviews with Colin Dwyer, Jeff Clark, Mark Sponsler and Grant Washburn: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50139546n
Jaws Redbull Contest Forecast Explained By Stormsurf
Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
The Making of 'Chasing Mavericks' - See some background footage on how the movie was made: Part1, Part2
The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long - A must see for any aspiring big wave rider: http://vimeo.com/51117940
Greg Long XCel Core Files - Here's a great profile of Greg Long and his contributions toward pushing the state of big wave surfing. Well Done - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9pqgiXfxk&feature=player_embedded
Chasing Mavericks - The Jay Moriarty Movie: Two trailers for the new movie about Jay, Frosty and Mavericks has been posted. Movie opens on 10/26/12. Here's the link: http://www.mtv.com/videos/movie-trailers/818957/chasing-mavericks.jhtml & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNdYoX9Vfxg&feature=relmfu
Props from the Pros: Stormsurf was mentioned over the past week in two different media sources. One was in an interview Kelly Slater did with the New York Times and another was in a promotional piece Ramon Navarro did for the Big Wave World Tour. Many thanks to Curt Myers from Powerline Productions for alerting us and of course thanks to Kelly, Ramon and the Tour for using our service. Here's the links:
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker. Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.
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Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table