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 (4/11) North and Central CA was seeing local windswell continued producing raw and ragged waves in the 2-3 ft overhead range and trashed by northwest wind. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were waist high with a few chest high peaks and clean inside the kelp and blowing outside the kelp. Southern California up north was thigh high and fairly clean but weak and mushy. Down south waves were waist high or slightly more and a warbled mess with onshore wind blowing on it. Hawaii's North Shore was definitely smaller with waves waist high and clean with modest trades in control. The South Shore had a few peaks in the waist to chest high range and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at waist high plus and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Locally generated north short period windswell is to remain the dominant swell source for the US West Coast over the weekend then moderating next week but not fading out entirely. A small gale to form just off British Columbia on Fri (4/12) with 24-26 ft seas for 24 hours, possibly setting up swell down into the Pacific Northwest for the weekend. A cut-off low pushed over the dateline and is to continue circulating northwest of the Islands well into next week. Minor swell from previous fetch associated with this system is in the water pushing towards the Islands for the weekend. Otherwise the North Pacific is quickly moving into hibernation. Down south a small gale developed in the deep southeast Pacific Sunday AM (4/7) building while lifting northeast producing a tiny area of seas to 44 ft barely in the CA swell window late in the day but with most energy aimed towards Central and South America. Swell to arrive in Southern CA late on Sunday (4/14) building for the early part of the workweek. The models suggest a weak gale forming in the deep Southeast Pacific on Tues (4/16) resulting in maybe 28-30 ft seas aimed mostly east. Maybe some limited south angled sideband swell for California with luck assuming all goes as forecast. In all a pretty quiet pattern is settling in. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (4/11) the jetstream was pushing northeast off Japan splitting before reaching the dateline with the northern branch tracking hard north up into the Bering Sea while most energy fell into the southern branch forming a cut off trough on the dateline with 130 kt winds falling into it and supporting some degree of low pressure down in lower levels of the atmosphere. The flow split again east of there. The two parts of the northern branch rejoined forces in the Northern Gulf of Alaska and pushed east into British Columbia while the southern branch tracked southeast down to the equator becoming diffuse. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the dateline trough becoming more pinched off and easing east, almost dissipating by Sunday (4/14). Only limited support for low pressure development expected in this pinched off trough and fading with time. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to split over Japan with a good portion of the energy tracking north up into Siberia. A new cutoff trough is forecast reforming over the dateline Mon-Tues (4/16) with a small pocket of 130 kt winds flowing through it's bottom on the dateline offering only the faintest support for low pressure development tracking slowly east through Thurs (4/18).
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (4/11) swell from a tiny gale previous on the dateline on Fri (4/5) was fading along the California coast and buried under locally produced north windswell. High pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned 600 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA ridging into British Columbia generating the usual summer time pressure gradient and nearshore north winds at 25-30 kts over Northern CA producing seas to 15 ft into Friday AM resulting in local short period north windswell for Central CA (see QuikCASTs for details).
A weak cutoff low approached the dateline Tuesday (4/9) a limited fetch of 30 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii and producing 17 ft seas. It held while easing east from the dateline Wed (4/10) generating more 30 kt northwest winds and 18 ft seas near 35N 172E. Fetch faded on Thursday (4/11) and moved more into the lows north quadrant aimed mostly west at Japan with seas in the 17 ft range. All fetch to remain aimed west through the weekend. Some degree of limited swell is to arrive into the Hawaiian Islands Saturday (4/13) reaching 4.5 ft @ 13-14 ft secs (6 ft faces) fading from 4.5 ft @ 12 secs (5.5 ft) early Sunday (4/14). Swell Direction: 300 degrees
A small gale is to build off British Columbia on Friday generating a small fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds targeting the Pacific northwest well with seas building to 26 ft late at 52N 138W (totally east of the CA swell window) then pushing into Vancouver Island on Sat AM (4/13) with west winds fading from 30 kts and seas dropping from 22 ft at 49N 130W. A short pulse of rather raw swell possible for Oregon late Saturday.
As the above low clears out high pressure is to again surge east forming the usual pressure gradient centered off San Francisco starting Sat PM (4/13) generating 30 kt north winds and seas to 15 ft holding into mid-day Sunday. Raw windswell the expected result for Central CA (see QuikCASTs for details).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/11) high pressure at 1032 mbs was firmly in control of waters off Oregon and California waters centered 600 nmiles off the Oregon-CA border and ridging into British Columbia. The high was generating the usual pressure gradient with 25 kt north winds pushing down the North and Central California coast, forecast to 30 kts late, though Southern CA is and to remain mostly protected. Friday the gradient to fade some but still 30 kt north winds forecast early dropping to 25 kts later for North and Central CA. Light winds for the Channel Islands and Southern CA. Saturday a generalized 20 kt north winds flow is forecast nearshore for North and Central CA, building late to 30 kts for the San Francisco Area and holding into Sunday AM, with the core of the gradient falling south down to 25 kts and centered off Morro Bay Late. Southern CA again protected. Monday the gradient is to rebuild off North CA down to San Francisco at 30 kts by the afternoon with 25 kt north winds down to the northern Channel Islands. The gradient is to relax on Tuesday (4/16) but still 20 -25 kt north winds forecast over outer waters north of Pt Conception. Perhaps some actual calming of local winds for Central CA on Wednesday AM with the gradient moving up into Cape Mendocino by Thursday (25 kt north winds there) with light winds from Pt Reyes southward early.
Surface - Swell from a storm that built in the deep Southeast Pacific last weekend is pushing northeast towards the California coast (see Southeast Pacific Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch is occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
Southeast Pacific Storm - Swell 1S
On Sunday (4/7) a storm developed in the deep Southeast Pacific. 55 kt southwest winds were positioned just off Antarctica with seas 42 ft over a tiny area at 65S 137W aimed well up the 187 degree great circle path to SCal. The storm tracked northeast in the evening with southwest winds holding at 50-55 kts resulting in a small area of 43 ft seas at 62S 125W aimed 25 degrees east of the 184 degree great circle path to Southern CA. On Monday AM (4/8) the core of the fetch was east of any clear path to Southern CA but with lingering 40-45 kt southwest fetch still in-play resulting in 38 ft seas at 58S 120W aimed 20 degrees east of the 180 degree path to Southern CA. By evening the gale regenerated with 50 kt south winds just east of the Southern CA swell window and seas 34-36 ft at 55S 115W (178 degs SCal). By Tues AM (4/9) all fetch was clearly east of even the Southern CA swell window. A decent pulse of small significant class southern hemi swell is expected for most of California, favoring the south end of the state and doing better for Central America.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (4/14) with pure swell building to 1.6 ft @ 22 secs late (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Swell to build through the day Monday (4/15) to 3.1 ft @ 19 secs late (6 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft). Swell to peak mid-Tuesday (4/16) near 3.2 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.6 ft faces with sets to 7.0 ft). Solid residuals expected continuing Wednesday (4/17) fading from 3.0 ft @ 16 secs early (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell fading Thurs (4/18) from 2.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 178-184 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (4/15) with pure swell building to 2.2 ft @ 20-21 secs late (4.5 ft with sets to near 6.0 ft). Swell to build through the day Tuesday (4/16) to 3.0 ft @ 18 secs late (5.5 ft faces with sets to near 7.0 ft). Swell to peak overnight with swell on Wed AM (4/17) still near 3.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.0 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft) but fading through the day down to 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Solid residuals expected continuing Thurs (4/18) with swell dropping from 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 176-182 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 no real swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. The cutoff low circulating near the dateline is to produce another short pulse of west winds at 30 kts Sun-Mon (3/15) resulting in a fragmented area 14 ft seas targeting Hawaii. No real swell to result (maybe small windswell with luck). Also high pressure is to again pulse off the US West Coast generating north winds to 25 kts Thurs (4/18) over Cape Mendocino CA likely resulting in more local north short period windswell for Central CA, but unremarkable.
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 (4/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 17.59. The 30 day average was down some to 6.59 with the 90 day average up slightly at 2.48. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions. Light easterly anomalies continued east to a point south of California, then turning neutral from there into Central America. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was still in-play. A week from now (4/19) lighter east anomalies are forecast holding over the Maritime Continent and fading some over the dateline, but still light easterly well into the East Pacific, fading well off Central America. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to fade some but still remain in control of the greater part of the equatorial Pacific. This scenario provides no support for North Pacific storm development or for the formation of El Nino and is the exact opposite pattern desired for the time of year.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/10 are in agreement initially suggesting the core of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was located on the dateline with the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Eastern Indian Ocean. But beyond the models diverge with both models having the Inactive Phase dispersing over the next 5 days while the statistic model has the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean pushing in to the West Pacific (150E) 8 days out and almost to the dateline 15 days out while the dynamic model suggests the Active Phase is to disperse 5 days out and a pure neutral pattern in control 8 days out holding to at least 15 days into the future. Regardless, there is no clear indication of any support from the MJO towards development of even a weak El Nino.
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 (4/11) a faint pool of slightly warmer water that was in the equatorial East Pacific, appears to have stabilized providing essentially neutral water temps off Central America. A tiny plume of markedly cold water continues pushing off the Central American coast to the Galapagos Islands, then dispersing making no western headway. A plume of lightly cooler than normal water continues radiating off the California coast tracking southwest over Hawaii to the equatorial dateline, typical of the effects of a stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. But it continues to develop less coverage than previous imagery. Subsurface waters temps continue indicating cooler water (-2 deg C) in place at 125W and down 100 meters, blocking the transport path. In short, temperatures on the surface are not warming and the subsurface path is blocked by cooler water to. And the coastal pattern off the US mainland suggests somewhat higher pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-ish pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 4/11 have improved slightly. They suggest water temps peaked at Nino 3.4 in early April at (+0.2 degs C) and then a slow but steady downhill glide is forecast with temps falling in July (-0.2 degs C) and holding in October (-1.5 degs C) on into December. A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into 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 (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) 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 smaller 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 Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours a fetch of 40 kt southwest winds is to develop in the deep South Central Pacific on Tues (4/16) resulting in seas to 30 ft in the evening at 64S 148W aimed more east than north. On Wednesday (4/17) the fetch is to reorganize producing 45 kt south-southeast winds aimed far more to the north but located on the edge of the Southern CA swell window with 30 ft seas forecast at 60S 122W. By Thursday (4/18) the gale is to move east and out of the California swell window though more energy is to be in-play targeting mainly South America.
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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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.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table