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 Sunday (4/14) North and Central CA was seeing the local north wind machine in full operation producing raw northerly windswell and waves 1 ft overhead range and blown out. Down in Santa Cruz waves were thigh high on the sets and clean but weak. Southern California up north was knee high on the sets and weak but clean. Just wrap around windswell. Down south waves were maybe waist high on the sets and weak with south winds on it early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting small swell from a dateline cutoff low at head high and weak with south cross bump on it. The South Shore was flat and chopped. The East Shore was getting east windswell at waist high or so and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Locally generated north short period windswell continues to be the main swell source for the US West Coast for the coming work week but only modest in size. A cut-off low circulating over the dateline is to pulse again on Monday (4/15) producing 18 ft seas offering some more weak northwesterly swell for the Islands later in the workweek. Otherwise the North Pacific is effectively in summer time 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 south facing breaks over the early part of the workweek. Beyond a very small and weak gale is forecast forming in the deep Southeast Pacific on Mon (4/15) lifting hard north resulting in maybe 18 hours of 30 ft seas aimed north. Maybe some limited south angled swell mainly for Southern California with luck. But nothing is charted beyond that with a real quiet pattern expected. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (4/14) the jetstream was well fragmented and weak. It was pushing over Japan splitting there with a building stream of wind energy tracking hard north up over the Kuril Islands. The remaining energy pushed east at 120 kts making it the whole way over the dateline and to a point just 600 nmiles northwest of Hawaii before splitting again with the northern branch tracking hard north up into Alaska then veering southeast tracking down the Canadian coast and into Oregon at near 130 kts. There was still some form of semi cut-off upper level trough on the dateline offering some support for low pressure development. The southern branch tracked hard south from the split point west of Hawaii moving to the equator and splitting two more times there. Overall the jet was a mess. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with wind speeds dropping even more except in the dateline trough where winds to build to 150 kts for Mon and Tues (4/16) then moderating after that. Some support for low pressure possible down in lower levels of the atmosphere. The split flow over the East Pacific to support high pressure development down at the oceans surface. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to ridge hard north just off Japan by the weekend with all energy tracking up to Kamchatka and the Bering Sea before falling southeast at 130 kts into a building trough in the Central Gulf. Perhaps some support for low pressure development there if the models are accurate.
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (4/16) more low pressure was falling southeast from Kamchatka heading towards an upper cutoff low on the dateline. By Sunday evening a small fetch of 35 kt northwest winds is forecast generating maybe 17 ft seas at 45N 170E targeting Hawaii. The fetch to fall southeast Monday AM (4/15) with a marginally larger area of 19 ft seas forecast at 42N 171E. By evening the fetch is to be fading from barely 30 kts with 18 ft seas fading at 37N 174E. All fetch to be gone by Tues AM (4/16). If all goes as forecast some degree of small windswell could result pushing towards Hawaii arriving later in the workweek. Will monitor.
Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 700 nmiles west of San Francisco CA resulting in the usual Spring time pressure gradient and north winds 30 kts along the Central CA coast resulting in locally produced raw north windswell. The gradient to fade by evening being replaced by a more generalized north wind flow at 20 kts Monday extending from British Columbia southward to just off the San Diego-Mexico border with windswell fading some. But again by Tuesday (4/16) that gradient is to fire up with winds building to 30 kts over most of the California coast with windswell up again, only to moderate Wednesday into Thursday (4/18) to 25 kts and windswell fading some. In all varying degrees of 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 Sunday (4/14) high pressure at 1028 mbs remained firmly in control of waters off California centered 700 nmiles west of San Francisco and ridging into Cape Mendocino generating the usual pressure gradient with 30 kt north winds pushing down the North and Central California coast, though Southern CA was mostly protected. But by evening the gradient is to fade some with light rain moving into Northern CA near Cape Mendocino. By Monday a broad area of only 20 kt north winds to remain, extending from British Columbia southward to Northern Baja. Light rain possible mostly along the coast. But by afternoon cooler air and clearing high pressure to take control with the gradient surging off all of CA with near 30 kt north winds forecast, even blowing into Southern CA nearshore waters. Light snow mid-day Monday for Tahoe building some into the evening and holding overnight with 2.5-3.5 inches of accumulation possible by Tuesday AM (4/16). Tuesday AM the gradient is to hold with 30 kt north winds over the whole state down to the Channel Islands but relaxing some in the afternoon, but still 25 kts and up to 30 kts over Cape Mendo. Perhaps some calming of local winds for Central CA on Wednesday AM but still 15 kts nearshore early and 20-25 kts over outer waters. The gradient to fade and lift north Thursday with winds over Cape Mendocino 25 kts out of the north by almost an eddy flow from San Francisco southward and becoming more pronounced by Friday. More of the same for the weekend.
Surface - Swell from a storm that built in the deep Southeast Pacific last weekend is poised to start hitting the Southern California coast late today building northward (see Southeast Pacific Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch is occurring. Over the next 72 hours one small gale is forecast developing Sunday evening (4/14) producing a tiny fetch of 35-40 kt south winds in the deep Southeast Pacific aimed almost due north. By Monday AM (4/15) a building fetch of 40 kt south winds is forecast on the edge of the California swell window resulting in 28 ft seas at 47S 127W aimed almost due north. By evening winds to almost hit the 45 kt mark with seas building to 32 ft at 42S 122W again aimed almost due north or up the 180-182 degree path to California. By Tues AM (4/18) a tiny fetch of 40-45 kt south winds to hold but moving out of the California swell window with 30 ft seas fading at 38S 112W with 28 ft seas extending west to 37S 119W and in the Southern CA swell window. By evening this system is to turn to the northeast and aimed only at Chile and Peru.
No other obvious swell producing weather systems are forecast.
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). Remnants left on Friday fading from 1.8 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 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. A new low pressure center to develop in the Gulf of Alaska next weekend (4/21) producing 25 kt northwest winds aimed at the US West Coast. But unless the winds hit 30 kts, it's doubtful an swell of interest will result. Regarding local windswell for California, by Friday (4/19) the local pressure gradient is to die with only a limited fetch of 25 kt north winds forecast over Cape Mendocino and withering into the weekend. Minimal windswell to result. Trades relative to Hawaii to build by Wed (4/17) to 15 kts and hold steady over a decent sized fetch into late Friday. Limited east windswell on east facing shores, but that's it. Long term the outlook is meager for the North Pacific with summer taking control.
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 Sunday (4/14) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -15.43. The 30 day average was down some to 5.33 with the 90 day average down slightly at 2.24. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated very weak easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions. near neutral anomalies continued east from there into Central America. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was still in-play but very weak at best. A week from now (4/21) near neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent and dateline, but still very light easterly anomalies to hold just east of the dateline, then fading to neutral from there on into Central America. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone. Though the Inactive Phase is to fade, there's no indication of a building Active Phase behind it offering no support for North Pacific storm development or for the formation of El Nino.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/13 are a mixed bag of contradiction. Initially both suggest the Inactive Phase of the MJO was gone and the Active Phase was seeping east from Indonesia over the Maritime Continent. But even 3 days out the projections diverge with with the statistic model indicating the Active Phase of the MJO building in the West Pacific (centered at 150E) 5 days out and almost to the dateline 8 days out and of moderate strength then fading at 165E 15 days out. The dynamic model suggests the Active Phase is to disperse 5 days out with a neutral pattern in control 8 days out holding to at least 15 days into the future. Perhaps some compromise between the two will result with a weak ACtive Phase taking control for the next 2 weeks, but likely so weak as to not even be noticeable from a storm producing perspective. This indicates a continuation of a weak MJO cycle and no support from it 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 a weakening pool of 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 4/14 continue improving some. They suggest water temps peaked at Nino 3.4 in early April at (+0.6 degs C) and then a slow but steady downhill glide is forecast with temps falling in July to normal (0.0 degs C) and holding in October on into December with just a faint uptick by early next year. 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 another small gale is forecast in the far Southeast Pacific on Thurs AM (4/18) with barely 30 ft seas forecast at 58S 128W lifting northeast and fading. Doubtful any swell to result even if it does form as forecast. Another ale is forecast trying to organize under New Zealand on Fri (4/19) with 28 ft seas suggested by Sat AM (4/20) at 52S 174E targeting Hawaii, but fading within 12 hours. Again, doubtful any swell to result even if this one does form.
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.
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