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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 4:06 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
1.0 - California & 1.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' 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 5/15 thru Sun 5/21

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   

2 Small SHemi Swells Pushing Northeast
Stronger Gale Forecast Under New Zealand


On Tuesday, May 16, 2017 :

  • Buoy 146 (Lanai): This buoy is down and there is no backup site.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 6.7 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 6.4 secs from 262 degrees. Wind northwest 8-12 kts. Water temperature 61.2 degs. At Ventura swell was 2.4 ft @ 6.1 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.1 ft @ 6.4 secs from 261 degrees. At Camp Pendleton swell was 2.7 ft @ 6.6 secs from 262 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma swell was 3.7 ft @ 7.8 secs from 281 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.8 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 3.7 ft @ 13.7 secs from 301 degrees. Wind west 8-10 kts at the buoy. Water temp 51.4 degs.

    46006, 46059, Hi-Res Buoy Dashboards (bottom of the page)

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.

Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.


Current Conditions
On Tuesday (5/16) in North and Central CA North Dateline swell was hitting mixed with local northwest windswell producing surf chest to head high but pretty warbled and chopped from local northerly winds. Protected breaks were waist to maybe shoulder high and cleaner but still warbled. At Santa Cruz windswell was thigh high and really warbled and unrideable. In Southern California up north local windswell was producing waves in the knee to thigh high range and clean early. In North Orange Co surf was waist high on the sets and soft coming from the northwest and textured. In South Orange Co surf was maybe waist high and moderately textured from local south wind. In San Diego northwest windswell was producing surf at waist high and a bit warbled from local wind. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat with waist high sets and clean. The South Shore was thigh to waist high sets and was clean. The East Shore was getting local east windswell at shoulder to head high and chopped from east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Tuesday (5/16) local windswell and small swell from a low pressure system previously over the North Dateline region was hitting California and unremarkable. Tiny swell from a gale that developed in the Southeast Pacific on Thurs-Fri (5/12) with 27 ft seas was tracking north into the California swell window. Little to result from it. Another gale developed in the same place on Sat (5/13) with 33 ft seas aimed east with another small pulse of swell expected. But on Fri (5/19) a better gale is to develop south of New Zealand with up to 35 ft seas aimed northeast. Something to monitor. Nothing else to follow.

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

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (5/16) swell from a tiny gale that developed over the Northern Dateline region on Thurs PM (5/11) producing 40 kt west winds for 12 hours generating 23 ft seas at 50N 177W was hitting North CA. This system was gone 12 hours later. The swell that is hitting is buried in local windswell and not recognizable.

Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to remain in control along the CA coast. Northwest winds were down some on Tuesday at 10-15 kts over North and Central CA due to a weak upper low moving over the area. But by Wednesday (5/17) the low is to move east and high pressure is to again take control with northwest winds building to 30 kts over Pt Conception and 20 kts over the remainder of North and Central CA with the gradient moving north on Thurs (5/18) and northwest winds 20-25 kts for North and Central CA generating raw local northerly windswell. By Friday the gradient is to lift north over North CA only with north winds 20-25 kts generating better north windswell down into Central CA. High pressure was also generating enhanced trades (east wind) from California to and extending over Hawaii at 15+ kts and forecast to hold into Wed (5/17) then fading Thursday (see QuikCASTs for details).

Also low pressure developed off the Kuril Islands Sat-Sun (5/14) with 30-35 kt northwest winds producing up to 18 ft seas at 40N 167E at 06z Sun (5/14) somewhat targeting Hawaii. It faded from there. This system was a long ways away with low odds of any swell resulting.

Hawaii: Maybe swell 2.4 ft @ 11-12 secs on Thurs (5/18). Swell Direction: 310 degrees


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


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (5/16) weak upper low pressure was moving over North California dampening the normal pressure gradient with northwest winds 10-15 kts along the Central and North coasts. No change is forecast through the day. Wednesday the low is to move east with high pressure getting better footing and northwest winds slowly build through the day from 15-20 kts to 20-25 kts for all of North and Central CA and building into Southern CA late AM. High pressure is to hold but with the gradient moving north on Thurs (5/18) and northwest winds 20 kts for North and Central CA with light winds for Southern CA. The gradient lifts north and fades on Fri (5/19) with north winds 20 kts focused only on North CA with 10 kt north winds from San Francisco southward. The gradient holds if not builds Saturday (5/20) with north winds 25 kts but confined to Cape Mendocino with northwest winds 10 kts or less south of there. On Sun (5/21) more of the same is forecast with north winds near 30 kts for Cape Mendocino but light elsewhere. Monday (5/22) the gradient collapses with light winds for the entire state. More of the same on Tuesday.


South Pacific

On Tuesday AM (5/16) the jetstream was generally split over the entire southern hemi with the northern branch running east on the 30S latitude line and the southern branch on the 60S line. A ridge was in the northern branch over the Southeast Pacific causing it to merge with the southern branch at 120W offering nothing of interest from a gale production standpoint. Over the next 72 hours the split zonal flow is to continue with the northern branch still falling/ridging south over the Eastern South Pacific but with a trough starting to develop under New Zealand on Wed PM (5/17) being fed by 130 kts winds.
That trough is to develop more on Thurs (5/18) pushing up to Southern New Zealand being fed by 130 kts and pushing due north into Fri (5/19) offering good support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to weaken while tracking east but persist into Sat (5/20) then get cut off on Sun (5/21) with the same old split zonal jetstream flow again taking shape but with a ridge developing in the southern branch over the Southeast Pacific suppressing gale development. A split flow is to persist with no troughs forecast through Tues (5/23) offering no support for gale development.

Surface Analysis  
On Tuesday (5/16) tiny swell from a gale previous in the Southeast Pacific was pushing northeast towards the US mainland (see Southeast Pacific Gale below). And another swell was right behind it coming from the same general area (see Another Southeast Pacific Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours another gale is to develop Thurs AM (5/17) south of New Zealand with winds 40 kts from the south-southwest and seas building from 29 ft at 54S 157E. the gale is to build some in the evening with a broad fetch of 35 kt south winds with 45 kt embedded south winds taking shape south of New Zealand with seas 33 ft at 49S 165E almost impacting Southern New Zealand and no offering swell for Hawaii or California. By Friday AM (5/19) the gale is to ease east some with 40-45 kts south winds forecast a bit southeast of New Zealand with 33 ft seas building at 57S 172E targeting New Zealand, Hawaii and California. The fetch is to lift north in the evening fading from 40 kts with a small area of 36 ft seas at 53S 174E. Fetch fading Sat AM (5/20) from 35 kts from the south with 32 ft seas fading at 48S 177E. this system is to dissipate thereafter. Something to monitor.


Small Southeast Pacific Gale
A small gale developed in the Southeast Pacific Thurs PM (5/11) producing 40 kt southwest winds and 26 ft seas at 53S 129W targeting California southward. The gale raced northeast into Fri AM (5/12) with 40 kt southwest winds and seas 27 ft moving out of the California swell window at 46S 115W. Small swell is possible.

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (5/18) building to 1.7 ft @ 16-17 secs mid- AM (2.5 ft) and holding. Swell is to build some Fri (5/19) at 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading Sat (5/20) from 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction 190-200 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (5/18) building to 1.5 ft @ 16-17 secs late (2.0-2.5 ft) and holding. Swell is to build some Fri (5/19) at 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft). Swell fading Sat (5/20) from 1.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction 190-200 degrees


Another Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale started to develop in the deep Southeast Pacific on Fri PM (5/12) with 40 kt west winds over a broad area aimed east and seas building. On Sat AM (5/13) winds built to 45 kts from the south with seas building to 33 ft at 57S 130W. In the evening winds held at 45 kts but coming from the southwest aimed more at Chile with seas 32 ft at 63S 120W and 30 ft seas reaching north to 53S 119W and barely in the California swell window. By Sun AM (5/14) fetch was fading from 35 kts moving east and out of the CA swell window targeting only Chile with seas 29 ft 63W 114W. Possible small south angled swell for Southern CA.

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/21) building to 2.0 ft @ 17-18 secs later (3.5 ft). Swell is to hold on Mon (5/22) at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (5/23) from 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction 185-195 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/21) building to 1.8 ft @ 17-18 secs later (3.0 ft). Swell is to hold on Mon (5/22) at 2.1 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (5/23) from 1.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction 185-190 degrees

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 hours the models suggest some form of low pressure system developing in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Thurs PM (5/18) producing 30-35 kts west winds over a small area northwest of Hawaii and seas to 17 ft at 42N 180W. The gale is to move east Fri AM (5/19) with west winds still 30 kts and seas 18 ft at 40N 175W. In the evening a decent sized fetch of 30 kt northwest winds is to set up aimed well at Hawaii with seas 18 ft at 39N 171W targeting the Islands well. On Sat AM (5/20) the gale is to be in the Central Gulf with 30 kt northwest winds and seas 19 ft at 39N 165W targeting the US West Coast. Fetch is to start fading in the evening from 30 kts with 17 ft seas at 39N 161W. On Sun AM (5/21) the last of the 30 kt fetch is to start fading with seas fading from 17 ft at 42N 162W targeting the US West Coast. Possible swell for Hawaii and the US West Coast with arrival in Hawaii on Mon (5/22). Something to monitor.

After that the North Pacific is to go to sleep.

South Pacific

A strong storm is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific on Mon-Tues (5/23) with 55 kt northwest winds and seas building to 43 ft, but all aimed at Antarctica. No swell to result for our forecast area. A penguin swell.

More details to follow...


Weak Oceanic Kelvin Wave Pushing East

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 equator it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slackening if not an outright reversing trade winds while enhancing 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 planet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases in the Pacific help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. Wind anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) are key for understanding what Phase the MJO is in over the Pacific. The KWGA is located on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south (or on the equator from New Guinea east to the dateline). West wind anomalies in the KWGA suggest the Active Phase of the MJO in the Pacific, and east anomalies suggests the Inactive Phase. In turn the Active Phase strengthens and the Inactive Phase weakens the jetstream, which in turn enhances or dampens storm production respectively in the Pacific.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).

Overview: La Nina started developing in early 2016, but westward displaced and generally weak. And by March 2017, it was gone with suspicious warming developing along South America and over the Galapagos to a point south of Hawaii. By May the atmosphere returned to a neutral configuration.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Monday (5/15) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Anomalies were neutral everywhere but modest easterly over the KWGA. La Nina appears to be gone in the atmosphere.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies were peaking over the core of the KWGA at moderate strength. The forecast suggests moderate east anomalies holding over the KWGA through 5/18, then backing off steadily and retrograding west but still in control of the Central KWGA. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the KWGA.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/15 the Inactive/Dry MJO pattern was over the KWGA. The statistic model projects the Inactive Phase fading on the dateline over the next week and nearly gone while the Active Phase moves from the Indian Ocean to the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts the same thing initially but with the Inactive Phase redeveloping over the KWGA 2 weeks out. It appears a more balanced/normal MJO Pattern is taking hold.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/16) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was modest over the east Indian Ocean and is to hold for the next 2 weeks. The GEFS depicts the same thing. These models runs about a week ahead of what occurs down at the surface.
40 day Upper Level Model: (5/16) This model depicts a modest Inactive Pattern exiting over the East Pacific with the Active Phase building over the Maritime Continent. The Inactive Phase is to track east over Central America through 5/26. A very weak Active pattern to follow in the West Pacific 5/24 tracking east to the East Pacific through 6/7. A very weak Inactive Phase is to follow in the West Pacific 6/15. This model runs about 2 weeks ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (5/16) This model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the Central KWGA with modest east anomalies in play in the KWGA. Beyond the Inactive Phase is to peak on 5/20 then fade but still holding through 6/5 but with weak westerly anomalies developing in the Central KWGA by 6/1 and holding. The MJO is to be nonexistent through 7/11 but weak west anomalies are to be in control. After that the Active Phase is to move into the KWGA on 7/11 with building west anomalies, getting solid 7/13 and holding decently through 8/12 (the end of the run). This is likely overstated a the model has been teasing of west anomalies for months and yet they never develop. The low pass filter indicates La Nina is to hold on in the KWGA till 6/2 (previously 5/6-5/8). The model now hints at El Nino developing 7/23. But in reality it will take 5 years or more for the Pacific to recharge from the 2014-16 El Nino.

CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/16) Actual temperatures remain stratified with warm water in the West Pacific at 30 degs C steady at 157E. The 28 deg isotherm line continues is steady at 149W. The 26 deg isotherm continued easing to the east reaching to the Galapagos with the 24 degs isotherm over a modest pool down 25 meters (75 meters at 140W) and holding. Warm anomalies at +2 degs are in the East Pacific and +2 degs anomalies are in the West Pacific down at 125m. More interesting is that a thin stream of +1 degs anomalies now stretches from the west to the east connecting the two warm pools and indicative of some form of weak Kelvin Wave. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/8 depicts that warm water is fading in the East Pac at +0-1 degs in a few small pockets easing east over a shallow pool to about 145W. Cool water at -1-2 degs is at depth centered at 115W but is noticeably loosing coverage. A warm pocket at +4 degs is at 180W and trying to move east. La Nina has lost control of the ocean at depth with something that almost resembles a warm pattern taking shape. The concern is there is not much warm water in the far West Pacific to feed any sort of a progressive Kelvin Wave pattern.
Sea Level Anomalies: (5/8) +0-5 cm anomalies are along the coast of Peru and Ecuador but small in coverage. In the west +5 cm anomalies are over the entire KWGA and pushing east now reaching to 125W, suggestive of a weak Kelvin Wave tracking east. La Nina is gone in the East Pacific with a neutral to weak warm trend trying to hold on.

Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (5/15) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate a generalized warm pattern is building along the coasts of Northern Chile and Peru north to Ecuador then extending west over the Galapagos and out to sea out to 160W. Warming to +2 degs is in multiple pockets embedded in this region. Upwelling along the immediate coasts of Peru and North Chile is all but gone. Looking at the large picture, warming in the southern hemi extends east thousands of miles off the coast of South America as far south as 20S or more. But it is not well defined. La Nina is gone and it looks like an El Nino like pattern is returning, though that seems hard to believe given the limited volume of subsurface warm water in the West equatorial Pacific.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/14): A warming trend is developing along immediate Chile and Peru. Marked warming extends from Ecuador to the Galapagos and then out to 100W in a thin stream. A weak warming trend is present in the Northern Hemi modesty from North CA out to Hawaii reaching west to the Philippines. Overall nothing remarkable is indicated.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/14) A solid warm regime holds from Ecuador west to 140W and less energetic out to the dateline. It looks like El Nino is trying to develop and making headway into the Nino3.4 region. Overall waters of all oceans of the planet are warmer than normal. Suspect climatology needs to be updated to reflect this new reality, or the recent Super El Nino has significantly redistributed heat across the oceans.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/16) Today's temps are falling slightly +0.511, down from the peak of +3.0 degs on 3/18.  
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/16) temps were holding, hovering at +0.365 degs.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/16) The forecast has temps slowly falling from +0.5 degs today down to +0.40 degs in July holding into Aug, then falling to +0.25 degs in Oct dropping to +0.2 degs in Jan 2018. This suggests a weakly cooler but still normal pattern developing for the Winter of 2017-2018. CFS data suggests a Modoki style warming pattern over the dateline this Fall and Winter. La Nina is over and a return to normal temps appears to have occurred in the ocean. There is no source for greater warming with the warm pool in the far West Pacific pretty weak. Much recharging and heat buildup is required for a real El Nino to develop. We're at least 5 years out from that.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-April Plume updated (4/19) depicts temps are warming and are now at +0.4 degs. A slow increase in temps is forecast thereafter to +0.8 degs in July and up to +0.9 degs through the Fall into Winter. This is +0.3 degs warmer than the Feb forecast and +0.6 degs warmer than the January forecast and +0.1 degs since the March forecast suggesting La Nina is over and a warmer regime is setting up. See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Decoupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (5/16): The daily index was steady at 6.22. It has been positive for 4 days. The 30 day average was rising at -7.14. The 90 day average was rising at -4.39 or just south of neutral. This suggests a return to at least a neutral ENSO conditions has taken hold.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (5/16) Today's value was -0.53 or just a little drier than normal. A peak low was reached on 11/2 at -1.94, the deepest of the past La Nina event. This measures atmospheric response, not oceanic.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues positive, though much weaker lately (as expected with La Nina setting in).
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.10, Feb = +0.03, March = +0.09, April=+0.52 . This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO. No consistently negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington EDU index (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.77, Feb = +0.70, Mar = +0.74, April=+1.12. No negative readings have occurred since Dec 2013
The PDO turned from a 16 year negative run (Jan 98-Feb 2014) in early 2014 and has been positive ever since (other than a few months of negative readings in Fall 2016, the result of a turn towards La Nina). Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data strongly suggests that could be a possibility. By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool


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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