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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: January 17, 2012 7:28 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
Swell Potential Rating = 3.5 - California & 2.3 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    
Issued for Week of Monday 1/16 thru Sun 1/22
Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

Local Gale Pattern to Set up Off CA
West Pacific To Remain Quiet


Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- 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).
- 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.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (1/17) North and Central CA was seeing residual Gulf windswell producing surf in the head high range and reasonably clean but also very cold. Down south surf was maybe knee high and clean.  Southern California up north was seeing residual lines in the knee high range and clean with some texture on top.  Down south waves were knee to thigh high and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was beautiful with west dateline swell producing waves 2-3 ft overhead with just a breath of offshore winds. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was mostly shadowed from this swell with waves thigh high and a bit warbled.

See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view

Meteorological Overview
A new weather pattern remains forecast to take hold for the East Pacific. The days of mild high pressure, warm temperatures and offshore winds are gone. Instead a series of modest gales are to push towards the Pacific Northwest with rain and wind down into Central CA and snow in upper elevations. The first of these systems from a swell perspective is forecast off Oregon on Wed (1/18) with 20 ft seas, followed on late Friday by a stronger one with 28 ft seas and another on Sunday again at 28 ft with more behind that. All are to become strongest within 900 nmiles of the US West Coast meaning the resulting swell is to be exceedingly raw. Wind and rain to impact the coast down to Central CA with the potential for real snow accumulation in the Sierras.


Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

Jetstream - On Tuesday (1/17) the jet was flowing flat off Japan at 170 kts .cgiitting heavily on the dateline with much energy being sucked out of the normal west to east flow and up into a separate clockwise flow orbiting over the North Pole. The remaining energy in the North Pacific was flowing mostly into the northern branch of the jet and pushing northeast up into the Pacific Northwest at 130 kts. A return flow from the North Pole Circulation was also flowing down into the Northern branch of the jet over the Gulf of Alaska. In all there was limited support for gale development north of Hawaii in a weak trough that was just west of the .cgiit point. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the .cgiit point disappearing, but it is assumed the North Pole circulation will still be stealing energy from the North Pacific jet. regardless a flat flow is forecast extending from Japan to Northern CA wit winds in the 130-140 kts range and no real defined troughs forecast offering no clear-cut support for gale development through Fri (1/20). Beyond 72 hours the same thing is forecast but with the North Pole circulation clearly stealing energy from the North Pacific jet with the .cgiit point over the Kuril Islands and the return flow feeding into the jet near the dateline by Sun (1/22) and holding into the following weak. A perpetual weak trough is to remain off the US West Coast supporting gale development.  

Surface  -  On Tuesday (1/17) no organized swell producing weather systems were occurring. A broad area of low pressure was circulating 1300 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii and interacting with strong high pressure locked-in over the Bering Sea creating a pressure gradient between the two and generating 40-45 kt east winds over the Western Gulf aimed back at Japan and the Kuril Islands but of no use to our forecast area. Only meager 25 kt west winds were present in the south quadrant aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast.  Over the next 72 hours that low pressure is to slowly ease east moving away from the high to the north and starting to develop more normally. By Friday AM (1/20) a fetch of 45 kt west winds are to be set-up in the lows south quadrant 1000 nmiles off Northern CA generating 24 ft seas at 40N 147W.   Those winds to move to within 600 nmiles of Oregon in the evening with seas building to 28 ft at 42N 138W.  The fetch is to be moving onshore over Oregon on Saturday AM (1/21) with winds still 40 kts and seas 100 nmiles off Oregon still at 28 ft and covering a broader area.  Raw north angled wind driven swell to result down into Central CA.   


North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height


No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/17) high pressure was sinking south along the Central CA coast opening the storm door to the Pacific Northwest down to Cape Mendocino with southwest winds and light rain starting to develop there.  A light wind flow was over greater Central CA down into Southern CA. Wednesday the high is to be off Southern CA while a full local gale low slams into Southern Oregon down to Cape Mendo with south winds in control down to Pt Reyes by sunset.  Heavy rain on the coast of Oregon to Cape Mendocino with sprinkles to Pt Arena. This was the primer for a wetter flow to follow. Thursday another pulse of gale energy to hit a bit further south with south winds and rain down to Monterey Bay by sunset and Point Conception late night and snow (3 inches) developing at Lake Tahoe by 10 PM.  The leading edge of the next storm is to impact the Central California coast more directly starting Friday (1/20) with south winds in control near sunset and rain non-stop through the day and evening. 6 inches of snow during the day with nearly a foot overnight. A bit of a break from south winds Saturday during daylight hours from Pt Reyes southward then turning back to south down to Monterey Bay by sunset with light rain building to Pt Conception. 6-8 inches of snow for Tahoe. Light rain for Southern CA on Saturday.  A break expected on Sunday with light winds and only scattered showed clearing down to Pt Conception.  The next storm queues up off the coast Monday pushing through Central CA in the evening with south wind and rain down to Pt Conception late and maybe 6 inches of snow for Tahoe. high pressure tries to make a comeback on Tuesday (1/240 with north winds 10-15 kts for the entire coast, but more storm activity is to be queued up behind it.    


South Pacific

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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hrs another pulse of gale like energy is to wrap up off the Pacific Northwest Saturday PM (1/21) with 35-40 kt west winds just 900 nmiles offshore resulting in seas building from 24 ft at 40N 140W. Fetch to continue into Sunday AM (1/22) with seas building to 28 ft at 41N 131W just 450 nmiles off Cape Mendocino. Fetch is to be moving onshore in the evening with seas fading from 26 ft at 42N 130W.  More pure raw wind driven swell to result down into Central CA.   

Yet another fetch of 30-35 kt westerly winds is to build on the dateline pushing east on Saturday PM (1/21) with seas building to 22 ft out at 35N 180W. This system is to east steadily east but not get any better organized, with seas peaking at 26 ft at 37N 165W late Sunday (1/22) possibly offering sideband swell down into Hawaii by Tuesday (1/24) and more raw potential for the US West Coast mid-next week.    

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.cgianet. 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 .cgiit 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 Tuesday (1/17) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up considerably to 19.70. The 30 day average was down some to 12.42 (through overall still pretty high) with the 90 day down slightly at 13.84. Certainly looks like some form of Active Phase MJO push was trying to take root.    

Current wind analysis indicated dead neutral if not weak westerly anomalies extending from 170W to Indonesia. This continues to suggest a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO was still trying to make better inroads towards the dateline from the west. A week from now (1/25) the models indicate weak easterly anomalies trying to get a toehold in patches from the dateline to 130E. It is unknown whether that is going to become a trend or just a short term change but this has been on the charts a few days now. The longer range models are in agreement suggesting that a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO is present on the dateline and is expected to  holding there if not pushing east for the next 2 weeks, strongest perhaps 1 week out (1/24).  All this suggests a slow eastward evolution of the Active Phase through late January.  At this point, it's anyone's guess what might develop, but per the models one would think that some flavor of a weak Active Phase is developing on the dateline.  that said, the actuality of it suggest that the dateline region is being skipped and instead a more typical late Active Phase pattern is setting up, just driving local storms into the US West Coast. 

Remnants of what was a moderate.cgius 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.  


South Pacific

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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Local Interest

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

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,.cgiease cast your ballot by going to:, 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:

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:

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.cgianet, 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: 

Mavericks Surf Shop Grand OpeningSunday, 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 r.cgiaced 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 acco.cgiished 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 sa.cgie.

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 acco.cgiished 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:

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):

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.   

Click here to learn more about Casa Noble Tequila! Casa Noble Tequila If you are looking for an exquisite experience in fine tequila tasting, one we highly recommend, try Case Noble. Consistently rated the best tequila when compared to any other. Available at BevMo (in California). Read more here:

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 si.cgie and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet E.cgiorer 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! .xml

Free Stormsurf Stickers - Get your free stickers! - More details Here

Read all the latest news and happenings on our News Page here

Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table


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