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 (5/2) North and Central CA had local northwest windswell producing waves in the chest to head high range with southern hemi swell intermixed and clean but a bit soft. Nice and sunny. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing waves at chest to head high and clean. Long waits between sets. Southern California up north was waist high with some bigger sets and clean but soft looking very much like windswell. Down south southern hemi swell was producing sets in the shoulder to head high range but pretty textured with northerly winds building outside. Hawaii's North Shore was chest high on the sets and clean, still rideable. The South Shore was getting small with waves waist high on the sets and pretty bumped up with sideshore trades in effect. The East Shore was waist high and chopped, pure east tradewind windswell.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific low pressure that has been been stalled northwest of the Hawaiian Islands for a good while is on the move heading northeast and producing no fetch of interest, and is expected to be inland over Alaska in 48 hours. Unbelievably, the models suggest two gale developing mid-next week, one west of the dateline and one in the Gulf, both with 30 kt northwest winds over a good sized fetch generating 18 ft seas. We're very doubtful any of that will occur. But Hawaii and CA could benefit if it does. Relative to California local north pre-existing windswell is to be fading, but the local gradient over North CA is to stir a little Fri-Sat possibly generating some more minimally rideable windswell for those days. Looking south, swell from a small short-lived storm formed southeast of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) lifting northeast with seas to 36 ft then fading fast 24 hours later has already peaked in California, good for rideable surf through the end of the workweek and maybe into Saturday up north. Otherwise no swell producing weather systems are forecast until Thursday (5/9) when a gale supposedly is to track under New Zealand producing 34 ft seas. This system has come and gone several times on the models, and is far from likely. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (5/2) weak low pressure located in the Western Gulf of Alaska at 1002 mbs was lifting northeast and producing no fetch of interest. No swell expected. Previously a gale developed over Japan on Fri-Sat (4/27) producing a small fetch of 35 kt west winds and 20 ft seas for 18 hours, good for some minimal swell arriving on Oahu late Sat (5/4) into Sun (5/5) peaking at 3.3 ft @ 11 secs (3.5 ft faces) from 310 degrees.
High pressure at 1032 mbs was centered off Washington ridging into British Columbia and generating only a faint remnant gradient off extreme North CA generating 20 kt north winds and generating minimal north short period windswell. Windswell from previously stronger fetch was still pushing into Central and South CA. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf low is to move inland over Alaska and dissipate. The Northern CA gradient is expected to regenerate some on Friday into Saturday (5/4) producing a small area of north winds to 25 kts resulting in minimally rideable north windswell on those days (see QuikCASTs for details). But weirdly low pressure is to build inland and push over and off the Central Coast on Sat-Mon (5/6). No swell producing fetch is forecast, but south winds at 15 kts are forecast along the Central Coast to during that window, which is kinda rare given the time of year.
Currently trades are blowing at 15 kts over the Hawaiian Islands generating minimal east short period windswell. Over the next 72 hours those trades are to fade as high pressure off the US West Coast fades and moves inland with tradewind windswell fading later Friday (5/3).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/2) high pressure at 1034 mbs was centered 500 nmiles west of the Oregon-Washington border and ridging into British Columbia. A modest pressure gradient was driving 20 kt north winds down the North CA coast, generating limited north windswell, but the gradient was push well away from the coast with a south wind eddy flow in control of the Central Coast with light north winds into Southern CA. Friday (5/3) a weak northerly flow to set up at maybe 10 kts and up to 15 kts over Pt Conception late. Interestingly low pressure is to set up over Central CA by late Saturday with a light west wind flow (10 kts) pushing down into Southern CA too. The low to build with winds turning southwest on Sunday at 15-20 kts over Central CA as the low drops to 1002 mbs and closes off located 250 nmiles west of Monterey Bay. Southern CA to be seeing southwest winds at 5-10 kts. The low to slowly dissipate off the Central CA coast Monday into early Tuesday with southwest to south winds slowly dissipating along the entire CA coast. A near neutral local wind flow expected on Wednesday as a broad new low pressure system supposedly builds in the Southern Gulf with high pressure wedged off Southern CA. By Thursday (5/9) north winds at 15 kts are forecast for all of Southern CA while a calm wind pattern holds for North and Central CA.
Jetstream - On Thursday (5/2) the jet was highly fragmented and flowing flat east, likely 2 steams semi-merged and diffuse. Winds were 130 kts in two pockets, but no troughs of interest were apparent. No support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours a ridge is forecast building under New Zealand pushing southeast to the Antarctic Ice Sheet on Sun (5/5) with a slight trough trying to develop ahead of it, pushing into the far Southeast Pacific. But no support for gale development is indicated. Beyond 72 hours the ridge is to push east and wash-out by Tues (5/7) with a flat zonal pattern again taking shape locking things down from storm development. But by Thurs (7/9) a bit of a trough is to start building under New Zealand with 140 kts southeast winds building and feeding into it. Some support for gale development possible. But be forwarded, the models predicted this same scenario developing on Tues (5/7) and it evaporated, only to reappear just today. So odds are low of anything developing.
Surface - On Thursday (5/2) swell from a storm previously south of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) had peaked in California and was heading down (see New Zealand Storm below). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.
New Zealand Storm
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. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass over the fetch and reported seas 29.9 ft with one reading to 33.0 ft where the model indicated barely 30 ft at 63S 173E (18Z). 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). The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the fetch at 18Z and reported seas of 36.0 ft with one reading to 40.4 ft. This was exactly what the model predicted. 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). At 18Z the Jason-1 satellite passed near the core of the fetch reporting seas 30.2 ft with one reading to 35.1 ft, a bit better than what the model predicted. In the evening residual 35-40 kt south fetch was fading generating 26-30 ft seas at 50S 150W (297 degs CA and unshadowed).
On Tuesday (4/23) a secondary fetch developed producing a small area of 45 kt south winds generating 34 ft seas over an infinitesimal area at 51S 140W pushing flat east. Limited energy was tracking up the 194 degree path to California. By evening that fetch was starting to fall southeast with southerly winds still 45 kts and seas 37 ft at 52S 131W (188 degs CA), but the southeastward movement of the fetch severely limited northward propagation of the swell. Additional 35 kt southerly fetch developed on Wed AM (4/24) briefly pulsing to 45 kt in the evening resulting in 30 ft sea at 48S 128W aimed somewhat to the north. More sideband swell pushing up into the California swell window from 186 degrees. But most energy was aimed at Chile.
A nice but filtered pulse of southwest swell is expecting to result for California and south sideband swell for Hawaii. additional follow-on energy with less energy is also to push up into California.
South CA: Residuals fading on Friday (5/3) with swell dropping from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5+ ft). Background energy fading out Sat (5/4) at 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195-202 degrees
North CA: Swell fading Fri (5/3) from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5+ ft). Residuals dissipating Sat (5/4) from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 193-201 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 no local windswell producing gradient activity is forecast along the California coast.
No trades of 15 kts or greater are forecast relative to Hawaii beyond 72 hours either.
Of note: The models indicate two gales developing on either side of the dateline on Wed (5/9) building with northwest winds in each to 30 kts by Thurs (5/10) and seas building from 18 ft targeting both Hawaii and the US West Coast. this all seems highly fanciful and unlikely, a fluke result from the model. Still, it's something to monitor just the same. But the likely outcome is by the next run of the model they will both be gone.
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 (5/2) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at -1.13. The 30 day average was down a fair amount at -0.04 with the 90 day average up slightly at 1.90. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral to slight east anomalies over the Maritime Continent extending east to the dateline on into Central America. But those anomalies were very minimal. A neutral MJO pattern appeared to be in control. A week from now (5/10) moderate to strong east anomalies remain forecast over the Maritime Continent extending to the dateline and east of there to a point south of California, then fading to neutral along the equator into Central America. This suggests a building strong pulse of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is possible.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/1 are in general agreement. Initially both suggest a moderate Inactive MJO pattern in control of the far West Pacific. It is forecast to build more 5 days out, then start fading 10 days out and all but gone 15 days from now. Both models suggest the Active Phase of the MJO is to be building in the Eastern Indian Ocean starting 5 days out and moving east. The Dynamic model has it moving into the far West Pacific 15 days out while the Statistical model is more conservative with it still boxed in the East Indian Ocean. So assuming all this comes to pass, it would suggest a return to a stronger MJO cycle. But the jury is still out as to whether that is what will really develop, or whether the models are just overhyping what has generally been a very weak MJO signal so far this year.
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 (5/2) a faint pool of slightly warmer water covers the north side of the equator from Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii with much cooler water building over the same area south of the equator. A thin current of markedly cold water continues tracking north up along the South American Coast turning west at Central American extending to the Galapagos Islands, and getting better traction pushing west of the Galapagos.It's not enough to call it a real La Nina cold pool yet, but it sure is looking that way. A plume of slightly 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 stable pool of cooler water (-2 deg C) in place at 150W and down 130 meters, blocking the transport path. A small pocket of slight warmer water appears to be backing up in the West Pacific suggestive of La Nina. In short, temperatures on the surface are not warming and now appear to be cooling, while 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 5/2 seem to be in denial of the current situation. 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). A slight rebound to the +0.2 degree C level is possible over the summer, building to +0.3 degrees in the Fall 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 fetch is forecast until Thursday (5/9) when a broad gale is forecast to start developing while tracking under New Zealand moving into and upper level trough producing a modest area of 45 kt south winds down at the surface and seas building from 30 ft. Thurs PM the gale is to track east with fetch building to the north pushing up into the South Pacific with winds fading from 40 kts along the New Zealand coast targeting Hawaii and seas to 34 ft at 50S 174E. Additional 55 kt southeast winds to be building south of the storms core with seas on the increase there. It's too early to believe any of this just yet, but it's a nice tease. Will monitor.
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