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 (12/22) North and Central CA was seeing Gulf swell was slowly fading but still producing yet another day of stellar surf with waves in the 6-7 ft range at exposed breaks with offshore winds and clean conditions. Down south surf was head high to maybe 1 ft overhead on the sets and clean but warbled. Southern California was thigh high with rarely bigger sets up north and textured by brisk offshore's. Down south surf was chest high and heavily blown by Santa Anna's. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband Gulf swell with waves in the chest to head high range at better breaks and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at chest high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
An improving pattern is forecast for the next 7 days. A bit of weakness in the split jetstream pattern is forecast offering better odds for storm formation pushing into the Gulf of Alaska. First up is a gale currently tracking east through the Central Gulf today with seas in the 34-38 ft range targeting the US West Coast well, but bypassing Hawaii. Another one to follow right behind with half of it tracking more to the north with seas to 36 ft but a secondary component possible moving to the southeast with seas to 30 ft on Fri-Sat (12/24) offering swell for both Hawaii and the US West Coast. And yet a third small one is forecast forming just west of the dateline on Sat-Sun (12/25) making little eastward progress. And more for the Gulf possible for the middle of next week into New Years. But details are unknowable at this early date. After that things go quiet.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (12/22) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 130 kts lifting slightly northeast to the dateline, then splitting at 175W with some energy continuing on the original trajectory pushing up into the Northern Gulf of Alaska. A bit of a trough was in the Gulf lifting northeast offering some opportunity for gale development down at the surface. Weak wind energy was also peeling off the main flow at the split point falling south pushing the whole way to the equator before turning east. No significant change from weeks previous. Over the next 72 hours another major push of wind energy is to build over Japan to 180 kts starting Sat (12/24) then easing east reaching the dateline Monday (12/26) and gently lifting northeast initially. Beyond 72 hours that trend is to continue but with the jet flattening as the trend continues to build. But no troughs of interest are forecast. By Wednesday most of that energy is to become centered on the dateline with the split point almost gone and a solid flow of energy pushing into Washington state. But no defined troughs are forecast offering no clear support for gale development.
Surface - On Thursday (12/22) a solid gale was tracking northeast up into the Gulf of Alaska (see 1st Gulf Gale for details). Another gale was forming right behind it (see 2nd Gulf Gale below). Weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was off the California coast deflecting these systems to the north towards Canada. The high was also generating trades at 15-20 kts pushing over the Hawaiian Islands.
Over the next 72 hours the 2nd Gulf Gale is to be of interest. And yet a third gale is forecast developing just west of the dateline on Saturday AM (12/24) with 40 kts west winds over a small area with seas building from 22 ft at 43N 175E. IN the evening a small area of 50 kt west winds are forecast tracking east with seas building to 32 ft at 43N 180W (326 degs HI and 296 degs NCal). fetch is to fade by Sunday AM with seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 42N 174W (328 HI and 293 degs NCal). If this develops as forecast some degree of small but decent period swell would result for both HAwaii and the US West Coast.
1st Gulf Gale
A gale started forming just east of the dateline on Tuesday PM (12/20) with 40 kt west winds modeled over a small area at 39N 173W. But the WindSAT satellite confirmed winds at 55 kt over a tiny area at 40N 162 W and building. It was tracking east. On Wednesday AM (12/21) it was 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii with winds unexpectedly modeled at 50 kts over a modest area with WindSAT confirming them at 55+ kts at 44N 160W. Seas supposedly building from 22 ft at 42N 163W but that was surely low. In the evening 55-60 kt west winds were modeled at 44N 155W but WindSAT confirmed them at 50-55 kts. Seas were modeled building from 34 ft at 44N 155W and outside the Hawaiian swell window but aimed right up the 295 degree path to NCal). On Thursday AM (12/22) winds were fading from 45 kts over a broad area aimed southeast with seas 36 ft at 44N 148W (296 degs NCal and 300 degs SCal). By evening the gale is to be gone moving into Canada with seas fading from 30 ft up at 47N 141W targeting the Pacific Northwest and the 309 degree path to NCal.
Possible moderate swell targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Northern CA over the weekend, but nothing expected for Hawaii. Swell to hit NCal on Saturday (12/24) starting at 1 AM with period 18 secs, ramping up quick and peaking near 3 AM with pure swell 9.4 ft @ 17 secs (15 ft), then steadily fading as period quickly drops from 15 secs by 10 AM. Swell Direction: 295-296 degrees
2nd Gulf Gale
On Wednesday PM (12/21) a weak gale started developing just east of the dateline at 38N 176W with 30-35 kt west winds. By Thursday AM (12/22) up to 45 kt west winds were modeled at 42N 168W with seas still not hitting the 20 ft make. That seems a bit off. By the evening a solid fetch of 45 kt northwest winds are forecast at 45N 162W generating seas of 26 ft at 45N 167W (346 degs HI). Friday AM (12/23) 45+ kt west winds are to hold at the same location just moving east slightly with seas building to 37 ft up at 48N 160W (306 NCal and shadowed and bypassing HI). In the evening the fetch is to be tracking northeast towards Canada with 32 ft seas up at 50N 153W and totally bypassing NCal. Small to moderate swell to result for Hawaii and CA.
Rough data suggests small swell for Hawaii starting at 4 AM Sunday (12/25) HST with pure swell pushing to 7 ft @ 15 secs (10-11 ft) mid-morning. Swell Direction: 354 degrees
Swell to also push into NCal starting near 2 PM Sunday (12/25) with period 20 secs and size tiny if even noticeable building steadily and starting to peak near 9 PM with pure swell 8 ft @ 17-18 secs (14 ft). Leftovers expected at 7-8 ft @ 15 secs (10-11 ft) by 6 AM Monday (12/26).
3rd Gulf Gale
On Friday AM (12/23) 35 kt northwest fetch is to build directly under the 2nd Gulf Gale (above) getting good traction on an already agitated sea state targeting the California coast well with sideband energy pushing towards Hawaii. A broad area of 25 ft seas are forecast at 41N 165W. In the evening a small area of 45 kt northwest winds are to wrap from the 2nd Gale into this fetch pushing seas up to 30 ft at 42N 160W targeting mainly the US West Coast (289 degs NCal, 297 degs SCal). That fetch is to dissipate Saturday AM (12/24) with seas fading from 28 ft at 40N 155W (285 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal and bypassing HI. Additional fetch is to build north of that area too on Sat AM at 40 kts north of the 45N latitude. This to result in another small patch of 30 ft seas in the evening up at 45N 147W targeting primarily the PAcific Northwest and NCal (299 degs and shadowed).
If all goes as forecast another decent pulse of 15-16 secs energy could radiate east towards California initially and then towards the Pacific Northwest but only minimal sideband energy from Hawaii from a very north direction.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (12/22) high pressure a 1026 mbs was ridging weakly into the Pacific Northwest. A light offshore wind pattern was in play over California coastal waters. The high is to hold through Saturday (12/24) with generally light to offshore winds forecast. By Sunday high pressure is to ridge further south with a north winds flow taking over Central and North CA at 15 kts, then fading later on Monday except near Pt Conception. By Tuesday a dividing line between stormy weather and high pressure is to set up over the Gulf of Alaska on a line starting a few hundred miles off San Francisco extending well into the Pacific. Rain is even forecast to San Francisco late in the day, with light rain in the Central Sierra, clearing later Wednesday and retreating to Northern CA. Nearshore a stubborn batch of northwest winds at 15 kts to remain over Pt Conception starting Tuesday, pulsing north to Monterey Bay on occasion, but nothing more and holding through Thurs (12/29). The dividing line for rain and snow is to move to the CA Oregon border by late Mon (12/26).
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 tiny gale is forecast for the dateline on Sun (12/25) with barely 30 ft seas aimed all to the east. Minimal swell possible for both CA and Hawaii. Another gale is forecast developing in the Western Gulf on Wed (12/28) with seas to 28 ft over a broad area with yet another behind that developing off Japan pushing towards the dateline Wed-Thurs (12/29). Steady rideable but not over the top swell certainly looks possible for all locations longterm.
Note: 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 for the formation of 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 Thursday (12/22) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some to 27.19. The 30 day average was up to 20.68 with the 90 day up slightly at 13.87. No signs of an Active MJO in these numbers.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate easterly anomalies were stubbornly entrenched over a portion of Western Pacific extending from 180W to 145E, then shifting to near normal west of there. This suggests the Inactive Phases of the MJO was still in full control of the West Pacific likely supporting the split jetstream pattern that has been the bane of this winter surf season. A week from now (12/30) the models indicate those anomalies are to hold from 130E to 170E and actually retrograding west. The longer range models are split with the supposedly more reliable one suggesting that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone by Dec 30, with the Active Phase building over the dateline by 1/5. The less reliable model suggests the Active Phase holding back around 120E into early January and not really having any impact on the West Pacific with the Inactive Phase lingering and slowly loosing strength but not moving one inch. The 40 day upper level model suggests a slow eastward evolution of the Active Phase through late January. At this point, it's anyone's guess what might develop, but we're becoming less disposed to believe the Active Phase will leave it's home base between Indian and Indonesia. It's just looking like a bad year all around.
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 in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though 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