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 Saturday (3/16) North and Central CA was seeing minimal Kuril Island swell mixed with local windswell producing waves in the waist to chest high range and clean but generally weak. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were thigh to waist high with a few bigger peaks at top breaks and clean but gutless. Southern California up north was knee high with maybe a few thigh high sets and very windswell looking even though there was no wind and clean conditions. Down south waves were maybe waist high on the sets and clean but very weak. Hawaii's North Shore was seeing minimal northwest windswell at chest high and pretty warbled with northwest winds on it. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting waist high northerly windswell with modest north wind on it and warbled.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Weak low pressure was circulating just 600 nmiles north of Hawaii producing barely 20 ft seas with windswell expected to be building over the weekend and holding into early in the workweek. Nothing from this to result for the mainland. Over the longer haul the models have bounced back some now indicating a gale forming off the Kuril Islands on Sunday (3/17) tracking southeast and targeting Hawaii with seas building to 30 ft late Monday on the dateline then fading slowly while continuing southeast with 20 ft seas moving to within 900 nmiles of the Islands late Wednesday (3/20). Possible decent swell for the Islands later in the workweek if one is to believe the computers. Nothing behind it though. Down south a fairly decent looking gale produced 41 ft seas in the Southeast Pacific late Friday (3/15), offering the first real sense of rideable southern hemi swell on the season for the mainland (and much better odds for South America). Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/16) the jetstream was .cgiit starting mid-way between Japan and the dateline with the only pocket of interesting winds at the .cgiit point at 150 kts. The northern branch tracked hard east-northeast from there just barely south of the Aleutians at not even 100 kts and moving through the Northern Gulf pushing into British Columbia. A cutoff trough was just north of Hawaii offering the slimmest support for low pressure development. Otherwise no troughs of interest were in.cgiay. The southern branch tracked southeast pushing over Hawaii and then into the US West Coast with some energy peeling off tracking into mainland Mexico. Over the next 72 hours a trough is to build off the Kuril Islands on Mon (3/18) pushing southeast with a small area of 140 kt winds feeding into it and holding while falling southeast into early Wed (3/20) providing decent support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to remain though far weaker slowly.cgiodding east through the Western Gulf of Alaska and holding in some form even into the weekend (3/23) but winds to back off so much that no support for gale development to remain. Back east the .cgiit point to remain about mid-way between Japan and the dateline if not retrograding some and wind speeds light. The northern branch is to be tracking up into the Bering Sea offering no support for gale development over the West Pacific with just a big .cgiit over the dateline likely supporting high pressure down at lower levels of the atmosphere.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/16) a weak low pressure system was circulating just north of Hawaii tracking slowly east producing some limited windswell that is to be building over the weekend for the Islands (see Hawaiian Low below). No swell from it is expected to reach the mainland.
Another stronger gale is to develop off the Kuril Islands Sunday (3/17) producing a small fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds falling southeast with seas to 28 ft seas by evening at 42N 167E. By Monday AM (3/18) it is to be organizing better while approaching the dateline producing a solid fetch of 40 kt northwest winds and seas building in coverage but still 28 ft at 40N 175E, with winds holding into the evening if not pulsing to 45 kts and seas peaking at 30 ft at 40N 178E. By Tues AM (3/19) the gale is to be fading while falling southeast winds winds 35-40 kts and seas still near 30 ft at 39N 180W. Winds fading in the evening from 35 kts with 26 ft seas at 37N 178W. Residual energy to hold into Wed AM (3/20) with winds 30 kts and seas 24 ft at 35N 173W. Wind gone and seas fading from 20 ft in the evening at 35N 168W. It's still way too early to believe any of this but assuming some amount of the forecast is true then maybe some rideable swell to result for the Islands and the US West coast with luck, but size is totally dependent upon what actually forms, assuming this system even forms at all. Will monitor.
On Wed PM (3/13) a tiny non-closed isobar low pressure system was developing in the Western Gulf forming a pressure gradient with high pressure over the dateline resulting in a tiny fetch of 30 kt north winds aimed well at Hawaii. Seas building. The fetch fell southeast on Thurs AM (3/14) with pressure only 1012 mbs and no closed isobars with winds barely 35 kts and seas 17 ft. More of the same occurred in the evening with 30 kt northwest winds and 18 ft seas over an infinitesimal area moving south to 39N 170W (328 degs HI). The fetch held at 30 kts Fri AM (3/15) with seas 16 ft at 34N 167W. In the evening additional 35 kt winds developed over a sliver of area with the low moving east now and seas up to 20 ft at 32N 162W (345 degs HI). Winds were fading from 30 kts Sat AM (3/16) with 20 ft seas at 30N 162N (355 degs HI) fading into the evening. The gale is to dissipate by later Sunday (3/17).
Some degree of weak northwest angled windswell is expected arriving along north facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands starting Sat (3/16) at 5 ft @ 9 secs (4 ft) with secondary energy 3.3 ft @ 12-13 secs (4 ft) from 310 degrees. Swell to peak Sunday at 7 ft @ 12 secs (8 ft) from 330 degrees then heading down Monday morning from 6 ft @ 10-11 secs (6.0 ft) from 340 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (3/16) modest high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered just 500 nmiles west of Monterey Bay producing a moderate north wind flow at 15 kts just over the immediate North and Central CA coast and up to 20 kts offshore, but less nearshore and down south early. More of the same is expected Sunday. The high is to finally start fading Monday as low pressure north of Hawaii starts pushing east, but north winds to still be 15 kts north of Pt Conception a bit off the coast early (light winds for Southern CA) but fading. The low is to push closer to the CA coast Tuesday with a light wind pattern forecast for most of the state (except south winds and light rain building over extreme North CA late). A front is to push south Tuesday evening with rain working its way south to maybe Pt Reyes late. Wed AM a light west wind pattern is expected turning slowly northwest in the afternoon for North and Central CA. In Southern CA northwest winds to be building to 15 kt nearshore late. Light rain down to Monterey Bay, strongest in the morning and fading as the day goes on. Perhaps 6 inches of snow for Tahoe starting early Wed fading by evening. A clearing north wind pattern to take control Thursday AM driven by high pressure. Northwest winds 20 kts for North and Central CA at 15 kts for Southern CA. The high is expected to start moving into the Pacific Northwest Friday with northwest winds isolated to North and Central CA at 15 kts early and slowly fading. Light winds Saturday for the entire state.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring but small swell is radiating northeast from the Southeast Pacific (see First Small Gale below). And a second swell is radiating northeast from the Second Gale (see details below). Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
First Small Gale
On Tues (3/12) a small gale developed east-southeast of New Zealand producing a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds and racing east. By Wed AM (3/13) winds were holding with seas building to 28 ft at 53S 153W. In the evening fetch built to near 50 kts over a small area aimed northeast with seas to 36 ft at 54S 143W aimed somewhat to the northeast (195 degs SCal). By Thurs AM (3/14) winds were fading fast from 45 kts with seas fading from 36 ft at 53S 133W (189 degs). Small swell for Southern CA with better size for South America.
Southern CA: Expect small swell starting to show on Thurs (3/21) building to 1.8 ft @ 18 secs late afternoon (3 ft) but inconsistent. Swell increasing some Fri AM (3/22) peaking at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs early (3.0 ft) and holding through late AM. Residuals on Sat (3/23) at 2 ft @ 15 secs early (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 189-195 degrees.
A stronger system built over the same area Thurs PM (3/14) producing a decent sized fetch of 45 kt west winds in the deep Central South Pacific with seas building from 34 ft at 62S 165W. By Fri AM (3/15) fetch was building in coverage still at 45 kts and aimed better to the northeast producing a small area of 36 ft seas at 60S 152W aimed somewhat northeast (196 degs SCal). By evening up to 50 kt southwest winds were modeled embedded in a larger area of 45 kt southwest winds with seas up to 40 ft at 57S 142W (195 degs SCal) peaking at 06Z Sat at 41 ft at 56S 148W. The gale was dissipating Sat AM (3/16) with winds 40 kts and seas fading from 38 ft at 55S 135W (189 degs SCal). This gale to be gone by evening. Again a better shot for modest swell for Southern CA from 190-195 degrees and more for South America.
Southern CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Sat (3/23) building decently by sunset with pure swell 2.3 ft @ 19 secs (4.0-4.5 ft) and building. Swell coming up through the day Sunday (3/24) peaking late with period 17 secs. Swell fading Monday AM (3/25) but still fun with period 16 secs then dropping through the day. Residual 15 sec energy Tuesday. Swell Direction: 195-196 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by 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 days, 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 jet stream 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 forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Saturday (3/16) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some to 5.79. The 30 day average was up to 10.85 with the 90 day average up into positive territory at 0.41. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated very light west anomalies over the Maritime Continent reaching 160E with light easterly anomalies starting there and continuing over the dateline to a point south of Hawaii, then fading to neutral anomalies extending the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was very weak and fading and making no eastern headway. A week from now (3/23) near neutral winds are forecast over the entire equatorial Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase is to be gone in the West Pacific and no Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be taking root. In short, no support for fueling storm development in the North Pacific is expected.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/15 are in agreement suggesting a weak version of the Active Phase was in control of the far West Pacific centered just west of the dateline (165E) and is to start moving east reaching the dateline by 3/22, then starting to fade while moving east of there by 3/25 while the Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean reaching mid-Indonesia to the extreme West Pacific 10 days out and pushing into the extreme West Pacific 15 days out. With Spring moving in, and the Inactive Phase taking control of the West Pacific, the end of Winter is all but certain.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). As of now (3/14) no pockets of warmer or colder subsurface water are in.cgiay on the equator. But a noticeable.cgiume of cooler water is radiating off the California coast tracking southwest typical of the effects of a stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. Subsurface waters temps, previously indicating an open path for warm water migration east, are now indicating cooler water (-3 deg C) are starting to build at 135W and down at 115 meters, blocking the transport path. In short, though temperatures on the surface remains normal, the subsurface path is still tending towards a blocked pattern and the coastal pattern off the mainland also suggested a La Nina like pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model have regressed yet more. They suggest a slow build up to barely warm temps by April only to crash back slightly negative by July (-0.3 degs C) then slowly rebuilding to near-normal by November (-0.1 deg). A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Spring, Summer and early Fall 2013 with no warming indicated.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better.cgiace than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell for the 2012-2013 winter season, but that has not materialized with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This season is more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. Longer term the expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013-2014) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast with the storm track moving decidedly southeast (rather than northeast).
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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The Mavericks Invitational Big Wave Surf Contest is scheduled to air on CBS on Thurs (2/7) at 7 PM (PST) r.cgiaying again on Sunday (2/10) at 7 PM. Set your DVR.
'CBS This Morning' with the Mavericks Invitational Surf Contest - See a nice morning TV show piece on the Mavericks Contest held Sun 1/20/13. The show aired Wed 1/23. Interviews with Colin Dwyer, Jeff Clark, Mark Sponsler and Grant Washburn: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50139546n
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Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
The Making of 'Chasing Mavericks' - See some background footage on how the movie was made: Part1, Part2
The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long - A must see for any aspiring big wave rider: http://vimeo.com/51117940
Greg Long XCel Core Files - Here's a great profile of Greg Long and his contributions toward pushing the state of big wave surfing. Well Done - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9pqgiXfxk&feature.cgiayer_embedded
Chasing Mavericks - The Jay Moriarty Movie: Two trailers for the new movie about Jay, Frosty and Mavericks has been posted. Movie opens on 10/26/12. Here's the link: http://www.mtv.com/videos/movie-trailers/818957/chasing-mavericks.jhtml & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNdYoX9Vfxg&feature=relmfu
Props from the Pros: Stormsurf was mentioned over the past week in two different media sources. One was in an interview Kelly Slater did with the New York Times and another was in a promotional piece Ramon Navarro did for the Big Wave World Tour. Many thanks to Curt Myers from Powerline Productions for alerting us and of course thanks to Kelly, Ramon and the Tour for using our service. Here's the links:
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,.cgiease 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/
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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: 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table