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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: December 15, 2011 9:42 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 = 2.9 - California & 3.1 - 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 12/12 thru Sun 12/18
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   

Two Swells For CA for the Weekend
Hawaii Poised for the Second One


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 Thursday (12/15) North and Central CA was
supposed to be seeing small north dateline swell, but there was no sign of it.  Instead north angled local proto-swell was in control providing surf in the head high to 1 ft overhead range and clean. Down south surf was waist high or slightly more and clean.  Southern California was maybe knee high up north and warbled. Down south surf was waist high, weak and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new swell in the head high range and reasonably clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at waist high and chopped by easterly trades.   

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

Meteorological Overview
A decent by small gale developed just west of the dateline on Monday with seas briefly to 28 ft in the evening, barely holding into Tuesday AM (12/13). Some small longer period swell expected for Hawaii by Thursday and the mainland by Saturday. A broader system developed on the dateline Wed-Thurs (12/15) with 29 ft seas pushing almost to a point north of Hawaii. This should result is better swell for all locations, arriving in Hawaii mid-Friday and into the US West Coast on Sunday (12/18). After that a series of very small gales are forecast tracking over the northern dateline Sun-Mon (12/19) with 30 ft seas, and another on Tuesday with 32 ft sea,  but that all remains just a guess by the models. Our big hopes for the Active Phase of the MJO are beginning to be tempered some with not a whole lot of gale activity forecast. Regardless, if anything were to occur it would start next week and hold till the end of the month. 


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

North Pacific

Jetstream - On Thursday (12/15) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 160 kts tracking about flat to a point just east of the dateline forming into a weak trough, then .cgiitting with most energy ridging northeast up through the Central Gulf of Alaska pushing inland over Central Canada. Modest wind energy was also peeling off the main flow at the .cgiit point falling southeast over Hawaii then turning east and tracking into Baja. No significant change from weeks previous.  There was limited support for gale development in the semi-trough like structure just east of the dateline and no support east of there with the .cgiit flow supporting high pressure aloft over the entire East Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with more wind energy building off Japan to 190 kts on Friday (12/16) pushing east to the dateline and slowly moderating, but no signs of anything that resembles a real trough forecast. Beyond 72 hours wind energy is to slowly back off to the 150 kt range by Tues (12/20) and holding if not weakening more into Friday (12/23).  Again no clear signs of trough development indicated though the .cgiit point is to ease east even more. No clear support for gale development indicated. 

Surface  -  On Thursday (12/15) two swells continued pushing east, one hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Second Dateline Gale below).  And the second pushing towards both Hawaii and the mainland (see Third  Dateline Gale below). The third Gale was of more interest but nothing to great.  

Over the next 72 hours a tiny little gale is forecast wrapping up briefly on the dateline late Saturday into Sunday AM (12/18) with 45-50 kt west winds over a tiny area resulting in a dot of 30 ft seas at 44N 178E Sunday AM fading from 28 ft at 45n170W in the evening, then gone. Most energy is to pushing east. Limited small sideband swell possible for Hawaii and more direct but well decays energy for the US West Coast assuming this one forms at all.   

Second Dateline Gale

On Sunday (12/11) a small gale was trying to organize west of the dateline with 35 kt westerly winds and a non-closed circulation. By Monday AM (12/12) 40 kt west winds were building on the dateline between 40N-45N all aimed due east. Seas on the increase from 20 ft. In the evening a tiny fetch of up to 45 kt west winds were building resulting in 29 ft seas at 43N 177W and up to 29 ft by 10 PM at 44N 172W (334 degs HI and 294 degs NCal). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the eastern flank of the fetch at 06Z and reported average seas at 26 ft with a peak reading to 32.8 ft where the model suggested 27 ft seas. It was about on track.  Perhaps the model was over hyping it just a little. This system lifted hard north Tuesday AM (12/13) with the core hitting high pressure to the east and moving into the Bering Sea. 45 kt west wind held just south of the Aleutians producing seas of 34 ft up at 50N 172W (306 NCal) aimed due east with 28 ft seas hanging down at 45N 172W (298 NCal). No additional fetch or seas of interest forecast with the system moving into the Bering Sea fully.

Some degree of moderate period swell is expected to result  - sideband energy for Hawaii by Thursday (12/15) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.5 ft from 320 degrees) and more direct but more decayed energy for North CA by Saturday (12/17) at 5 ft @ 14-15 secs (6-7 ft) from 294-297 degrees.

Third Dateline Gale

Another gale started wrapping up right behind the second one on Tuesday AM (12/13) midway between Japan and the dateline with 40 kt west and northwest winds. Seas on the increase from 22 ft. In the evening a solid sized fetch of 35-40 kt northwest winds built on the southern dateline at 40N 178E with seas building to 26 ft back at 39N 176E targeting Hawaii well down the 311 degree path. The Jason-1 satellite passed right over the core of the fetch at 06Z and reported seas of 26.9 ft with a peak reading to 31.2 ft where the model suggested 28 ft seas. Again, the model looked a little over hyped compared to the Jason-1 readings. The gale intensified some Wednesday AM (12/14) with 35-40 kt west winds wrapping the core. 29-30 ft seas holding at 38N 175W (320 degs HI and aimed 30 degree south of the 287 deg path to Central CA). The gale lifted north in the evening with 50 kt west winds approaching the Eastern Aleutians in the Western Gulf with 29 ft seas forecast further south from previous fetch at 40N 173W (318 degs HI and 290 degs NCal). By Thursday 55 kt west wind were just south of the eastern Aleutians with seas from previous fetch fading from 25 ft at 40N 170W (bypassing Hawaii and on the 287 degree path to NCal) and new seas to 40 ft up at 51N 163W targeting only Canada.

Possible larger direct swell for Hawaii and a bit more refined but smaller swell for the US West Coast.

Expect swell hitting Hawaii on Friday (12/16) at 11 AM with pure swell 7.5 ft @ 16 secs (12 ft) holding through the day with secondary energy arriving on Saturday (12/17) at 4 AM continuing through the day at 6.8-7.1 ft @ 15-16 secs (10-11 ft).  Residual swell expected fading on Sunday. Swell Direction: 318-324 degrees
Expect swell hitting North CA on  Sunday (12/18) near noon at 6 ft @ 16 secs (9 ft) with a secondary pulse arriving Monday (12/19) near 4 AM at 5.5 ft @ 15 secs (8 ft). residuals on Tuesday.  Swell Direction 287-290 degrees


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


No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (12/15) weak low pressure was pushing inland over Oregon with a weak front dissolving over Central CA  and high pressure at 1030 mbs locked 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast. North winds at 15+ kts were just off the Central CA coast but winds nearshore were offshore at many locations. By Friday high pressure is to be ridging into Oregon with an  offshore flow forecast for all of CA then back to calm for the Saturday and Sunday. A weak low is to move into Washington late Sunday with high pressure building behind it  setting up the usual north wind gradient over Cape Mendocino Monday at 25 kts but with a light if not eddy flow for all of Central CA, then dissipating Tuesday (12/20). Theoretically a real low pressure system is to wind up off Washington on Tuesday with a front dragging south and a chance of precipitation into the SF Bay Area on Wednesday and a few inches of snow in Tahoe.  But high pressure is to be moving in hard behind it into Central CA later on Wednesday with north winds 20 kts nearshore then fading Thursday (12/22). No signs of a big Christmas snow dump apparent with high pressure holding tight over the area.        

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 gale is forecast forming in on the dateline Monday (12/19) with 45 kt west winds over a small area lifting northeast into the evening resulting in 32 ft seas at 48N 171W Tuesday AM (12/20) pushing east to 48N 165W in the evening. Additional 45 kt west fetch to build in the area Tues PM into Wed AM resulting in 38 ft seas up at 49N 160W targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest, then fading out in the evening.  Perhaps some swell to result for Central CA northward, but again the focus is to be the Pacific Northwest. 

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 Thursday (12/15) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up again to 27.71. The 30 day average was up to  17.23 with the 90 day up slightly at 13.07. No sign of an Active MJO here. 

Current wind analysis indicates moderate easterly anomalies were over a portion of Western Pacific extending from 160W to 160E, then shifting to calm if not light westerly anomalies west of there. This suggests the transition point is holding steady near 160E and not making any more eastward headway.  Near normal winds over the East and Central Pacific. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading but holding it's ground between 160E and 160W. We were hoping this was the start of the Active Phase of the MJO encroaching into the West Pacific helping to ultimately fuel storm development for the North Pacific. A week from now the models indicate little change with modest easterly anomalies holding at 180W to 140E, slowly giving up areal coverage, but also shifting west some. Dead neutral winds to be east of there into Central America and west of there into Indonesia. This is indicative of not necessarily the Active Phase, but certainly not the Inactive Phase of the MJO either. Maybe just a slow death of the Inactive Phase lingering on the dateline. The longer range models suggest that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be effectively gone by Dec 18, with the Active Phase building over the dateline by 12/24 and looking decent by 12/28.  At the same time a strong pulse of the Inactive Phase is to be building south of India raging there by Christmas. Best guess is the Active Phase is to appear on 12/21 holding through Christmas to New Years with luck in the Pacific.  This would be our best opportunity for storm production in the North Pacific for the winter season, with a secondary shot maybe late January into early February. But seeing how the strength of the Active Phase continuing is being downgraded on the models and pushed out in time, we're beginning to think that not much will develop to differentiate this pulse from the Inactive Phase that preceded it. In short, much a-do about nothing. We're starting to prepare ourselves for the worst.  

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 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.  


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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MAVFILM Jeff Clark SURFPULSE Inside Mavericks

Local Interest

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:

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.   

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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 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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