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 Tuesday (4/23) North and Central CA had surf at waist high with some bigger peaks at top spots all from windswell with a modest onshore flow adding some bump but not horrible and clear skies. Down in Santa Cruz waves were near flat with sets maybe waist high and clean but weak. Southern California up north was thigh to waist high on the sets and clean but weak, mainly just northerly windswell. Down south southern hemi swell was much stronger with sets in the chest to head high range and lined up and fairly clean with just a light texture mid-day. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some windswell with waves in the chest high range with some bigger peaks and clean but generally weak. The South Shore was flat and bumpy with southeast winds in effect. The East Shore was flat with no windswell of interest occurring and textured conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
More small locally generated north angled short period windswell was hitting North and Central California. Limited southerly angled southern hemi swell was fading in Southern CA. Limited windswell from a long lasting cut-off low in the Western Gulf of Alaska was still pushing into Hawaii. This low pulsed Mon-Tues (4/23) generating 18 ft seas aimed well to the south towards Hawaii offering hope for more windswell later in the week (4/25) but nothing aimed towards the US West Coast. A secondary fetch remains forecast developing a bit east of the dateline Wed-Thurs (4/25) aimed well at Hawaii with seas 17-18 ft, perhaps providing more windswell there a few days beyond. But the North Pacific is steadily going to sleep for the summer. Looking south, a gale developed on the eastern edge of the Southern CA swell window Mon (4/15) with 26-28 ft seas. Some limited swell from this one has already started showing in Southern CA from 184 degrees, but is on the way down. One more gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) lifting northeast with seas 36 ft, but it faded fast on Monday. Swell is radiating northeast with some energy expected for Hawaii late this weekend (4/28) then pushing towards California for early next week. Nothing else to follow. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (4/23) the jetstream was ridging hard north off Japan over Kamchatka pushing into the Bering Sea then dropping hard south over the Eastern Aleutians falling into a trough bottoming out just north of Hawaii then ridging hard north again pushing into Eastern Alaska. Winds dropping into the trough were maybe 110 kts offering limited support for low pressure development. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to becoming cut off with most energy building over the Bering Sea forming a upper low there with nothing of interest occurring over the greater North Pacific. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is forecast with a fully circulating upper low over the Bering Sea with a flat flow setting up over the North Pacific with winds tracking from Japan flat to just off the North CA coast, veering northeast into British Columbia at the last moment. No support for low pressure development indicated.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (4/23) weak low pressure associated with a cutoff low continued circulating in the Western Gulf of Alaska producing one small fetch of 30 kt north winds aimed well at the Islands with seas 18 ft at 45N 170W (339 degs HI) (see Hawaii Cutoff Low below). Otherwise weak high pressure over the Canadian coast and moving inland was generating a small gradient over the extreme North CA coast producing 25 kt north winds and limited north windswell for mainly Central CA. Another low was pushing off the Kuril Islands producing 30-35 kt northwest winds, but no seas of interest was in-play yet. Over the next 72 hours the gradient off Northern CA is to hold for one more day (Wed 4/24) then dissipate with windswell for Central CA fading with it (see QuikCAST's for details). The cutoff low north of Hawaii is to fade but start getting absorbed by the low migrating east off the Kuril Islands. By Wed AM (4/24) the consolidated low is to start taking shape on the dateline with 30-35 kt west winds forecast in it's south quadrant by the evening aimed well at Hawaii with 17 ft seas building at 39N 173E. Fetch to hold into Thurs AM (4/25) with 18 ft seas forecast at 38N 173W (327 degs HI). Fetch is to be gone by the evening with 17 ft seas fading at 40N 169W. Limited windswell likely for Hawaii by Sun AM (4/28).
No easterly trades of interest relative to Hawaii are forecast for the next 72 hours with low pressure in the Western Gulf suppressing high pressure activity near the Islands.
Hawaii Cutoff Low - Weak low pressure continued circulating just south of the Eastern Aleutians and in the Western Gulf last weekend, but no real swell producing fetch was indicated. By Mon AM (4/22) the low surged some generating a small fetch of north winds at 30-35 kts aimed due south towards Hawaii with seas building to 17 ft (42N 171W). By the evening 25-30 kt north winds held with seas still 16 ft at 40N 170W. Fetch built into Tues AM (4/23) with 30 kt north winds aimed well at the Islands and seas to 18 ft at 45N 170W (339 degs HI). Fetch to be gone by the evening with no additional swell production capacity indicated.
Some degree of limited 13-14 sec period north swell is expected to arrive in Oahu from 330 degrees by late Wed (4/24) peaking Thurs AM (4/25) at 4 ft @ 12 secs (4.5-5.0 ft).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (4/23) strong high pressure at 1038 mbs was just off the Central Canadian Coast riding south generating a modest gradient off North California generating 25 kt north winds over the North CA producing limited north windswell. Nearshore a weak eddy flow was in control, first of the year for Central CA. No real change forecast with the eddy becomes more pronounced Wednesday then dissolving some Thursday (4/25) with the entire gradient collapsing. Friday a light pressure patter is forecast with no north fetch and no southerly eddy either. By Saturday only a light northerly flow is forecast pushing down the CA coast at 10 kts building to 15 kts by late afternoon. Sunday new high pressure at 1028 mbs sets up off the coast with a weak gradient tarting to building with north winds 15+ kts over all of North and Central CA, pushing 20-25 kts on Monday, then fading some on Tuesday (4/30) as low pressure supposedly builds in the Gulf of Alaska.
Surface - On Tuesday (4/23) fading swell energy from a gale previously in the Southeast Pacific was hitting Southern CA (see below). Swell from a second storm was tracking northeast from a point south of New Zealand (See New Zealand Storm below). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no other swell sources are forecast.
Second Small Gale
A second small gale developed Sunday evening (4/14) producing a tiny fetch of 35-40 kt south winds in the deep Southeast Pacific aimed almost due north and pushing northeast. But by Monday AM (4/15) winds were already fading from 35 kts on the edge of the California swell window resulting in only 26 ft seas at 47S 127W aimed almost due north. By evening winds regenerated to 40 kts with seas building to barely 28 ft at 43S 126W again aimed almost due north or up the 184-186 degree path to California. By Tues AM (4/18) this system was all but gone.
Limited utility class swell for Southern CA is to be fading Wed AM (4/24) from 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 186 degrees.
New Zealand Gale
A new gale started building south of New Zealand on Sat AM (4/20) generating a compact area of 45 kt west winds over ice free waters of the deep Southwest Pacific. Seas on the increase. By evening a decent fetch of 50 kt southwest winds were building producing seas to 32 ft at 62S 177W (204 degs CA and totally shadowed by Tahiti, 190 degs HI). On Sun AM (4/21) fetch was fading from 45 kts over a decent sized area aimed well to the northeast with seas 36 ft at 61S 167W (202 degs CA and partially shadowed, 184 degs Hawaii and aimed pretty east of the great circle tracks heading there). By evening fetch held at 45 kts aimed well northeast with seas holding at 36 ft at 60S 158W (199 degs for CA and mostly unshadowed, 181 degs HI but mostly aimed east of any track there). By Mon AM (4/22) residual 40 kt south fetch was still in-play with seas from previous fetch fading from 30 ft at 57S 150W (195 degs CA and unshadowed). In the evening residual 35-40 kt south fetch was fading generating 26-30 ft seas at 50S 150W (297 degs CA and unshadowed). All fetch was gone after that.
A nice but filtered pulse of southwest swell is expecting to result for California and south swell for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect some preliminary swell (from a earlier fetch) arriving on Saturday (4/27) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 15 secs late (2.5 ft). The core swell to arrive starting Sunday (4/28) pushing 2 ft @ 17-18 secs late (3.0-3.5 ft faces). Swell holding Mon (4/29) at 2.1-2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) on into Tues (4/30) at 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading on Wed (5/1). Swell Direction: 181-189 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (4/29) with pure swell maybe 1.6 ft @ 20 secs at sunset (3 ft) and inconsistent). Swell building some on Tues (4/30) with swell building to 2.6 ft @ 18 secs near sunset (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195-202 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (4/29) with pure swell maybe 1.0 ft @ 20 secs at sunset (2 ft) and very inconsistent). Swell building some on Tues (4/30) with swell building to 2.0 ft @ 19 secs near sunset (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 194-201 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 there's some suggestion the cutoff low north of Hawaii might redevelop in the Northern Gulf of Alaska Mon-Tues (3/30) generating 20-25 kt northwest winds and low odds of 15 ft seas resulting. Next to no odds for windswell developing relative to the US West Coast.
A weak gradient to form along the North CA coast on Sun-Mon (4/29) producing a thin area of 20-25 kt north winds perhaps making for minimal short period north local windswell for Central CA with luck then.
No trades of 15 kts or greater are forecast relative to Hawaii with low pressure hanging north of the Islands, suppressing high pressure development and therefore trades. No easterly windswell of interest is forecast.
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 Tuesday (4/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 5.41. The 30 day average was down some to 6.06 with the 90 day average was down slightly at 2.20. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions with light east anomalies east of there but then fading to neutral midway to Central America and holding. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was all but gone. A week from now (5/1) near neutral anomalies with only a slight easterly component are forecast over the Maritime Continent and dateline fading to neutral east of there extending on the equator into Central America. This suggests a neutral Phase of the MJO is to likely be in-play.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/22 are in agreement. Initially both suggest a dead neutral MJO pattern was in control of the equatorial Pacific. No change is forecast 5 day out. But by 8 days from now both models suggest just the faintest signs of an Inactive Phase starting to get a toehold over New Guinea easing east through 15 days out, but covering only a tiny area. This continue the pattern of the atmosphere bing slightly biased towards a very weak Inactive Phase. But over all this suggests 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 (4/22) a faint pool of slightly warmer water covers the north side of the equator from Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii with slightly cooler water over the same area south of the equator. A tiny thin current of markedly cold water continues tracking 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 just southeast of Hawaii and barely making it to the equatorial dateline, typical of the effects of a somewhat stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. And it looks like it's gotten cooler, the result of a prolonged burst of northerly winds previously over the CA coast. Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicating a weakening pool of cooler water (barely -1 deg C) in place at 125W and down 100 meters, blocking the transport path. But a small pocket of slight warmer water appears to be trying to make some inroads into the cooler water. It's all shades of gray though. In short, temperatures on the surface are not warming and the subsurface path, though not strongly blocked by cooler water, is not doing anything to transport warm water eastward, even if there was warm water to transport. And the coastal pattern off the US mainland suggests somewhat higher pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-like pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 4/23 have stabilized. They indicate water temps peaked at Nino 3.4 in early April at (+0.6 degs C) and are slowly falling expected to bottom out in May near normal (+0.1 degs C) and holding there into Jan 2014. 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 in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier where accuracy of all the ENSO models is 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 (normally would start building in Feb-Mar). That is clearly not the case for this year. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than previous 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 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 no swell producing fetchis 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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'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
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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
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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
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table