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 (4/5) North and Central CA had fading Gulf swell producing surf in the 6 ft range and hacked by northwest winds. High pressure was in control. In Santa Cruz surf was chest high and clean but with wind blowing outside the kelp. Southern California up north was thigh to waist high and hacked by northwest wind. Down south waves were head high or a bit more and relatively clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was getting limited northerly windswell with waves shoulder to head high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was near flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same northerly windswell at chest high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A weak gale is trying to hold together while dropping from the Gulf, forecast to redevelop off the Central CA coast Fri-Sat with maybe 24 ft seas. Small shorter period swell possible early next week for the CA region. Another similar yet stronger gale is forecast following the same track Tues-Wed (4/11) but with seas to 28 ft, with perhaps another well north of Hawaii on Fri (4/13) in the 28 ft range targeting the Islands best (if one is to believe the models). In the southern hemi a small gale tracked northeast well east of New Zealand on Wednesday with seas peaking at 35 ft. Maybe some small swell to result mainly focused on the US West Coast down into Mexico. And another is forecast for the same area and in the same size range on Sat (4/7) with the same result. Nothing forecast behind it though.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - On Thursday (4/5) the well entrenched split jet was occurring just west of the dateline with 140 kt winds rising over the split point then quickly fading while snuggling up to the Aleutian Islands, then trying to fall into a very weak trough in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska but winds only 90 kts. No real support for low pressure development in the trough. The southern branch was peeling off the main flow at the split point pushing southeast and tracking just under Hawaii and dissolving east of there with remnants moving over mainland Mexico. Over the next 72 hours the split is to hold over the dateline with with the split point becoming less defined and less energy flowing into the southern branch. 150 kt winds to be in the northern branch ridging over the dateline then falling southeast into a developing trough bottoming out 800 nmiles off of Point Conception providing good support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to push inland over Central CA on Wed (4/11) with a new trough building in the Gulf of Alaska with 160 kt wind feeding it, and it too pushing east and into Northern CA late Thurs (4/12). Decent support for gale development from this trough expected too. Back to the west a weaker and more diffuse flow is forecast offering no support for gale development and possibly signaling a weaker pattern long-term.
Surface - On Thursday (4/5) high pressure at 1028 mbs was just off the US West Coast with a second high at 1036 mbs locked 1100 nmiles north of Hawaii pretty much snuffing out any odds for low pressure development. Weal low pressure was over Kamchatka and landlocked with a cut off low well west of Hawaii almost on the dateline producing only easterly fetch aimed back at Japan. In shore, no real swell generation potential was occurring relative to our forecast area. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold north of Hawaii while a piece low pressure north of it falls southeast eventually positioned 800 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino on Friday PM (4/6) and starting to develop with 35 kt northwest winds generating 22 ft seas at 41N 143W aimed at the Central CA coast. This gale is to continue to circulate Sat AM (4/7) with 30-35 kt northwest winds producing 22 ft seas at 39N 141W holding into the evening with seas to 24 ft at 38N 139W (279 degs NCal/290 SCal). By Sun AM (4/8) the system is to have faded with 18 ft seas at 36N 134W (285 degs SCal) then dissipating. Possible modest 13-14 sec period local swell to result for Cape Mendocino into Central and South California starting late Sunday (north areas) and Monday for SCal. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/5) high pressure was off the coast and north winds were blowing over Central CA, up to 25 kts at Pt Conception. High pressure is to start fading on Friday as a new low builds off the coast and easing east. A light wind regime expected Saturday then winds turning south on Sunday in Central CA north of Morro Bay as a weak from from the low moves inland. Light rain in Northern CA pushing to Bodega Bay late Sunday. A weak southerly flow to continue Monday as the low lifts north and dissolves with light rain hanging over the Northern CA coast only to start pushing back southeast on Tuesday with south winds building to Pt Conception and a larger and stronger low building in the Northern Gulf. Rain building south to Morro Bay. Wednesday a weak westerly flow is forecast with light rain maybe down into Southern CA. A front from the next system is to be pushing into the Central coast on Thursday (4/12) and down to maybe Southern CA on Friday (4/13).
At the surface in the South Pacific on Thursday a broad area of low prssure was generating 30-35 kt west winds but not particularly focused. On Friday AM (4/6) a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds is to develop southeast of New Zealand with seas on the increase. In the evening that fetch is to race northeast an increase in areal coverage, but with winds fading to 40 kts. Seas building to 34 ft over a tiny area at 58S 162W. Fetch is to continue northeast Sat AM (4/7) with winds down to 35 kts and seas from previous fetch peaking at 34 ft over a decent sized area at 52S 153W (200 degs CA and barely unshadowed by Tahiti and 179 degs HI). In the evening fetch is to be fading from 30 kts with seas fading from 30 ft at 48N 150W. Reasonable possibilities for another small push of southern hemi swell radiating northeast targeting sideband energy at Hawaii with more direct though small energy for the US West Coast down into Central America.
First Small Gale
On Tuesday AM (3/8) a new gale was developing southeast of New Zealand just off Antarctica with 50 kt southwest winds and seas on the increase. In the evening 45-50 kt southwest winds to be lifting northeast with 33 ft seas at 56S 157W lifting northeast. By Wed AM (4/4) a thin fading area of 45 kt southwest winds remained fading with seas peaking at 35 ft at 53S 150W (197 degs NCal, 200 SCal, 175 HI) and unshadowed by Tahiti. 40 kt south winds held into the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 49S 142W (193 degs NCal, 196 SCal, 172 HI) and gone after that.
Another pulse of small southern swell possible for CA down into Mexico with sideband swell for the Islands. Swell to hit Southern CA starting before sunrise Thurs (4/12) peaking on Friday and heading down with period 15 secs early Saturday (4/14) from 200 degrees. The NCal swell profile to be about 12 hours behind SCal or arriving just after sunset Thursday from 196 degrees. Swell peaking at 3.0-3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.0-5.5 ft faces) with bigger sets. Minimal sideband energy for Hawaii starting Wed (4/11) at 1.5 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) from 174 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 hrs another gale is forecast developing over the extreme Eastern Aleutians on Monday PM (4/9) with a broad fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds pushing 40 kts by Tuesday AM with seas building from 20 ft. This gale is to hold it's ground with winds still 40 kts in the evening with seas pushing 27 ft up at 48N 156W, then starting to fade while falling southeast. Winds down to 35 kt over a broad area Wed AM (4/11) with seas peaking at 30 ft at 47N 151W (302 degs NCal) and bypassing Hawaii to the east. The gale is to continue southeast into the evening with seas fading from 28 ft at 43N 146W (295 NCal). By Thursday PM seas to be down to 22 ft over a sold area just 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast. Will believe it when it happens.
Theoretically another gale is to start developing 1000 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii on Thurs (4/12) with up to 50 kt north winds late targeting the Islands well with seas building from 28 ft at 38N 167W (336 degs HI).
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or 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 day, 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 forecast for MJO activity.
As of Thursday (4/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down yet more to -32.01. The 30 day average was down to -3.50 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to 2.67. The latest pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO is having marked effects and the 90 day average is as low as it's been since July of last year if not surpassing it slightly.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate plus strength westerly anomalies were over the equator extending from New Guinea to dateline with dead neutral anomalies east of there well into the East Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was in control. A week from now (4/13) the pattern is to start fading with weak to modest easterly anomalies starting to build from the dateline to north of New Guinea on into the Indian Ocean, indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/4 show some disagreement with the dynamic model having the Active Phase slowly fading over the next 2 weeks and the statistical model has it gone in 1 week. Regardless, the Inactive Phase is already present in the Indian Ocean and the Active phase appears to be having no impact on the upper level circulation even with it's presence on the dateline, meaning that whatever pattern is in play now is only going to get more entrenched in the coming weeks.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into Spring and early Summer of 2012. But after that, a slow but steady return to a more normal pattern is expected to take hold, offering better chances for decent surf for the Fall and Winter of 2012-2013. We're almost there - it's been a long 2 years.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
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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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
Mavericks Surf Shop Grand Opening - Sunday, December 19 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. rain or shine! Check out the new home of Jeff Clark's Mavericks Surf Shop, now located at 25 Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor. The shop features much of Clark's surfing memorabilia, classic boards and photos, as well as an entirely new line of Jeff Clark original Mavericks clothing, accessories and surfboards. The shop has been open in the new location since December 8, and the Grand Opening party is set for this coming Sunday, just in time for Christmas. The party starts at 2 p.m., with live music, food and drinks. Jeff Clark and many Mavericks surfers will be there to meet the public. Local restaurants Ketch Joanne's and Princeton Seafood will serve up delicious food, while San Francisco Wine Trading Company is providing the beverages. The shop will be open all weekend, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Stormsurf Maintenance Upgrades: Buoy 46059 and 46012 were replaced a month or so ago. Totally new buoys were installed. Here on Stormsurf we had to reset the algorithms used to calculate 'pure swell' for them. That was accomplished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
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.
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