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 Saturday (11/19) North and Central CA was seeing new local north swell at 12-13 ft and warbled but rideable early but with south winds on the way up by early afternoon. Down south wrap around energy was producing waves to head high and clean early. Southern California had limited north angled swell with waves thigh high up north on the sets and a bit warbled. Down south surf was thigh high, chopped and basically unrideable. Hawaii's North Shore was effectively flat and reasonably clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly tradewind generated windswell at thigh high and chopped by the trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A gale fell down the Canadian and Pacific Northwest coast on Thurs-Fri (11/18) with up to 30 ft seas producing very north angled swell that has hit the coast of Central CA on Saturday and was working it's way into exposed breaks in Southern CA. Another smaller follow-on gale is following right behind on the same route with 20 ft seas Sat-Sun (11/20) offering more smaller raw swell for Central CA late Sunday and the rest of the coast for Monday. All this is outside the Hawaiian swell window. A slightly more interesting gale starting to wrap up over the Aleutians on Sat (11/19) then is forecast falling southeast through the Gulf Sun-Tues (11/22) with 26-28 ft seas and making better headway 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 in the Central Gulf on Friday (11/25) with 30 ft seas targeting the US West Coast again, with another off Kamchatka in the same timeframe pushing flat over the dateline just shy of the Aleutians with seas in the 30-35 ft range, but that remains just a guess at this early date. So as of right now there remains potential for the Thanksgiving Holidays favoring the mainland. Be thankful for what you can get and feast while you can.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (11/19) a well worn pattern was in play in the upper levels of the atmosphere with the jetstream flowing east-northeast off Japan then splitting before reaching the dateline with most energy tracking just south of the Aleutians through the Gulf of Alaska then dropping hard south just off the Pacific Northwest forming a trough there with winds 150 kts and offering some support for gale development. A fraction of the energy was peeling off the main flow near the dateline then flowing flat east over Hawaii on into Southern Baja. Over the next 72 hours a bit of a change is to set-in with a better trough building in the Gulf and the ridge over the Central Pacific moderating allowing a good flow of 180 kt winds to start pushing into the Gulf trough offering better support for gale development there. That trough is to deepen too as in moves into the Eastern Gulf on Tues (11/22) sinking south pushing inland over California on Thurs (11/24). Beyond 72 hours starting late Fri (11/25) yet another trough is to build in the Gulf with 140 kts winds supporting it and heading for the Pacific Northwest. More support for limited gale development. IN all this is the best we've seen for far this Winter, which isn't saying a whole lot but provides some hope.
Surface - At the surface on Saturday (11/19) high pressure at 1028 mbs was located 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and locked in place. East winds continued along the south side of the high pushing into Hawaii at 15+ kts offering limited support for tradewind generated windswell there. Of slightly more interest was another small gale that dropped out of the Eastern Gulf tracking southeast off the Canadian coast Friday evening (11/18) with winds to 45 kts. Seas were on the increase. Sat AM (11/19) the gale was fading while falling southeast fast with 35 kt northwest winds off the Pacific Northwest coast with 18 ft seas at 45N 140W (317 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 30 kts but over an increasing area with seas building to 20 ft at 40N 135W (off Cape Mendocino). Fetch is to be dissipating Sunday AM (11/20) with seas fading from 20 ft just off San Francisco 37N 128W or on the 282 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 starting Sunday afternoon to 8 ft @ 12 secs (9.5 ft) with limited energy into Southern CA early next week (see QuikCASTs for details).
Over the next 72 hours another gale wound up on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Fri (11/18) PM generating a small fetch of 45-50 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 35 kt winds forecast down at 45N 152W and seas building to 28 ft at 50N 162W and 22 ft as far south as 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 24 ft at 43N 155W (some of that associated with seas generated up on the Aleutians). 35 kt west-northwest winds to hold while falling southeast in the evening with seas to 26 ft at 40N 148W targeting Central CA up the 287 degree path. Residual 30 kt west fetch to hold in the area Tuesday AM (11/22) with seas fading from 22 ft at 37N 140W pushing well southeast. Fetch to be fading through the day with seas dropping from 20 ft in the evening at 35N 138W. 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.
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 but look for Monday afternoon to be 3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4 ft faces) from 305 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (11/19) another gale low was pushing down the North CA coast with south winds already impacting Central CA. The core of the low is to remain off the coast while falling southeast through Sunday the finally moving onshore over Pt Conception in the evening. Rain to be in control of all of Central CA through the day and sweeping into Southern CA late with 8 inches of snow for Lake Tahoe. South winds to be the name of the game everywhere except maybe north of San Francisco by nightfall. And yet another front and gale are forecast pushing into Oregon on Monday with the front to Pt Arena Tuesday AM with south winds building to Monterey Bay late in the day and stormier weather further out in the ocean. But rain to hold near Cape Mendocino. South winds and rain tracking 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. Light winds for most of the state Friday while yet another system builds off the coast, with south winds again in control Saturday building south to Pt Conception late. A real mess expected on Sunday for North CA.
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 be wrapping up in the Western Gulf on Thursday PM (11/24) with 40 kt west winds building tracking east with up to 50-55 kt northwest winds in the Central Gulf Friday AM getting good traction on an already agitated ocean surface. 24 ft seas forecast at 43N 155W. 50 kt northwest winds to hold into the evening with 30 ft seas building at 41N 145W. 45 kt wes winds to hold Saturday AM just off Oregon with 32 ft seas at 41N 141W (290 degs NCal). The fetch is to be pushing into Oregon in the evening with seas fading from 29 ft at 40N 135W, right over buoy 46006. This seems a bit optimistic, but is something to monitor.
At the same time and new gale is to be developing over Kamchatka tracking flat to east on the 48N latitude from Kamchatka to the dateline Fri-Sun (11/27) with 40+ kt winds and seas 34-36 ft. Maybe some swell targeting HAwaii this time with energy also heading towards the US West Coast.
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 dissolve for a little bit.
As of Saturday (11/19) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at -2.46. The 30 day average was down some at 8.97 with the 90 day average unchanged at 8.54.
Current wind analysis have not updated since 11/14. But at that time they 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 pushing through the east Pacific and expected to be moving into the Atlantic within the next week. The Inactive Phase is already building strong over the West Pacific and should be taking control of the atmosphere likely putting a damper on storm development. The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the same. 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. The latest models suggest it is to be stronger than previously suspected, a good thing. Another Inactive Phase is expected to follow in 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.
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