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 Thursday (3/7) North and Central CA was seeing swell from the Northern Dateline region fading but still producing waves at 1 ft overhead and fairly clean but with a bit of underlying warble. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were chest to head high and clean and well lined up, though a little soft. Southern California up north was near head high and lined up but soft, warbled and with some texture on it. Down south waves were chest to head high but pretty warbled with south wind on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Kuril Islands swell producing waves 2 ft overhead and clean and well lined up. Looks like fun. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting thigh high wrap around swell and chopped by trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell was hitting Hawaii from a gale that developed off the Kuril Islands last weekend. Residual swell from a gale that was over the Northern Dateline last weekend was still pushing into California. A rather small system was developing in the Western Gulf Thurs (3/7) with seas 28 ft possibly reaching 36 ft by evening but aimed mostly towards Canada by then. Possible small swell for California later in the weekend. And a small gale is falling southeast towards Hawaii expected to peak this evening with 28 ft seas just west of the dateline setting up swell for Hawaii by late in the weekend. One more stronger gale is forecast off the Southern Kuril Islands Sat (3/9) producing 38 ft seas but making little eastern headway resulting in possible decent background swell for Hawaii next week. But after that the storm pattern is to dissipate.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (3/7) the jetstream was flowing flat off Japan with winds 150 kts making it intact over the dateline to a point just northwest of Hawaii then splitting with the northern branch ridging hard north up into Alaska. A trough was present over the dateline and Western Gulf supporting the formation of gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere there. The southern branch of the jet was tracking southeast from the split point over Hawaii before ridging northeast and pushing over Southern Baja. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to dissipate while tracking east with winds speeds decreasing off Japan and the jet starting to split just east of Japan by Sat (3/9). The northern branch is to be pushing hard north over the Kuril Islands and up into the Western Bering Sea offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours wind speeds over the width of the jet are to remain below 130 kts with the jet remaining split just off Japan pushing hard northeast up into the Bering Sea with no clear support for anything that looks like gale development. If anything this pattern supports the formation of high pressure from at least the dateline east to the US West Coast. Sure looks like an Inactive MJO Phase in combination with the coming of Spring.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (3/7) residual North Dateline swell was fading out in California and Kuril Island swell just peaked in Hawaii (see Kuril Island Gale below). A small gale is forecast tracking north through the Gulf mid-week.
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 wind was off the Kuril Islands generating 34 ft seas over a small area at 42N 153E (306 degs HI). Sun AM (3/3) winds were fading from 40-45 kts generating 36 ft seas at 43N 160E (310 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 30 ft at 45N 164E (316 degs HI and 303 degs NCal). This system was gone by Mon AM (3/4).
There's some chance for modest background swell for the Islands, but far less for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Swell peaked first light Thurs (3/7) at 4.4 ft @ 17 secs (7.5 ft) then started to fade through the day. Residual swell fading from 4.0 ft @ 14 secs early Friday (3/8) (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 306-310 degrees.
North CA: Small swell of 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft) to arrive later Fri (3/8) fading from 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) Sat (3/9). Swell Direction: 320 degrees
One more small gale developed on the dateline Wed (3/6) tracking fast east-northeast with west-northwest winds building to 40 kts and seas to 25 ft at 42N 168W in the evening (338 degs HI, 291 degs NCal). The gale was lifting north with west winds at 45 kts Thurs AM (3/7) and seas to 28 ft up at 48N 162W (302 degs NCal and bypassing HI to the east). In the evening residual 40-45 kt west winds to be lifting north just barely south of the Aleutians with seas building to 36 ft up at 52N 158W (311 degs NCal). No additional swell producing fetch forecast.
Some modest swell to result targeting mainly the US West Coast with sideband swell expected for the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii: Rough data for planning purposes suggests swell arriving late Fri (3/8) at 4.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6 ft) fading early Sat (3/9) from 5.0 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.0-6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 315-330 degrees
North CA: Rough data for planning purposes suggests swell arrival on Sun (3/10) before sunrise with period 17 secs peaking a few hours later at 5.5 ft @ 16 secs (8.5 ft). Swell fading Monday (3/11) from 5.0 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5-7.0 ft). Swell Direction: 303-310 degrees
Dateline Gale (Hawaii)
On Wed PM (3/6) a small gale was trying to organize mid-way between Japan and the dateline producing a decent sized area of 35 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii. By Thursday AM (3/7) winds were up to 40 kts as the gale approached the dateline falling southeast resulting in a small area of 25 ft seas at 40N 165E (310 degs HI). In th evening the gale is to continue falling southeast with 40 kt northwest winds and seas 28 ft at 38N 173E (311 degs HI). The gale is to be fading by Friday AM (3/8) as it hits the dateline with a small area of 40 kt northwest winds left and seas 26 ft at 36N 180W (312 degs HI). The gale is to quickly dissipate after that with no additional fetch or seas of interest forecast.
Hawaii: Rough data for planning purposes suggests swell arrival late Sunday afternoon (3/10) with swell building to 8.1 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft). Swell holding overnight still at 8.0 ft @ 13-14 secs early (11 ft) then dropping later afternoon. Swell Direction: 311 degrees.
Kuril Island Gale
A fetch of 40-45 kt westerly winds are to star building off Northern Japan and the Kuril Islands late Friday (3/8) peaking Sat AM (3/9) with a tiny area of 55 kt northwest winds and seas building to 34 ft over an infinitesimal area. Seas peaking at 18Z at 38 ft over a tiny area at 42N 159E (308 degs HI). Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 34 ft at 42N 164E (312 degs HI). If all goes as modeled some small longer period swell could result for Hawaii mid-next week.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (3/7) generally light winds were over the North and Central Coast Thursday (10 kts or less) coming from the south with the core of a low pressure system falling down the Central coast. Light rain just off the coast expected to move over Central CA near sunset and pushing towards Southern CA by early Friday. 4 inches of snow expected for Tahoe Thurs PM. Friday the low is to moving onshore over Southern CA with high pressure trying to ridge into the coast generating a pressure gradient with northerly winds by late morning building to 20 kts late afternoon, including Southern CA. Rain expected early for Central and South CA. Another 1-2 inches of snow for Tahoe but more focused on the Southern Sierra. North winds to continue for the entire state Saturday at 15-20 kts, though select breaks in Southern CA will be protected later. Sunday lighter north winds are forecast all day at 10-15 kts for North and Central CA, and far lighter in Southern CA, continuing Monday with high pressure locked just off the coast. Tuesday north winds continue at 15 kts for North and Central CA, finally relenting Wed-Thurs as high pressure dissipates and low pressure moves towards the Pacific Northwest.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
A small gale lifted slightly to the northeast on Fri (3/2) producing 34 ft seas over a small area at 61S 140W (18Z Fri) through 06Z Sat at 57S 130W. Small background swell for Southern CA possible by Sun (3/10) at 1.4 ft @ 17-18 secs early (2.0-2.5 ft from 187 degrees.
A small gale developed southeast of New Zealand on Wed (3/6) over an infinitesimal area with up to 55 kt west winds and 40 ft seas at 53S 176W (at 06Z) aimed due east (210 degs NCal, 211 degs SCal and in the Tahitian swell shadow). The gale quickly faded and dropped southeast from there. No swell to result.
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 there suggestions of a cut off low developing northeast of Hawaii (actually the remnants of the Dateline Gale above) resulting in varying degrees of 30 kt northeast fetch and 20-22 ft seas aimed somewhat towards the Islands. Possible northeast windswell resulting.
Otherwise virtually no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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 Thursday (3/7) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some at 12.11. The 30 day average fell to 3.82 with the 90 day average up some at -3.60. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light west anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading before reaching the dateline, then giving way to light 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 making no headway east and was being held at bay by the fading Inactive Phase of the MJO over the East Pacific. A week from now (3/15) westerly anomalies are to make no headway and light east anomalies are to hold over the dateline if not ease a bit further to the west. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be remain over the bulk of the Pacific, not fading 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 3/6 are in agreement that currently the Active Phase in control of the far West Pacific centered just west of the dateline (165E). But clearly the SOI and jetstream analysis suggests some form of Inactive Phase is still lingering, or that Spring is digging in negating anything the MJO might be trying to do. The statistical model suggests the Active Phase is to slowly fade while pushing east and nearly gone 15 days out (3/21) with the inactive Phase building strong in the Indian Ocean and moving towards the West Pacific. The dynamic model continues to be 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, lodged at 165E and not fading, holding the building Inactive Phase at bay in the Indian Ocean. 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. But that seems more like a fantasy with each passing day. our belief now is that the coming of Spring is thwarting any impact the Active or Inactive Phase might have. .
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 (3/5) no pockets of warmer or colder subsurface water are in play. An open path for warm subsurface water migration east is available, but there no warm water to flow through it. At the surface an almost neutral temperature pattern is trying to return after having cooled some the previous month. Slightly cooler waters cover the southern equator from the dateline to a point just off Ecuador with slightly warmer water just north of it. In short, temperatures 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 have regressed more. They suggest a return to neutral water temps by March and inching upward to +0.3 degs C by April, fading some then slowly rebuilding to +0.2 degs by July then to +0.4 degrees by November. That's not El Nino territory. 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
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Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
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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
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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
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table