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 (3/30) North and Central CA was seeing no discernable swell with waves thigh to waist high at top spots and nearly chopped from south wind. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were knee high and not even rideable but reasonably clean but pretty foggy early. Southern California up north was flat and clean with mist/light fog early. Down south waves were knee to maybe thigh high and textured early and barely rideable with luck. Hawaii's North Shore was on the increase again with new Kamchatka swell starting to hit at head high plus early and fairly clean but with some north texture. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting a little wrap around energy from the northwest with waves thigh high and and textured early.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale developed just west of Kamchatka Tues-Wed (3/27) tracking east producing 32 ft seas just west of the dateline, then quickly faded 24 hours later on the dateline with seas dropping from 24 ft. Modest swell for the Islands over the weekend (3/30) and less for the US West coast early in the workweek. A cutoff low is to develop just north of Hawaii Sun (3/31) producing a tiny area of 20-22 ft seas resulting in raw local north windswell for the Islands early in the work week. A compact but fairly strong storm is forecast for the dateline Tues (4/2) with up to 43 ft seas over a small area aimed east making it just across the dateline before fading Wed (4/3). Possible decent swell for all locations if this come to pass. Down south a small gale peaked on Wed (3/27) southeast of New Zealand producing 38-40 ft seas over a small area then fading while lifting well to the northeast. Another small pulse of sideband swell for Hawaii and shadowed energy for the mainland. But nothing else is modeled behind it. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/30) the jetstream was split over Japan with the northern branch tracking northeast nearly over the Kuril Islands to Kamchatka on into the Bering Sea then falling southeast into a steep trough over the Western Gulf but with only 90 kt winds flowing into that trough. No decent support for gale development there. The jet then tracked hard north lifting up into Northern Canada. A cut off trough remained circulating off the Central CA coast providing minimal support for low pressure development there. The southern branch tracked southeast from Japan then turned east flowing directly over Hawaii and eventually into Baja. Over the next 72 hours a pocket of wind energy is to start building flowing off the Kuril Islands with winds to 140 kts possibly digging out a small trough just west of the dateline pushing east late Monday into Tuesday reaching just east of the dateline. Some support for gale development possible. Beyond 72 hours that pocket of winds energy is to become better defined in the Western Gulf Wednesday with winds up to 160 kts and the trough becoming better defined, but fading while pushing east into Friday off the PAcific Northwest Coast. Continued support for gale development possible. Wind energy to remain decent in the northern branch of the jet into the weekend with another steeper trough building on the dateline Sat (4/6) with 130 kt winds flowing through the trough. Continued support for gale development forecast assuming the models are correct.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/30) swell from a gale that formed off Kamchatka on Wednesday (3/27) was hitting Hawaii and moving towards California (see Kamchatka Gale below). Over the next 72 hours a storm is forecast developing over the dateline pushing east Tues-Wed (4/3) (see Possible Dateline Storm below). Also a small cut-off low continues forecast developing north of Hawaii on Sunday AM (3/31) producing a small fetch of north winds at 35 kts 900 nmiles north of Kauai resulting in a sliver of 20 ft seas at 35N 158W aimed due south. By evening a tiny area of 30-35 kt north winds to persist with seas holding at 20 ft at 32N 156W aimed south at Hawaii but southeast of the US West Coast. The gale is to be fading fast Monday AM (4/1) with winds only 25 kts and while fading with seas fading from 16-18 ft at 30N 153W. A shot of moderate north windswell expected to result for Hawaii starting Monday at 4.5 ft @ 11 secs (5 ft) building overnight at peaking just before sunrise Tuesday at 7 ft @ 11-12 secs (7.5-8.0 ft faces), then already starting to decline by sunrise and fading steadily through the day. Swell Direction: 350 degrees
A gale started developing off the Northern Kuril Islands and Kamchatka producing a modest sized area of 40 kt west winds winds on Tues AM (3/26) with up to 45 kt winds in the evening and seas pushing 30 ft at 46N 165E (304 degs NCal and pushing east of the 321 deg path to HI). On Wed AM (3/27) a modest fetch of 40 kt west winds held while pushing east almost reaching the dateline with seas building to 32 ft at 46N 172E (318 degs HI, 301 degs NCal). Winds were fading in the evening pushing east at 35 kts with seas fading from 28 ft at 44N 178E (325 degs HI, 298 degs NCal). A quick fade occurred Thurs AM (3/28) as the gale hit the dateline with winds falling to 30 kts and seas dropping from 24 ft at 44N 180W (329 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). No swell producing fetch is expected in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 44N 173W (334 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Some degree of modest utility class swell is expected for Hawaii with smaller energy from the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival Friday night (3/29) peaking later Saturday (3/30) with pure swell 5 ft @ 16 secs (8.0 ft) and holding. Swell to continue on Sunday (3/31) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.0-8.5 ft), fading as the day goes on. Swell Direction: 320 degrees
Northern CA: Small swell to arrive near sunset Sunday (3/31) at 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft). Swell to peak on Monday (4/1) at 4.0 ft @ 15-16 secs early (6 ft) then slowly fading. Swell maybe 4 ft @ 13 secs (5 ft) early Tues (4/2) and fading. Swell Direction: 300 degrees
Possible Small Dateline Storm
A small storm is forecast developing just west of the dateline Monday (4/1) and getting solid by evening generating 55 kt west winds over a very small area aimed mostly east. Seas building from 30 ft over a tiny area at 43N 170E (298 degs NCal, 315 degs HI). By Tues AM (4/2) 55 kt west winds to continue on the dateline with seas building to 43 ft at 43N 177E (321 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). In the evening 45 kt west winds to push east generating a tiny area of up to 44 ft seas at 44N 176W (aimed mostly east of the 330 degree path to HI, 296 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds to hold into Wed AM (3/3) with 38 ft seas at 43N 172W (295 degs NCal). By evening fetch to be fading from 35-40 kts with residual 30 ft seas at 42N 170W (292 degs NCal). If all goes a forecast some degree of utility class swell could reach the US West Coast with decent sideband swell for the Hawaiian Islands too. This all seems a bit overhyped by the models but it is not an impossible projection seeing how it's just barely April. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (3/30) a weak cut off low pressure system at 1004 mbs was circulating 600 nmiles west of Pt Conception making for light south winds nearshore and cloudy skies, warmer air temps, more humidity and low level fog over Central CA, but calm conditions down into Southern CA. The low is to continue a slow drift to the east, with south to southeast winds building to 15 kts along the Central Coast as the day progresses. A weak front is expected moving over the area Saturday late evening with light scattered showers possible for Central and North CA. Maybe an inch or two of snow for Tahoe but snow levels to be very high. The low is to dissipate over Central CA on Sunday while moving onshore with the core over San Francisco. Winds still southerly for Central CA but near calm to the north. Light winds for Southern CA too on Sunday. Light precipitation for most of the state except the south end of Southern CA with a few more inches of snow for Tahoe but with high snow levels. A light wind flow is forecast for Monday except turning north nearshore for Southern CA late at 15 kts. Scattered patches of precip for North and Central CA and a few flakes of snow for Tahoe. Wind turning light north Tuesday to 15 kts but the worst of it isolated to Pt Conception. But even that wind to quickly fade Wednesday as yet another low starts moving towards the coast but fading all the while. By Thursday (4/4) maybe light south winds for North CA in the morning (San Francisco northward). with modest light rain developing from Monterey Bay northward. Light rain for Tahoe. Clearing for most of CA on Friday while a series of weather system starts moving east targeting primarily Oregon with south winds down to maybe Pt Arena Fri and Sat but generally calm south of there. Rain confined to Cape Mendocino northward.
Surface - On Saturday (3/30) swell from a gale off New Zealand was pushing northeast (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
New Zealand Gale
On Tuesday AM (3/26) a gale was trying to organize in the deep Southwest Pacific south of New Zealand. By the evening the gale was building southeast of New Zealand lifting northeast with southwest winds 50 kts over a decent sized area of ice free waters with seas building to 34 ft at 63S 180W (205 degs SCal, 190 degs HI). The gale was pushing slightly northeast Wed AM (3/27) with winds fading from 45-50 kts over a smaller area and seas peaking at 40 ft at 62S 171W (203 degs SCal, 186 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the leading edge of the gale at 18Z and confirmed seas at 36.1 ft with on peak reading at 40 ft where the model indicated 36 ft seas. The model was right on track. Residual 40 kt southwest winds were fading in the evening with 34 ft seas at 59S 160W (201 degs SCal, 181 degs HI). Jason-1 again passed near the core of the fetch and reported seas at 33.5 ft with on reading to 37.4 ft where the model suggested 33-34 ft ft seas, The model was right on track. 35 kt southerly winds were starting to push almost due north Thursday AM (3/28) with 30 ft seas lifting to 54S 157W (180 degs HI, 201 degs SCal). At 18Z Jason-1 passed over the core of the fetch and reported seas 28.8 ft with one reading to 33.1 ft where the model indicated 29 ft seas. Again the model was right on track. The fetch dissipated in the evening with 26 ft seas at 49S 150W (201 degs SCal). Some modest swell is radiating northeast. Sideband energy for Hawaii and somewhat shadowed energy (by Tahiti) for California.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed (4/3) with swell building to 1.9 ft @ 18 secs late (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell to continue on Thurs (4/4) at 1.9 ft @ 17 secs early (3 ft) slowly fading as period drifts down to 16 secs late. Swell 1.7 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft) early Fri (3/5) and fading. Swell Direction: 181-186 degrees
South California: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (4/4) with swell building to 1.9 ft @ 20 secs late (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell to start peaking later Fri (4/5) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell to continue solid on Saturday at 3.0 ft @ 16-17 secs early (4.5-5.0 ft with sets to 6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 200-205 degrees
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 residual energy from the projected Possible Dateline Storm to track east and get slightly reinforced Thurs-Fri (4/5) with west to southwest winds in the 30-35 kt range. 18-20 ft seas projected possibly building to 20-22 ft just off the Oregon coast on Sat (4/5) setting up reinforcing 13-14 sec period swell for the US West Coast if all goes as modeled.
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 (3/30) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued up some to 18.33. The 30 day average was up some to 8.33 with the 90 day average up slightly at 1.05. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light to modest easterly anomalies over the Eastern Maritime Continent centered near 160E. But from the dateline eastward neutral anomalies were the norm continuing the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates perhaps a slight version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in play. A week from now (4/6) modest east anomalies are forecast building over the Maritime Continent and dateline fading to neutral east of there into Central America. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to build some and remain in control in the West Pacific. This scenario provides no real support for storm development in the North Pacific attributable to the MJO.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/29 are in general agreement suggesting a small and weak version of the Inactive of the MJO was located near 170E. Over the next 15 days the outcome is a bit more uncertain with the statistic model having the Inactive Phase fading some and dispersing while the dynamic model has it holding if not building slightly just west of the dateline. At the same time the Active Phase of the MJO is to be building in the Indian Ocean, with the statistical model having it pushing barely in to the extreme West Pacific 15 days out and fading some while the dynamic model continue to have it confined to the Eastern Indian Ocean but building some. At this time it's too early to tell if it will make it to the West Pacific. But one thing is clear, there is no support from the MJO towards development of even a weak El Nino. Conversely there's no support for a La Nina either.
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 (3/28) a faint pool of slightly warmer water is developing in the equatorial East Pacific, but very faint. A plume of slightly cooler water continues radiating off the California coast tracking southwest typical of the effects of a stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. Subsurface waters temps continue indicating cooler water (-3 deg C) in place at 125W and down at 115 meters, blocking the transport path and growing in coverage. In short, though temperatures on the surface remains normal, the subsurface path is blocked with the coastal pattern off the US mainland also suggested increase high pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-like pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 3/30 continue unchanged. They suggest water temps have or will peak at Nino 3.4 in early April (+0.1 degs C) and it's all downhill from there with temps falling in July (-0.3 degs C) and down in Oct and November (-0.5 deg C). 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 moving into the Spring unpredictability barrier with accuracy of all the ENSO models historically low. So for now the outcome is uncertain, but not trending towards anything that would be considered warm. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any significant El Nino pattern were to occur, it would be starting to happen by now. But clearly that is not the case.
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 did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to even reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far small and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to 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 of interest 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/
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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
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table