New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)
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.
On Tuesday (5/31) North and Central California was seeing south winds and infrequent light rain with new northwest swell moving in for the afternoon pushing 6 ft and supposed southern hemi swell underneath (but no clear signs of it just yet). Southern California had knee high blownout northwest windswell with warble and whitecaps up north. Down south Swell #2S was starting to arrive with occasional sets in the head high range but pretty trashed with onshore winds and chop in control. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore had waist to chest high easterly tradewind generated windswell and chopped. The South Shore had more background southern hemi swell with waves waist to chest high with some bigger sets and clean with light trades in control.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
The North Pacific is on it's last legs. The last local gale pushed down the outer Oregon-Northern CA coast on Mon-Tues (5/31) with 19 ft seas setting up swell for Tues-Wed (6/1). After that things to go quiet. Down south Storm #2S developed in the deep Southeastern Pacific Tues-Wed (6/24) with up to 40 ft seas aimed mainly northeast, with some energy expected up into California starting Tues (5/31) but most focused on South and Central America. Swell from this system hit Chile on Saturday (5/28) with waves in the 15 ft range with a few sets to 18 ft (Hawaiian). Beyond another solid gale pushed under New Zealand on Sat-Mon (5/30) with up to 46 ft seas but all aimed well to the east. Some decent but modest sized southwest swell to result next week. Beyond there are no clear indications of any decent swell producing fetch forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (5/31) the jetstream was rather weak and meandering, pushing off the Kuril Islands and stairstepping to the dateline then ridging into Alaska before falling south into a steep backdoor trough centered over the Oregon coast. Winds were 100 kts or less other than one pocket on the dateline at 140 kts. There was no clear support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is forecast, with a stairstep incline pushing up to the Aleutians in the Western Gulf, then falling into a trough just off the Pacific Northwest. Winds to be near 120 kts in pockets, but no clear indications of support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours all energy is to drain out of the jet through the overall flow is to remain cohesive and generally running over the 45N latitude with a cutoff trough hanging over North and Central CA. Again, no support for gale development indicated.
At the surface on Tuesday (5/31) high pressure at 1028 mbs remained centered 1400 nmiles west of Pt Conception and 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii serving to generate trades at 15 kts over Hawaii and producing limited easterly windswell there, but also serving to block the normal easterly migration of low pressure systems from the dateline east towards the Pacific Northwest. A weak low was moving through the eastern Bering Sea, shunted north by the aforementioned high pressure system, with a second low off Japan (the remnants of Typhoon Songda). No swell producing fetch of interest was associated with either relative to our forecast area. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold steady northeast of Hawaii with trades back up to 20 kts and easterly windswell increasing some. This high is to be generating a steady northwesterly flow pushing over Pt Conception and points southwards pretty much chopping thing up. The remnants of Songda to hold together and rapidly track northeast pushing up into the far Southeastern Bering Sea by Friday (6/3) and getting little traction on the oceans surface, due mainly to it's rapid northeastward progress.
Pacific Northwest Gale
A gale in the Gulf continued pushing east riding over the top of high pressure off California and north of Hawaii on Sunday (5/30) but loosing it's previous strength with winds winds down to 30 kts. 19 ft seas forecast Sunday evening at 47N 144W. It started to develop slightly then with a larger area of 30 kt northwest winds aimed at the US West coast. It was just off Washington Monday AM (5/30) while falling south with northwest winds at 30 kts and seas building to 19 ft at 45N 138W. Fetch started fading by Monday PM as the gale fell south off the Oregon-NCal border with seas barely 18 ft at 41N 137W, then dissipating while falling further south. Swell started hitting the outer buoys on late Mon-early Tues (5/31) and is expected into Northern CA Tuesday late afternoon on into Wednesday AM (6/1) (5.5 ft @ 11-12 secs - 6 ft faces).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm formation of interest is occurring or forecast for the next 72 hours.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (5/31) more weak low pressure was pushing southeast approaching San Francisco with light rain occasionally falling down to Monterey Bay with south winds over Northern CA and Central CA down to Big Sur or so. South winds and light sporadic rain to continue down to Monterey Bay on Wednesday then being replaced by high pressure and a northwest flow at 10 kts early Thursday (6/2) with clearing. Northwest winds to 20+ kts forecast from Pt Conception southward. A light northwest windflow is expected for Northern Central CA coast on Friday (6/3) and stronger from Morro Bay southward as more low pressure nestles up to the Northern Coast. Saturday south winds forecast from Monterey Bay northward with light northwest winds further south. Light rain for Central CA too. More of the same on Sunday but with south winds and rain falling down to as far south as Pt Conception. By Monday a light northwest flow is forecast increasing to 10-15 kts on Tuesday (6/7).
On Tuesday (5/31) the remnants of Storm #3S were fading in the Central Pacific with a few small pockets of 40 kt west winds indicated and 36 ft seas at 51S 150W all pushing towards Chile and Peru with no fetch aimed up into our forecast area. A quick fade is forecast in the next 12+ hours. Over the next 72 hours a cutoff low is to form 1800 nmiles south of Tahiti by Wed PM (6/1) with a small area of 40 kt south winds expected and holding position if not drifting just a bit to the east into Saturday (6/4). 28-30 ft seas are forecast near 45S 150W Thurs AM to 40S 145W through Sat PM, or 1200-1500 nmiles south of Tahiti, likely offering some solid 14-16 sec period swell for that area (7 ft @ 16 secs - 11 ft Hawaiian starting Sun AM 6/5) with far lesser size radiating up towards Hawaii. Something to watch but not guaranteed.
On Monday evening (5/23) a large area of 40-45 kt southwest to west winds was building in the general vicinity of 55S 130W with 34 ft seas building at 55S 132W. But how much of the fetch was aimed north was problematic. On Tuesday AM (5/24) a large if not huge area of 45-50 kt southwest winds were in-place at 57S 130W with 40 ft seas building at 52S 127W, aimed a little more east than north or about 45 degrees east of the 182 degree path up into California. The Jason-1 satellite made a good pass near the core of the fetch confirming sea at 38.7 ft with one peak reading to 41.0 where the model suggested 40 ft. This was right on track. A second pass occurred at 18Z with seas confirmed at 35.0 ft with one reading to 39.1 ft while the model suggested 38 ft seas at that location. Again, right on track. Additional 45 kt fetch built in the evening at 56S 121W aimed just 15 degrees east of the 180 degree path up into California with 40 ft seas modeled at 49S 122W. That fetch pushed north-northeast on Wed AM (5/25) dropping to 40 kts at 49S 112W effectively out of the CA swell window with 36 ft seas at 43S 118W targeting Peru up into Southern Central America. The fetch was fading fast in the evening with 36 ft seas fading at 41S 109W.
All this suggests some degree of very south angled swell could result for California, best for the southern end of the state, with more energy down into Northern South America and Southern Central America but shadowed by the Galapagos Islands in North and Central Costa Rica. Relative to California, the big issue is the storm was on the very edge of the swell window, meaning the best size will be pushing a bit east of the great circle tracks up into North and Central CA but focused a bit better at Southern CA, but still not optimal. This one will be smaller than Swell #1S, though not so much in Southern CA.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (5/31) before sunrise with period 20 secs and size building from near 3 ft @ 20 secs (6 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft) and building at sunset to near 4.0 ft @ 19 secs (7.5 ft with sets to 9.5 ft). Swell to hold well overnight and be solid by Wednesday AM (6/1), peaking from sunrise to 11 AM with pure swell 4.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.0-8.0 ft faces with occasional sets to 9.5 ft). Swell to hold on Thursday (6/2) but down a bit with pure swell 4.0 ft @ 16 secs (6.5 ft faces with sets to 8.0 ft early) and period and size slowly backing off with period down to 15 secs late afternoon. 14-15 secs residuals on Friday. Swell Direction: 182-188 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (5/31) near 5 PM with period 20 secs and pushing near 2.8 ft @ 19 secs by sunset (5 ft faces with maybe a 7 ft set or two). Swell to build overnight and be solid by Wednesday AM (6/1), peaking from noon to 7 PM with pure swell 3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (6.0-6.5 ft faces with occasional sets to 8 ft). Swell to hold on Thursday (6/2) but down a little with pure swell still 3.6 ft @ 16 secs (5.5-6.0 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft early) and period and size slowly backing off with period down towards 15 secs late. 14-15 secs residuals on Friday. Swell Direction: 180-185 degrees
Minimal Storm #3S
On Saturday AM (5/28) a new complex gale started organizing under New Zealand. It had 36 ft seas from fetch the previous evening at 45 kts. Those seas were positioned at 53S 174E aimed pretty well up the 215 degree path to CA and unshadowed and well east of the 199 degree path to Hawaii. Some swell likely pushing towards both locales. That fetch was fading out Saturday evening with residual 30 ft seas at 54S 176W.
Of more interest was a new fetch building directly behind with 55 kt southwest winds at 55S 164E (216 degs NCal but shadowed by New Zealand relative to HI). By Sunday AM (5/29) a tiny area of 55-60 kt southwest fetch was moving into exposed waters generating up to 44 ft seas at 57S 175E (210 degs NCal and moving into the Tahiti Swell Shadow/196 degs HI unshadowed) and building. In the evening 50 kt west fetch was holding with 46 ft seas peaking at 58S 172W pushing due east (not good). That's 40 degrees east of the 205 degree path to NCal and in the middle of the Tahitian swell shadow, 207 degs relative to SCal and moving out of the core of the shadow, and 60 degs east of the 189 degree path to Hawaii. Some swell possibly moving towards all locations but favoring California and points south of there. Also swell pushing 40 degree east of the 203 degree path to Tahiti. This storm was fading on Monday AM (5/30) with 40 kt west winds dropping and seas fading from 40 ft at 55S 165W (203 degs relative to NCal and out of the core of the Tahitian swell shadow, 205 degrees SCal and out of the heart of the shadow and pushing 65 degree east of the 183 degree path to HI. Secondary 40 kt southwest fetch held into the evening with seas fading from 40 ft at 50S 165W.
This system was on a very direct west to east track with all fetch aimed due east, limiting the amount of swell that will radiate north. Still, with seas forecast to nearly 47 ft, some degree of energy is expected to push up into Hawaii and CA.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Saturday afternoon (6/4) with pure swell reaching maybe 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (3.0 ft). Swell to continue upwards on Sunday (6/5) reaching 2.6 ft @ 18 secs nears sunset (4.7 ft with sets to 6.0 ft). Swell to hold early Monday (6/6) with swell 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft with sets to near 6 ft) and period dropping to 16 secs alter in the day. Swell to hold at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft faces with sets to 5 ft) on Tuesday (6/7). 15 secs residuals expected to be fading on Wednesday (6/8). Swell Direction: 192-199 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (6/7) near 6 AM with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell up to 2.6 ft @ 19 secs near sunset (5 ft faces with sets to 6.5 ft). Swell to continue upward with period 18 secs Wednesday AM (6/8) and peaking near noon with pure swell 3.0-3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.1-6.0 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and holding through sunset. Swell to continue solid at 3.0-3.3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8-5.3 ft with sets to 6.5 ft) through the day Thursday (6/9), with period dropping towards 15 secs at sunset. 14-15 secs residuals expected on Friday (6/10). Swell Direction: 207-218 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (6/7) near 8 AM with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell up to 2 ft @ 19 secs near sunset. Swell to continue upward with period 18 secs Wednesday AM (6/8) and peaking near 2 PM with pure swell 3.0-3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.1-6.0 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and holding through sunset. Swell to continue solid at 3.0-3.3 ft @ 16 secs (4.8-5.3 ft with sets to 6.5 ft) through the day Thursday (6/9), with period dropping towards 15 secs just after sunset. 14-15 secs residuals expected on Friday (6/10). Swell Direction: 205-216 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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
As of Tuesday (5/31) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding stationary. Previously it hovered near 0 from May 1-20. The daily SOI was at 9.29. The 30 day average was down to 1.96 with the 90 day average down some to 14.26. This was the lowest the monthly SOI has been since March 1, 2010, the start of La Nina. But to put things in perspective, the whole of 2009 was mostly lower than where the 30 day average is now (driven by El Nino). So we are making inroads into neutral territory, and it looks like La Nina is just getting ripped apart from a pressure perspective.
Wind anomalies as of Monday (5/30) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated one last little finger of easterly anomalies over the extreme Eastern Equatorial Pacific suggestive of a fading Inactive Phase of the MJO. At the same time a new Active Phase of the MJO was building in the West Pacific expected to just barely reach the dateline on 6/4 then fading through 6/9. A neutral pattern is forecast from 6/14-6/19. It is interesting that yet another Active Phase is present right behind many others with no Inactive Phase in between. That remains a semi-significant event.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (5/30) is unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Hawaii to the dateline but steadily loosing coverage. the larger issue was cooler than normal waters present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast (not as strong as earlier in the Winter) and somewhat colder ones off Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America, though it looks like the upwelling effect was stronger in the southern hemi than in the north. But the cooler waters in the North Pacific continue to slowly relent in spurts as are the cool temps over the equator. Warmer than normal waters are building over the Galapagos Islands and over a very narrow band west of there and continue slowly increasing in coverage in fits and spurts. And tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres trying to make inroads to the east but not very effectively. Regardless, the big picture still looks like a La Nina setup (though fading in intensity).
Below the surface on the equator there had previously been indications of Kevin Wave activity. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February and moved to dead neutral presumably from the effects of two consecutive bouts of the Active Phase of the MJO which in turn might have driven a Kelvin Wave. In parallel warmer than normal water had edged east from the West Pacific, previously up +2 degrees above normal and positioned due south of Hawaii (150W) under the equator through 3/22. But there had also been an impenetrable wall at 140W separating the warm anomalies, and cool anomalies east of there that was blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. But on 4/4, it appeared that that wall was fading if not gone entirely (by 4/7). By 4/19 a small but steady finger of normal to slightly warmer (0 to +1 deg C) water started flowing east making it to the equatorial East Pacific up at 100-150 meters and building some. Almost +1 degrees anomalies tracked from the West Pacific to the East Pacific short of one small break at 160W as of 5/1. On 5/7 a small pool of negative temperature water started to make a faint showing at 140W and was holding through 5/26, presumably driven by the previous Inactive Phase of the MJO. But we expect that to disappear shortly as more warm water get pushed east by the current Active Phase of the MJO. And on 5/26 it appeared more warm water was pushing through the subsurface current heading towards Central America, possible a new Kelvin Wave and the likely result of the latest Active Phase of the MJO. +1 degree anomalies covered the entire subsurface current other than one little break at 140-150W with up to 2 degree anomalies embedded in the larger flow. It would be best to see warm anomalies down to 200 meters in the east, but the current state is the best it's been in 9 months and suggestive of a near normal subsurface thermocline, and continuing to get better by the day. The thought is this normalization of the subsurface flow will eventually affect water temps at the surface and then the atmosphere above it (6 months later). So all this is a step in the right direction though slow evolving.
Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical perspective these easterly winds were 'normal' with only light easterly anomalies persisting in the far Western Pacific.
We did some analysis on ocean currents on the Pacific equator this year an found anomalies developed flowing from west to east starting in February and were continuing through May 2011. We oft look at such symptoms as an El Nino indicator, but that does not seem likely given all the other data. But that coupled with a falling SOI at least it depicts a tendency towards normal conditions. Will monitor. Historically it is very unlikely to impossible to have an El Nino form directly behind a La Nina. More typical is several years of a slow buildup before an actual El Nino event occurs.
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 the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
One note of interest, The National Weather Service long term models are now predicting slight warming of East Pacific Equatorial waters in the Summer and Fall of 2011 (about + 0.2-0.3 degs C). This would not qualify as an El Nino, but it is much better than what one would expected given being right behind a solid La Nina. Something to monitor and it almost gives on the sense something unusual is developing.
See more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours the cutoff low forecast to form south of Tahiti is to fall southeast and continue circulating, possibly generating more 40-45 kt southwest fetch Sun-Tues (6/7) resulting in some 32 ft seas pushing somewhat north on the eastern edge of the California swell window. Something to monitor.
Otherwise no other swell producing weather systems are 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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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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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
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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