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 (3/9) North and Central CA was seeing swell from the Kuril Islands but totally overrun by local windswell at head high and very warbled. Local wind was not bad early with almost clean conditions, but it was clearly blowing from the north just off the coast. Down south in Santa Cruz windswell was producing surf in the waist to maybe chest high range and soft. Southern California up north was thigh high and looking very much like short period windswell with reasonably clean conditions early. Down south waves were chest to almost head high and pretty clean though soft and all over the place. Still it was probably the best surf on the coast. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband swell from the Gulf of Alaska producing waves at head high and clean but real wonky. Trades were down. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was flat and almost clean with trades suppressed.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A small and fleeting north tracking gale developed in the Western Gulf Thurs (3/7) with seas 28 ft reaching 30 ft by evening but aimed mostly towards Canada by then. Small sideband swell from it has hit Hawaii and is expected into California for Sunday (3/10). A small gale fell southeast from the dateline region towards Hawaii peaking Thurs PM (3/7) with 28 ft seas just west of the dateline then fading Friday while crossing over the dateline setting up swell for Hawaii by late in the weekend. Nothing of interest to reach the mainland though. One last gale is forecast off the Southern Kuril Islands Sat (3/9) producing 34 ft seas but making little eastern headway resulting in possible modest background swell for Hawaii next week. But after that the storm pattern is to totally dissipate with virtually no swell producing fetch forecast for the next week. Winter is over.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/9) the jetstream was split over Japan with residual energy from the previous non-split flow tracking flat off Japan at 120 kts pushing over the dateline and reaching a point just 300 nmiles north of Hawaii where winds peaked at 150 kts with a bit of a trough almost present there. The jet split again there with the northern branch pushing weakly up into British Columbia while the southern branch dove south to the equator. In all there was no real support for gale development except in the trough well north of Hawaii and even that was very limited. Over the next 72 hours the split over Japan is to steal all energy from the jet with the northern branch pushing up along the Kuril Islands into the Bering Sea and even north of there. A return flow from it is to fall over Alaska then into the interior US mainland. A huge ridge supporting high pressure is to be over the core of the North Pacific. No support for gale development is indicated. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is forecast but with the big ridge moderating and tracking over the Southern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands by Sat (3/18). But still no support for gale development indicated. If anything we're hoping the extremely split jet over the West Pacific will help set up a trough pushing down the US West Coast offering the potential for rain and snow there long term. But there's no clear indication of that just yet.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/9) a gale was developing off the Kuril Islands (see Kuril Island Gale below). Swell from a gale in the Gulf on Thurs (3/7) was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Gulf Gale below). Swell from a gale that tracked southeast over the dateline was moving towards Hawaii (see Dateline Gale below). A weak low pressure system was circulating in an upper trough north of Hawaii, leftover from the Dateline Gale (previously referenced). It is to circulate there while lifting steadily north Sat-Tues AM (3/12) producing varying degrees of 30-35 kt northeast winds mostly aimed west of Hawaii producing 20-22 ft seas. Possible sideband northeast windswell for the Islands with luck. Otherwise virtually no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast with a weak pressure pattern in control.
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 were lifting north just barely south of the Aleutians with seas building to 34 ft up at 52N 158W (311 degs NCal). No additional swell producing fetch occurred.
Some modest swell to result targeting mainly the US West Coast with sideband swell expected for the Hawaiian Islands.
North CA: Expect 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). That might be a high estimate though. 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 the evening the gale continued falling southeast with 40 kt northwest winds and seas 30 ft at 38N 173E (311 degs HI). The gale was fading by Friday AM (3/8) as it hit the dateline with a small area of 40 kt northwest winds left and seas 26 ft at 36N 180W (312 degs HI). The gale quickly dissipated after that with no additional fetch and seas from previous fetch fading from 22 ft at 35N 176W.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late Sunday afternoon (3/10) 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 Saturday (3/9) high pressure was ridging into the coast while low pressure was exiting east generating a pressure gradient with northerly winds for the entire state at 20 kts over nearshore waters, though select breaks were protected. Sunday lighter north winds are forecast all day at 10-15 kts for North and Central CA (less nearshore early), and far lighter in Southern CA. An even lighter north flow is forecast early Monday for North and Central CA, but with high pressure locked just off the coast. Tuesday north winds continue at 15 kts just off the coast for North and Central CA, finally relenting Wed-Fri (3/15) as high pressure dissipates and low pressure moves towards the Pacific Northwest. But later Friday the low is to have moved inland and massive high pressure is to start pushing east, arriving over North and Central CA Saturday afternoon with north winds 15+ kts and likely holding for at least a few days. Typical Spring pattern.
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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. Not even east tradewind swell for the Islands or local north windswell for California.
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 (3/9) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was steady at 11.39. The 30 day average was up to 6.41 with the 90 day average up some at -2.74. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light west anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading at 160E 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 very weak and making no eastern headway. A week from now (3/17) no real change is forecast with weak westerly anomalies making no headway and light east anomalies are to hold over the dateline, maybe weakening some. This suggests what is in effect a weak Inactive Phase holding over the bulk of the Pacific, not fading and keeping the weak Active Phase of the MJO from making much east headway beyond the Maritime Continent.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/8 are in agreement that currently a modest version of 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 it was having no real effect on the atmosphere. The statistical model suggests the Active Phase is to slowly fade while pushing east and gone 15 days out (3/21) with the inactive Phase building strong in the Indian Ocean and moving towards and into the far 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 finally reaching the dateline 15 days out and not fading, holding the building Inactive Phase at bay in the Indian Ocean. It's pretty much a toss up regarding what will happen, but we're becoming more disposed to side with the statistic model (the Active Phase gone 15 days out). Regardless, 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 +0.2 degs C by April, fading some to -0.2 degs in July then slowly rebuilding to normal by November. 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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New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table