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 Thursday (3/21) North and Central CA was seeing raw localized north windswell building with waves chest to head high and warbled but not chopped yet though north winds were on the rise at exposed breaks. Down south in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing waves waist to chest high and lined up and clean, but chop building outside the kelp. Southern California up north was knee high with luck and weak and heavily textured. Down south waves were waist high on the sets and textured, crumbled and generally weak coming out of the northwest. Hawaii's North Shore was getting solid dateline swell with waves 13-14 ft and reasonably clean early. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline energy with waves waist high and fairly clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a gale that tracked over the dateline and fell southeast towards Hawaii producing up to 34 ft has hit the Islands producing solid surf. Little of it is expected to reach the mainland though. Also a gale is pushing off Kamchatka Thursday expect to peak in the evening with seas to 42 ft, but quickly tracking northeast and moving into the Bering Sea within 24 hours. Maybe some minimal background swell to result for Hawaii and Central CA, but it's to be shadowed by the Aleutians north of there. Beyond the models suggest another gale developing over the Kuril Islands next Wed (3/27) tracking east producing 34 ft seas just west of the dateline, then quickly fading 24 hours on the dateline. It looks like the winter season isn't completely giving up, at least with regards to Hawaii. 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 of the season for the mainland (by the weekend). But nothing to follow. Maybe a small gale is to flair up on Wed (3/27) southeast of New Zealand producing 34 ft seas over a small area, but that's it. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (3/21) the jetstream remained split multiple times over the width of the North Pacific with winds not exceeding 130 kts and then only reaching that speed in 3 small pockets. The best of those three was in association with a trough pushing off the Northern Kuril Islands offering a little support for gale development there. Otherwise no support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to lift fast north and dissipate in the Bering Sea. Otherwise a very weak and split flow is forecast with jet splitting just off Japan and the northern branch tracking fast northeast along the Kuril Islands then heading east through the Bering Sea and into Alaska offering no support for gale development. The southern branch is to pushing southeast off Japan moving over Hawaii and into Southern Baja. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is forecast but with a trough building off Kamchatka on Tues (3/26) with winds 130 kts pushing east over the Aleutian Islands and fading to nothing in the Western Gulf of Alaska by Thurs (3/28). Maybe some support for gale development possible. But overall it looks like Spring is starting to influence the jetstream.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (3/21) swell from a gale that tracked over the dateline was starting to hit the Hawaiian Islands (See Dateline Gale below). Another gale was pushing off the Kuril Islands (see Kuril Island Gale below). Something to monitor.
A modest gale developed off the Kuril Islands Sunday (3/17) producing a small fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds falling southeast with seas to 30 ft seas by evening at 42N 167E. By Monday AM (3/18) it organized better while approaching the dateline producing a solid fetch of 45 kt northwest winds and seas building in coverage but still 30-32 ft at 40N 174E (311 degs HI). Winds faded to 40 kts in the evening with seas peaking at 32 ft at 38N 178E (311 degs HI). By Tues AM (3/19) the gale was fading while falling southeast winds 35-40 kts and seas still 30 ft at 37N 180W. Winds to be fading in the evening from 35 kts with 28 ft seas at 35N 177W. Residual energy to hold into Wed AM (3/20) with winds 30 kts and seas 24 ft at 33N 172W. Wind gone and seas fading from 20 ft in the evening at 34N 167W with the low now tracking east. Some decently rideable swell is expected to result primarily for the Islands given it's trajectory right down the great circle paths there, with much less for the US West coast given the indirect route up the great circle paths there and copious local windswell hitting as the swell arrives, swamping it.
Hawaii - Swell arrived Thurs (3/21) AM a bit stronger than expected on the front end with swell early at 7.5-8.3 ft @ 17 secs (13-14 ft) coming from 310-313 degrees holding through sunset. Expect residual energy fading Fri AM (3/22) from 7.8 ft @ 14 secs early (11 ft) and dropping from there. Dribbles on Sunday.
Kuril Island Gale
A storm started developing mostly landlocked over the North Kuril Islands on Thurs AM (3/21) with winds from the west at 55 kts and seas building from 28 ft. In the evening 50 kt west winds to push out over exposed waters of the extreme Northwest Pacific with seas building to 43 ft at 47N 159E (305 degs NCal, 318 degs HI) and tracking northeast. By Friday AM (3/22) the storm is to be fading fast with barely 45 kt west winds hanging on while lifting northeast winds with seas fading from 38-40 ft at 49N 165E (307 degs NCal and almost shadowed by the Aleutians, 320 degs HI). By evening the gale is to be almost gone moving into the Bering Sea with 34 ft seas tucked up at 52N 173E and shadowed for everyone. Maybe some fun sized swell to result for Hawaii early the next week and much smaller swell beyond for California. Will monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (3/21) clearing high pressure and north winds were starting to take control of the North and Central coasts. Northwest winds to be building to 30 kts up north late. Northwest winds 15 kts late for Southern CA but less at the most protected breaks. The high is expected to hold driving a pressure gradient over North and Central CA Friday and Saturday with north winds 20 kts just off the coast (though less nearshore early, especially Saturday), finally starting to fade Sunday but still 15 kts for everywhere but Southern CA. Southern CA to remain mostly protected from this wind event. Monday winds fade as another very weak low approaches from the west, but fading all the while. Near calm winds all locations Tuesday and Wednesday with the core of the low hanging 300 nmiles off Bodega Bay. The low is now to regenerate some on Thursday (3/28) while easing east with south winds forecast to 10 kts from Morro Bay northward to Cape Mendocino and the possibility of light drizzle moving into the North and Central Coast late.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. Small swell was radiating northeast from the Southeast Pacific (see First Small Gale below). 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: 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
Beyond 72 hours a gale is forecast developing off the Northern Kuril Islands producing a small area of 45 kt west winds on Tues PM (3/26) with seas on the increase. On Wed AM (3/27) 40-45 kt west winds to be holding while pushing east off the coast with seas building to 32 ft at 45N 165E (317 degs HI, 303 degs NCal). Winds to hold in the evening pushing east at 40 kts with seas still 34 ft at 45N 175E (321 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). A quick fade is forecast Thurs AM (3/28) as the gale hits the dateline with winds falling to 30 kts and seas dropping from 28 ft at 43N 180W (326 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Assuming all goes as forecast some degree of decent utility class swell could result for Hawaii with smaller energy from the US West Coast. Will monitor.
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 Thursday (3/21) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up slightly to 3.49. The 30 day average was down to 9.06 with the 90 day average holding in positive territory at 0.99. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino. Interesting but the 30 day average is the highest it's been since Jan of 2012 when we started coming out of the big La Nina event of 2010-2011.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light west anomalies over the Western Maritime Continent turning neutral and holding to the Dateline. Light east anomalies started there continuing east to a point south of Hawaii, then faded to neutral anomalies extending the rest of the way into Central America. This indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was all but gone and of no real interest. A week from now (3/29) near neutral winds with embedded pockets of light east anomalies in pocket are forecast over the entire equatorial Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase is to be gone but no Inactive Phase of any magnitude is to be taking root. In short, no support for storm development in the North Pacific is expected attributable to the MJO, but no overt suppression either.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/20 are in agreement suggesting the fading and weak Active Phase was positioned south of Hawaii and fading while moving east, and is to be effectively gone 5 days from now (3/25). The Inactive Phase of the MJO was building over Indonesia and taking hold pushing into the extreme West Pacific now and reaching 165E 10 days out while weakening, almost reaching the dateline 15 days out (4/5). Given the change of seasons no effect of interest is to result.
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 (3/21) no pockets of warmer or colder subsurface water are in play on the equator. But a noticeable plume 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) in place at 135W and down at 115 meters, blocking the transport path. In short, though temperatures on the surface remains normal, the subsurface path is back to being blocked with the coastal pattern off the US mainland also suggested increase high pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-like pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model have bounced back slightly. They suggest a slow build up to barely warm temps by April (+0.2 degs C) only to give that up in July (-1.5 degs C) then slowly rebuilding to near normal by Oct and holding into November (-0.1 deg C). 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 moving into the Spring unpredictability barrier with accuracy of all the ENSO models historically low.
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 did not materialize with the pattern looking more like La Nina than anything. This past season was more of a 3 rating than the 5 that was predicted. That said, there was good consistency, with the west dateline area very productive and almost machine-like. But the storms were very small in areal coverage and rarely made enough eastern headway to even reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far small and more inconsistent swell energy for the US West Coast. Longer term the expectation there will be at least one year of neutral to 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) 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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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.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table