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.
On Thursday (11/15) North and Central CA was seeing residual local swell at waist high or so and clean with some nice little lines coming through. Down south wrap around energy was producing waves to knee high and clean but foggy. Southern California was limited north angled swell with waves thigh high up north on the sets and pretty clean. Down south surf was up to waist high on the sets and pretty textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some limited rideable windswell with waves to waist high on the peaks and pretty clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell at waist high and lightly chopped by the trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A respectable gale was falling down the Canadian and Pacific Northwest coast on Thurs (11/17) with up to 30 ft seas, and forecast to slowly fade into Friday but not before pushing up to 22 ft seas positioned just off off Cape Mendocino possibly setting up raw swell for Central CA on the weekend. Another smaller follow-on gale to follow right behind on the same route with 22 ft seas Sat (11/19) offering more small raw swell for the US West Coast early the following week. All this to be outside the Hawaiian swell window. A slightly more interesting gale is forecast wrapping up over the Aleutians Sat (11/19) then falling southeast through the Gulf Sun-Tues (11/22) with up to 28 ft seas and making it better to the south, offering sideband swell for Hawaii and more for the US West Coast if all goes as forecast. And maybe one more is to develop off Kamchatka pushing flat over the dateline just shy of the Aleutians and then into the Gulf with seas in the 25 ft range, but that is just a guess at this early date. At least there's potential for the Thanksgiving Holidays. Take what you can get and be happy for it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (11/17) the same old pattern was in play with the jetstream flowing flat east Japan then splitting on the dateline with most energy ridging hard north over the Western Gulf pushing up into the Bering Sea before turning and falling back southeast over the extreme eastern Gulf of Alaska and forming something that almost looked like a trough there with winds 120 kts. Limited support for gale development there. A weak but broad trough was located east of the Kuril Islands too offering limited support for gale development, but wind speeds were light there (110 kts). A fraction of the energy pushing off Japan was splitting off to the south on the dateline then flowing flat east over Hawaii on into extreme Southern Baja. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to persist but with the trough off the Kuril Islands pushing northeast up into the Bering Sea, not offering much if anything in terms of support for gale development. The trough in the Eastern Gulf is to sink south pushing inland over Oregon late Friday cutting off support for gale development there. Another trough is to develop right behind in the Eastern Gulf on Friday falling southeast pushing into Southern CA on Sunday (11/20). Limited support for gale development suggested. Beyond 72 hours starting Mon (11/21) much more energy is to get infused in the jet over Japan with winds 150 kts and flowing eastward into a broad ridge over the West Pacific, then those winds are to fall into a building trough Tuesday pushing through the Gulf of Alaska with winds to 170 kts and wiping out the split pattern that has dominated the past month. The trough to eventually push into Central CA on Thurs (11/24). Good support for gale development is all goes as forecast.
Surface - At the surface on Thursday (11/17) high pressure at 1028 mbs was located in the Western Gulf of Alaska falling southeast with it's leading edge just off Pt Conception. A gale low was in the extreme northeastern Gulf of Alaska tracking down the Canadian coast (see Eastern Gulf Gale below). Also a weak low pressure system pushed off Japan (see Japan Fetch below). Broad low pressure was tracking northeast off Kamchatka generating fetch in the Bering Sea, but of no interest Pacific surfers. East winds continued along the south side of the high pushing into Hawaii at 15 kts offering bare minimal support for windswell there.
Over the next 72 hours another small gale is to drop out of the Eastern Gulf tracking southeast off the Canadian coast Friday evening (11/18) with winds to 45 kts. Seas on the increase. Sat AM (11/19) the gale is to be fading while falling southeast fast with 35 kt northwest winds off the Pacific Northwest coast with 22 ft seas at 48N 142W (319 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 30 kts but over an increasing area with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 140W (off the Oregon coast). Fetch is to dissipate Sunday AM (11/20) with seas fading from 17 ft at 37N 133W or on the 292 deg track to NCal and 400 nmiles off the coast but mostly tracking south rather than towards the coast. Another shot of limited sideband windswell is possible for the North and Central CA coasts with limited energy into Southern CA early next week.
Eastern Gulf Gale
A new small gale low developed just west of Northern Canada and starting to fall down the coast producing a pressure gradient between the low and high pressure to the west, generating 35-40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 22 ft at 52N 145W (aimed directly down the 317 deg path to NCal but likely shadowed south of Monterey Bay). Interestingly WindSat passed directly over the fetch in the evening and confirmed winds to 55 kts with seas to 30 ft over a small area at 52N 145W. Winds were still 35-40 kts off British Columbia and Washington on Thursday AM (11/17) and aimed well at Oregon with seas to 32 ft at 50N 140W (319 degs NCal). In the evening winds are to be dropping from 30-35 kts off Oregon aimed southeast with seas still 30 ft at 47N 136W (319 deg NCal). On Friday AM (11/28) the fetch is to shrink while falling southeast at 30 kts off Oregon with seas dropping to the 27 ft range off Oregon at 45N 134W (again on the 319 deg path into Central CA) targeting Cape Mendocino late in the day. Fetch is to be down to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino in the evening with seas fading from 22-24 ft at 40N 130W (295-308 degs NCal).
Rough data suggest larger rather raw and very north angled swell to push into the North California coast early Friday (11/18) evening with solid energy into Central CA but fading Sat AM. Pure swell in Central CA estimated to 10 ft @ 17 late evening and 10 ft @ 14 secs (13 ft) near sunrise from 315+ degrees.
Also a patch of 30-35 kt northwest winds pushed off Northern Japan on Wednesday (11/16) making it barely to the dateline Thursday AM before dissipating. Seas were 20 ft Wed AM (11/16) at 36N 155E, then at 20 ft Wed PM at 40N 158E. 18 ft residuals made it to 40N 165E Thursday AM on the 310 degree path to Hawaii and 2100 nmiles out. Doubtful much if any swell will result for the Hawaiian Islands.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (11/17) a gale low was making inroads to the south with the leaded edge of its fetch just beyond the CA-Oregon boarder. A generally light local wind pattern was in effect. A weak front was pushing down the coast reaching Pt Arena with some light rain before dissipating. On Friday (11/18) the low is to fall southeast pushing into Oregon but with strong high pressure just east of it, generating northwest winds at 20 kts pushing into North and Central CA nearshore waters by nightfall (including Southern CA) and making a mess of things. Rain is to fall south reaching San Francisco by nightfall and maybe sprinkles to Morro bay later with maybe 2-3 inches of snow in Tahoe. Another gale is to be right behind it with a bit of a break in the north wind pattern though most of the day Saturday for all of CA, but then south winds moving into North CA late afternoon at 15-20 kts. Sunday southeast winds are to move in as the gale falls south off the coast with perhaps a light offshore flow for North and Central CA (north of Monterey Bay) taking hold as the core of the low passes south of these areas mid-day. Rain moving along the North coast but not inland late Saturday pushing through Southern CA late Sunday. No snow for Lake Tahoe. A light wind pattern is expected for all the state Mon (11/21) but south winds starting to take hold of Central CA Tuesday with stormier weather further out in the ocean. South winds and rain push south Wednesday reaching Southern CA Thursday AM with light north winds behind the front for North and Central CA. Maybe a foot of snow for Tahoe.
At the surface in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast.
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 another gale is to wind up on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Fri (11/18) PM generating a small fetch of 50 kt west winds tracking east and basically over the Aleutians with the core of the low up in the Bering Sea on Saturday (11/19). On Sunday the remnants of that gale are to fall into the Western Gulf and start organizing with 35kt winds forecast down at 45N 155W and seas building to 22 ft at 45N 160W. On Monday AM (11/21) a broad area of 35 kt westerly fetch to hold if not falling southeast with seas building to 28 ft at 47N 158W (some of that associated with seas generated up on the Aleutians. 30 kt northwest winds to hold while falling southeast in the evening with seas fading from 26 ft at 44N 150W. Residual 25-30 kt northwest fetch to hold in the area Tuesday AM (11/22) with seas fading from 22-24 ft at 37N 150W. fetch to be fading through the day with seas dropping from 20 t Wed AM (11/23) at 35n 143W. If all this goes down as forecast perhaps some degree of decent north angled sideband swell will result for Hawaii with larger swell for the US West Coast. Something to monitor at least.
And anther gale is to be tracking flat west to east on the 48N latitude from Kamchatka to the Western Gulf Tues-Fri (11/25) with 35-40 kts winds initially and seas 28 ft initially decaying to 22 ft later. Maybe more swell targeting mainly the US West Coast.
And possible another gale is forecast behind that.
This is likely our best shot of cross dateline energy from the current Active Phase of the MJO, with a split jetstream and blocking high pressure forecast to set up directly behind.
As of Thursday (11/17) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -4.65. The 30 day average was down some at 9.93 with the 90 day average unchanged at 8.53.
Current wind analysis indicated neutral winds blowing from Indonesia under the Philippines and New Guinea with light westerly anomalies on the dateline and getting limited exposure in the far Western Pacific. Weak east anomalies were over a small area in the western the Central Pacific but neutral winds east of there into Ecuador. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO continued trying to build over the Central Pacific with the Inactive Phase all but gone. this is good news and provides a modicum of support for stronger gale development in the North Pacific. The models indicate a week from now that building easterly anomalies are to take over from Indonesia to New Guinea over the dateline on into the Central and East Pacific. This suggests that the Active Phase of the MJO is to be breaking down and moving east into the Eastern Pacific if not the Atlantic. The longer range models suggest that the Active Phase of the MJO is already positioned in the Central Pacific and expected to be dissipating there by about 11/25. The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the same. This Active Phase already looks very weak, but is our best shot at providing gale enhancement potential for a while. The Inactive Phase is to be in control 11/23-12/10, when the next Active Phase appears probably around mid December holding through Christmas with luck. Another Inactive Phase is expected for January.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (11/17) continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Southern CA to the dateline and increasing their coverage. Embedded were pulses of cooler water still pushing from east to west. Cooler than normal waters were also present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. This is typically what is referred to as a 'horseshoe pattern'. At least the cooler waters off the US West Coast were not expanding coverage anymore nor getting cooler as they had in late July into August. But warmer than normal waters are not building any over the Galapagos Islands, and if anything were getting eroded pretty quickly on into Central America. Overall the big picture looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things are unchanged. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, then returned starting in early July. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) developed in mid-July locked at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. There were some fluctuations but by late July it remained locked in place and held strong in August with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii. It lost a little strength in September and October but not much. As of 11/17 it was still in place under the equator at 120-140W at -2 C below normal and stalled. This area of cool subsurface water was blocking the normal warm flow to the east and suggests that overall a pattern biased towards the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
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 Spring of 2012. 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 during tropical/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.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is 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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Powerlines Productions, Big Wave Filmmakers since 1994, deliver their latest project, Super Natural on November 3rd in San Francisco at the Balboa Theater at 7:15 PM. The documentary film takes you on a tour with some of the best big wave surfers in the world riding giant waves from powerful Pacific winter storm systems. Filmed during the epic El Niño and La Niña winter seasons the movie takes you on an insiders journey to the fa bled big wave breaks of Maui's Pe'ahi (Jaws) and Northern California's Mavericks . World class surfers and underground legends tell their stories as they go back to the roots of paddling into giant waves thought to be unfeasible years ago without the use of jet skis. Mixed with a hand picked soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat highlights, see what makes these athletes 'Super Natural' as they risk it all chasing waves and dreams for the ultimate thrill. Featured Surfers: Shane Dorian, Chris Bertish, Danilo Couto, Yuri Soledade, Carlos Burle, Ion Banner, Travis Payne, Alex Martins, Tim West, Twiggy, Greg & Rusty Long, Shawn Dollar, Peter Mel, Skindog Collins, Ed Guzman, Pato Teixeira and Zach Wormhoudt. Advance tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/204985
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
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
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
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.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table