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 Tuesday (3/5) North and Central CA was seeing new swell from the Northern Dateline region with waves 10 ft at exposed breaks but trashed by south winds. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were up to chest high and somewhat clean, but south wind was building. Southern California up north was waist high and pretty lined up and clean but soft. Down south waves were chest high and clean looking nice. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband north dateline swell with waves 12 ft and clean but on the way down. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting north dateline swell too at 3 ft overhead and trashed by trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell was hitting California from another moderate north dateline gale that produced seas in the low 40 ft range Sat AM (3/2) aimed mostly east. Solid sized sideband swell has already peaked in the Islands. A smaller system is forecast for the Western Gulf Thurs (3/7) with seas in the low 30 ft range aimed east. A pair of small fetch areas associated with a gale over the Kuril Islands to produce 32 ft seas Sat (3/9) and then again late Sun (3/10) but making little eastern Headway. Maybe background swell for Hawaii. After that things really settle down.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (3/5) the jetstream was flowing solidly off Japan with winds 180-190 kts but lifting steadily east-northeast, then splitting on the dateline with the northern branch ridging northeast into the Gulf of Alaska and splitting again with energy tracking up into the East Bering Sea. Residual winds were tracking through the Gulf of Alaska forming a trough tracking southeast and positioned just off Northern California providing limited support for gale development. The southern branch tracked southeast from the dateline tracking south of Hawaii before ridging north and pushing over Baja. No troughs of interest were indicated anywhere along the jet offering solid support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours winds speeds are to decrease off Japan but with the jet flattening out. The northern branch is to be flowing flat east with a trough developing just east of the dateline moving into the Western Gulf by Fri (3/8) offering decent support for gale development. And the split point is to move east to a point just 400 nmiles north of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hours wind speeds over the width of the jet are to drop below 130 kts and the jet is to again split just off Japan pushing up into the Bering Sea with no clear support for gale development indicated and no indication of increases wind speeds imminent.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (3/5) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Swell from the North Dateline Gale was hitting both Hawaii and the US West Coast (see north Dateline Gale below). Another small gale tracked off the Kuril Islands (see Kuril Island Gale below) with swell traveling mainly towards Hawaii. A small gale is forecast tracking north through the Gulf mid-week.
North Dateline Gale
A gale tracked to the dateline Fri AM (3/1) producing 45-50 kt northwest winds with seas 28 ft at 43N 177E (324 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). Winds built in the evening to near 55 kts and still from the northwest targeting Hawaii well with seas 40 ft at 46N 175W a bit south of the Aleutian Islands (333 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). 50 kt west winds held Sat AM (3/2) just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas near 42 ft at 48N 173W aimed mostly due east (341 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). By evening the gale was fading with winds 40 kts and seas fading from 37 ft at 47N 166W (302 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 35 kt northwest winds faded in the Gulf Sun AM (3/3) with seas fading from 30 ft at 45N 160W (297 degs NCal and bypassing HI). Residual 30 kt westerly winds and 22-26 ft seas pushed southeast reaching 42N 150W Mon AM (3/4) (291 degs NCal). Utility class sideband swell for Hawaii and maybe a little more for CA, but with weather.
Hawaii: Swell peaked Tues AM (3/5) at 7.8 ft @ 15-16 (12 ft) still from 335 degrees. Swell to be fading Wed AM from 4.8 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft) from 340 degrees.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Tuesday (3/5) near 5 Am with period 18 secs and size building peaking near 6 PM with pure swell 7.1 ft @ 17 secs (12 ft) from 301 degrees. Additional short period energy to arrive from when the gale pushed towards the US West Coast peaking Wed AM (3/6) at 8 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft) from 292-297 degrees. South wind to be an issue through out the swells life.
Kuril Island Gale
Yet another small gale was developing off the Kuril Islands on Sat AM (3/2) producing a small area of 45-50 kt west winds with seas on the increase. By evening a reasonable sized fetch of 45 kt west wind was off the Kuril Islands generating 34 ft seas over a small area at 42N 153E (306 degs HI). Sun AM (3/3) winds were fading from 40-45 kts generating 36 ft seas at 43N 160E (310 degs HI, 302 degs NCal) but quickly fading. Winds down to 35-40 kts in the evening with the gale racing north and seas fading from 30 ft at 45N 164E (316 degs HI and 303 degs NCal). This system was gone by Mon AM (3/4).
There's some chance for modest background swell for the Islands, but far less for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed (3/6) with swell reaching 3.3 ft @ 18 secs late (6 ft faces). Swell to peak first light Thurs (3/7) at 4.5 ft @ 16 secs (7 ft) then starting to fade through the day. Swell Direction: 306-310 degrees.
Possible Gulf Gale
One more small gale is forecast developing on the dateline Wed (3/6) tracking fast east-northeast with winds building to 45 kts and seas to 29 ft at 41N 168W in the evening (338 degs HI, 291 degs NCal). The gale is to be lifting north with west winds forecast at 40-45 kts Thurs AM (3/7) and seas to 30 ft up at 44N 162W (295 degs NCal and bypassing HI to the east). In the evening winds to be fading from 35-40 kts just south of the Aleutians with seas fading from 28 ft at 48N 158W (303 degs NCal). Some modest swell to result targeting mainly the US West Coast with only sideband swell expected for the Hawaiian Islands.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/5) south winds associated with a front and low pressure system centered just 600 nmiles off Southern Oregon were affecting the coast from Monterey Bay northward. Rain down to Monterey Bay by 10 PM. South wind expected down to Pt Conception and a front pushing through Central CA Wednesday with rain starting at Morro Bay moving down to Santa Barbara fairly early. 8 inches of snow for Tahoe. A light mixed wind pattern is forecast for the North and Central Coast Thursday (10 kts or less) as the core of the fading low moves onshore. Modest light rain over the North and Central Coast building south to Pt Conception late and possibly San Diego in the evening with 2 inches of snow for Tahoe. Friday high pressure is to try and move into the Coast, but certainly taking it's time doing it with light northerly winds early and not building to 15-20 kts till late afternoon, including Southern CA. Rain possible early in Southern CA. Another 2 inches of snow for Tahoe but more focused on the Southern Sierra. North winds to continue for the entire state Saturday at 15-20 kts, though select breaks in Southern CA will be protected. Sunday light winds are forecast all day (north tendencies - stronger in the afternoon) continuing Monday and Tuesday.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours a small gale is forecast building southeast of New Zealand over an infinitesimal area with up to 55 kt west winds and 40 ft seas forecast at 53S 177W 06Z Wed (3/6) aimed due east (210 degs NCal, 211 degs SCal and in the Tahitian swell shadow). The gale to fade and drop southeast from there.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours on Friday PM a new gale is forecast pushing off Northern Japan with northwest winds 40-45 kts and seas on the increase. By Saturday AM (3/9) a tiny area of 55kt west wind are forecast with seas building to 28 ft at 40N 160E targeting mainly Hawaii (307 degs). In the evening a tiny area of 50 kt west winds to push east resulting in 34 ft seas at 40N 170E (312 degrees HI). This gale is to quickly fade and lift north Sun AM (3/10) with no additional seas of interest being produced. Limited background swell possible for Hawaii if all goes as planned.
An even smaller and shorter lived gale is forecast pushing off the Northern Kuril Islands on Sun (3/10).
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 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 jet stream 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 forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Tuesday (3/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 22.83. The 30 day average rose dramatically to 0.52 with the 90 day average up some at -4.03. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light west anomalies extending from Indonesia over the Maritime Continent and almost reaching the dateline ) then giving way to light if not neutral easterly anomalies just east of the dateline fading to neutral anomalies just east of there and extending the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates the Active Phase of the MJO continued making slow headway east but was being held at bay by the fading Inactive Phase of the MJO over the East Pacific. A week from now (3/13) westerly anomalies are to make no headway and east anomalies are to resurrect themselves over the dateline to moderate strength. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be exiting east out of the Pacific, but not fading quickly and holding off the Active Phase of the MJO from making much east headway beyond the Maritime Continent.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/4 suggest the Inactive Phase of the MJO was gone with the Active Phase in control of the West Pacific centered just west of the dateline (165E). But clearly the SOI and jetstream analysis suggests some form of Inactive Phase is lingering, or that Spring is digging in negating anything the MJO might be trying to do. Regardless, the models are in reasonable agreement (but the statistical model still slightly more aggressive) suggesting the Active Phase solidifying it's grasp on the West Pacific and reaching the dateline 7 days out. The dynamic model continues to be slower in this evolution, suggesting little if any eastward motion of the Active Phase through the West Pacific with the core not reaching the dateline 15 days out (3/19), lodged at 165E. It's too early to know what will happen but assuming a 50/50 split in the models, that still puts the Active Phase at 175E and in control of the critical West Pacific region. A slow transition to the Active Phase is likely, but any effects from it could be thwarted by the coming of Spring.
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 (3/5) no pockets of warmer or colder subsurface water are in play. An open path for warm subsurface water migration east is available, but there no warm water to flow through it. At the surface an almost neutral temperature pattern is trying to return after having cooled some the previous month. Slightly cooler waters cover the southern equator from the dateline to a point just off Ecuador with slightly warmer water just north of it. In short, temperatures on the surface remains a mixed bag but are mostly hovering near or just under neutral, with no clear indications of going either warmer or colder.
Projections from the CFSv2 model have regressed some. They suggest a return to neutral water temps by March and inching upward to +0.3 degs C by April, fading some then slowly rebuilding to +0.2 degs by July then to +0.6 degrees by November. That's not quite El Nino territory. But 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 place 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 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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The Mavericks Invitational Big Wave Surf Contest is scheduled to air on CBS on Thurs (2/7) at 7 PM (PST) replaying 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)
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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=player_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, 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
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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 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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table