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 (3/12) North and Central CA was seeing fading Gulf swell still producing some barely rideable waves in the waist to maybe chest high range and clean but totally obscured by fog. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were waist high with a few chest high waves in the mix and clean but weak. Southern California up north was knee to thigh high when it even broke and clean but real weak. Down south waves were waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean and with decent form though soft and somewhat foggy. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting leftover dateline swell with waves head high or maybe one foot more on the sets and clean but with a little warble intermixed. Take it for all it's worth. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting waist high wrap-around dateline leftover swell with light north winds and still fairly clean early.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale developed off the Southern Kuril Islands on Sat (3/9) producing 34 ft seas but making no eastern headway. One last pulse of swell is possible for Hawaii for Wed-Thurs (3/14). The models now suggest a weak low pressure system developing on the northern dateline falling southeast Thurs-Fri (3/15) then stalling just north of Hawaii and holding through Sun (3/17) producing varying degrees of 20-22 ft seas over a very small area but aimed right at the Islands. If that system materializes fun sized windswell is possible for the weekend then fading into the early part of next week. Unfortunately none of that energy is to be directed towards the mainland. Beyond no weather systems capable of generating even 20 ft seas are forecast in the North Pacific. We're starting to look south for any signs of potential, though it's still kinda early in the season. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (3/12) the jetstream was split starting just off Japan with the northern branch peeling off hard to the north and tracking north to northwest up into the Bering Sea if not back over Northern Russia. No return flow back into the Pacific was evident. The Southern branch continued flat off Japan on the 30N latitude then easing southeast directly over Hawaii, then split again with most energy ridging northeast up into British Columbia. No winds over the Pacific even reached 120 kts for any significant distance. In short there was no upper level support for gale formation nd if anything only high pressure was being reinforced centered over the Western Gulf and Dateline regions. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is forecast but with some of the wind energy tracking up into the Bering Sea starting to fall back south over the Eastern Aleutians helping to from a very weak trough in the Southwestern Gulf of Alaska bottoming out 900 nmiles north of Hawaii on Thurs (3/14). Winds are forecast at only 110 kts though severely limiting support for gale development down in the lower levels of the atmosphere. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to get quickly cut off by Sat (3/16) as the ridge in the Bering Sea collapses and a very weak and non-defined flow starts making it's way east from the Kuril Islands into the Gulf with the split point moving to the dateline and the southern branch continuing over Hawaii. No troughs of interest are forecast. This general pattern to hold into early next week but with a steep and weak trough again starting to set up north west of Hawaii on Mon-Tues (3/19) possibly supporting weak low pressure development down at the surface there.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (3/12) swell from a gale that off the Kuril Islands on Sat (3/9) is pushing towards the Hawaiian Islands (see Kuril Islands Gale below). A weak low pressure system is scheduled to develop over the dateline sinking south towards Hawaii over the next several days (see Hawaiian Low below). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Kuril Island Gale
A fetch of 40-45 kt westerly winds started building off Northern Japan and the Kuril Islands late Friday (3/8) peaking late night into Sat AM (3/9) with 45 kt northwest winds and seas building to 26-28 ft over a modest area at roughly 40N 157E. Seas peaked at 18Z at 34 ft over a tiny area at 42N 159E (308 degs HI). Fetch was fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from barely 34 ft at 40N 164E (308 degs HI). No seas of interest were left by Sun AM (3/10). Some small modest period swell is expected to result for Hawaii mid-next week. Next to nothing for the mainland.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Wed AM (3/13) with period 16 secs and size small but building reaching 5.1 ft @ 15 secs mid-afternoon (7.5 ft). Swell to continue overnight fading Thurs AM (3/14) from 4.5 ft @ 14 secs (6.0-6.5 ft) and fading steadily through the day. Swell Direction: 308 degrees
On Wed PM (3/13) a tiny low pressure system is to be developing in the Western Gulf forming a pressure gradient with high pressure over the dateline resulting in a tiny fetch of 35 kt north winds aimed well at Hawaii. Seas building. The fetch is to fall southeast on Thurs AM (3/14) with pressure in the low 1008 mbs and winds unchanged and seas building to 20 ft at 40N 171W (331 degs HI). More of the same forecast in the evening with 22 ft seas over an infinitesimal area moving south to 36N 170W (327 degs HI). The fetch is to fade from 30 kts Fri AM (3/15) with seas 18 ft at 32N 168W. In the evening additional 35 kt winds are forecast over a sliver of area with the low moving east now and seas again up to 22 ft at 32N 162W (345 degs HI). more of the same is forecast into Sat PM (3/16) with 22 ft seas at 32N 158N (360 degs HI). the gale is to dissipate by Sun AM (3/17).
If all goes as forecast some degree of modest north angled windswell is expected arriving along north facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands starting Sat (3/15) peaking late Sunday into Monday morning, then fading. but at this time it's all just a fantasy of the computer with no wind actually blowing on the oceans surface to produce swell.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/12) modest high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered just 500 nmiles west of Morro Bay CA producing a light north wind flow at 10-15 kts just the North and Central CA coast, and much less down south. The high is to weaken Wed-Thurs (3/14) as low pressure moves north of it into the extreme Pacific Northwest with north winds relenting nearshore for North and Central CA generally 10 kt or less. But by Friday the low is to have moved inland and the local high pressure system is to try and rebuild, generating a local gradient and north winds at 15-20 kts for the North and Central coasts, though Southern CA to remain protected. More of the same Saturday and 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 (light winds for Southern CA). the low is to push closer to the CA coast Tuesday with a light wind pattern forecast for the entire state likely holding into Wed (3/20).
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
That said, a small gale is to develop in the Southeast Pacific on Wed (3/13) with seas building to 36 ft in the evening over a small area at 53S 138W aimed somewhat to the northeast. Maybe some background swell for Southern CA with luck from 191 degrees (more for South America).
A slightly stronger system is forecast for the same area Fri (3/13) with a tiny area of 38 ft seas forecast at 60S 140W aimed somewhat northeast. Again maybe a pulse of tiny swell for Southern CA from 190 degrees and more for South America.
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 no solid swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. Not even east tradewind swell for the Islands or local north windswell for California. But the model do suggest another south falling fetch of 35 kt north winds targeting Hawaii with 22 ft seas early next week.
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 (3/11) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 20.53. The 30 day average was up to 9.01 with the 90 day average up some at -1.28. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated very light west anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading at 160E before reaching the dateline, then giving way to moderate easterly anomalies over the dateline then 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 was very weak and fading and making no eastern headway. A week from now (3/20) weak westerly anomalies are to make some headway extending a bit east of the dateline if not well into the Central Pacific. This suggests the weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is to finally let loose of it's grip on the dateline allowing the Active Phase of the MJO to finally make some east headway beyond the Maritime Continent. Will believe it when it happens.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/11 are in agreement now too suggesting a modest 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 3/23, then starting to fade just east of there by 3/26 while the Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean reaching mid-Indonesia 15 days out. Regardless, the coming of Spring will likely damped any positive impact a weak Active Phase might have.
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 (3/11) no pockets of warmer or colder subsurface water are in play. Normal surface waters temps prevail. Subsurface waters temps, previously indicating an open path for warm water migration east, are now indicating cooler water (-2 deg C) are starting to build again at 135W and down at 125 meters, blocking the transport path. In short, though temperatures on the surface remains normal, the subsurface path is still tending towards a blocked 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 (-0.4 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 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
Jaws Redbull Contest Forecast Explained By Stormsurf
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=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
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/
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 planet, 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: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
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/
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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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 simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer 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!
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table