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 Sunday (11/27) North and Central CA was seeing swell fading out with waves chest high and clean early. Down south surf was thigh high with some bigger sets on occasion and clean but weak. Southern California had limited wrap around leftover swell with waves up to waist high up north on the sets and clean early. Down south surf was rarely thigh to waist high and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting real swell, first of the season and from the northwest with waves in the 12-14 ft range but pretty raw with northeast wind in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same northwest swell with waves 8 ft and chopped by northeast trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
A solid gale tracked from Kamchatka over the dateline then fell to a point 900 nmiles north of Hawaii Wed-late Fri (11/25) with 24-26 ft seas the whole time offering the first real swell for the Islands all season. Remnants eased east through late Saturday (11/26) with seas fading from 20 ft and 1300 nmiles off the US West Coast targeting Southern CA best. Swell has already hit Hawaii as of Sunday and is to arrive along the US coast early this week. Another gale is following right behind and taking a similar track, pushing over the dateline late Monday with 26 ft seas, but is to fade before making it as far east as the previous one. A weaker and less organized system is forecast for the Western Gulf next weekend with 24-26 ft seas with luck.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (11/27) the jetstream was flowing east off Japan ridging slightly after passing over the dateline and pushing up into the Central Gulf of Alaska, then falling into a steep pinched off trough extending down to Hawaii and then up into British Columbia. Pocket of wind were up to 150 kts off Japan and then pushing up into the Gulf, but not offering any clear support for gale development. At least the split jetstream pattern of the past month was gone (for now). Over the next 72 hours the pocket of energy over Japan is to build with winds to 190 kts feeding into something that almost looks like a developing trough pushing east from the dateline Mon-Tues (11/29) then vaporizing on Wednesday north of Hawaii as the dreaded split jetstream redevelops near Hawaii and controlling waters east of there. Beyond 72 hours the split jetstream pattern is to reign supreme over the Eastern Pacific starting Thurs (12/1) presumably from the failure of the Active Phase of the MJO. Again 180+ kts winds to start building off Japan reaching to the dateline and starting to build a trough on the dateline Sat (12/3) but then fading as it moves east of there over the next 24 hours. Some support for gale development possible in that trough but mostly confined to the the dateline and points west of there. This sets the tone for the weeks ahead.
Surface - At the surface on Sunday (11/27) a broad high pressure system at 1028 mbs was located north of Hawaii generating north winds at 20-25 kts ahead of it 1200 nmiles off the CA coast then those winds were turning northeast and east sweeping into Hawaii generating near Kona winds and rough conditions. Weak high pressure was holding directly over the Central CA coast offering another day of clear skies and light winds. A broad low was tracking through the Southwestern Bering Sea generating a solid area of 30-35 kt west winds south of the Western Aleutians (off Kamchatka) aimed towards Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Second Kamchatka Gale below). Swell from a previous gale that tracked off Kamchatka and fell southeast over the dateline is producing swell currently hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see First Kamchatka Gale below).
First Kamchatka Gale
A gale was over Kamchatka on Tuesday (11/22) and was starting to track east Wednesday with 35 kt west winds and 24 ft seas. It reached a point just west of the dateline Thursday AM (11/24) with winds still 35 kts and seas 24 ft at 47N 175E. It pushed over the dateline and started falling southeast in the evening moving towards the Western Gulf with 35-40 kt northwest winds and seas reaching 25 ft at 43N 177W aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast. The gale got better organized while stabilizing in the Central Gulf on Friday AM (11/25) with 40 kt northwest winds getting decent traction on an already agitated ocean surface. 26 ft seas developed at 40N 170W (335 degs HI) and sending solid swell towards the Islands. Residual 35 kt northwest winds held in the area Friday evening while drifting east a bit with 26 ft seas still holding at 35N 159W targeting Hawaii on the 350 deg path and some energy targeting CCal up the 278 deg path. 30-35 kt northwest winds were fading Saturday AM with 220-22 ft seas fading at 38N 150W (284 degs NCal/290 SCal). The fetch faded in the evening with residual seas fading from 20 ft at 38N 149W.
Some degree of decent swell seems possible, especially for Hawaii with pure swell to 10 ft @ 14 secs first thing Sun AM (11/27) from 340-350 degs. Swell to be fading some by the afternoon with residual swell fading sunrise Monday from 7 ft @ 12 secs (8-9 ft).
Central CA: Expect swell arrival starting Monday at 7 PM with pure swell a mix of 5.5-6.0 ft @ 13 secs (7 ft faces) from 280 degrees (from when the storm was nearby) and 5.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (8.5 ft) from 280-290 degrees (from when the storm was over the dateline). A little bit of local windswell on top too.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival starting Tuesday at 4 AM with pure swell a mix of 2.9-3.1 ft @ 13 secs (4.0 ft faces) from 284 degrees (from when the storm was nearby) and 2.8 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft) from 284-294 degrees (from when the storm was over the dateline). A little bit of local windswell intermixed too. Swell to be fading as the afternoon sets in.
Second Kamchatka Gale
A new new gale was developing over Kamchatka Sunday AM (11/27) with 30-35 kt west winds and 24 ft seas at 46N 173E and pushing east pushing energy down the 319 degree path to Hawaii and the 303 degree path to Central CA. It is expected to track flat to east in the evening with winds down to 30 kts and seas still 24 ft at 45N 177E (325 degs HI and 300 degs CCal). Additional gale energy is forecast feeding into this area on Monday AM (11/28) with west winds building to 45 kts and seas holding at 22 ft at 45N 176W (331 degs HI and 297 degs CCal). In the evening 45 kt west fetch is to hold wrapping well into the gales core and getting traction on the oceans surface with seas building to 27 ft at 42N 177W (325 degs HI and 293 CCal). The gale is to start tracking hard northeast Tuesday AM (11/29) with 45-50 kt southwest winds and seas to 29 ft targeting primarily Alaska with residual seas at 24 ft holding at 40N 177W targeting primarily Hawaii (313 degs). The gale is to fade after that.
If all goes as forecast another pulse of decent swell is likely to push towards Hawaii from for the second half of the workweek from 325 degs and lesser energy for the US West Coast for early in the weekend (from 293-298 degs CCal and 298-302 degs SCal).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (11/27) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered directly over Central CA providing a light local wind pattern and clear skies. No real change is forecast early on Monday though a new high pressure system is to pushing east towards our area and starting to impact us by the afternoon with north winds moving in before sunset at 15 kts affecting all of North and Central CA. North winds to hold if not build not later Tuesday pushing to 20+ kts on Wednesday (and up to 30 kts off San Francisco). Southern CA to remain shadowed from this mess. By Thursday the high is to start pushing inland over Washington and winds are to turn offshore slightly (Santa Anna's in SCal) and then more offshore for the entire state on Friday. A light wind regime forecast for the weekend.
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 a poorly organized gale is to start building on the dateline and a bit south of the Aleutians Friday AM (12/2) with a tiny area of 55 kt west winds and seas building to 26 ft in the evening. Additional low pressure is to move into the area as the low pushes up into the Bering Sea on Saturday (12/3) again building a tiny fetch of 50 kt northwest winds and seas in the 24-28 ft range near 40N 170W targeting Hawaii from 1300 nmiles out and the US West Coast from 2000 nmiles out. Something to monitor.
And yet one more gale is forecast wrapping up off Japan tracking west towards the dateline on Sun (12/4) with winds 35-40 kts offering more hope for the future (if one is to believe the models).
Background: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or 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 day, 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 from swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jetstream 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 forecast for MJO activity.
As of Sunday (11/27) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was way up to 26.85. The 30 day average was up to 10.94 with the 90 day average up to 10.41.
Current wind analysis indicates solid easterly anomalies over the Western Pacific strongest on the dateline, but near normal over Indonesia. Easterly anomalies were also over the Central Pacific but with near normal winds over the East Pacific. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific and is now likely putting a damper on storm development for the bulk of the North Pacific. A week from now the models indicate easterly anomalies are to remain entrenched from the Philippines eastward over the Central Pacific indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to peak out in the far West Pacific in the next 2 days then fade while pushing east, possible gone from the Pacific 2 weeks out (approx 12/12) while a solid Active Phase of the MJO builds in the Indian Ocean, then starts making inroads into the extreme West Pacific mid-December. The 40 day upper level model is suggesting the same. The Inactive Phase is to be in control 11/23-12/12, when the next Active Phase appears probably around mid December holding through Christmas with luck.
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 of the MJO 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