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.
'Chasing Mavericks' Now Playing on Comcast/OnDemand and Available on DVD
On Saturday (3/23) North and Central CA was seeing raw localized north windswell fading some with waves head high or maybe a little more on the sets and very wonky but not chopped though north winds are to take their toll by late morning. Two southern hemi swell were hitting to producing waves in the chest high range on the sets at exposed breaks. Down south in Santa Cruz that southern hemi swell was producing waves at chest high and lined up and clean, but warbled from the windswell. Southern California up north was waist high with some bigger sets and clean but pure windswell. Down south waves were chest high with some head high sets and clean but a bit crumbled. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover dateline swell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and warbled early with north winds starting to get a foothold. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline energy with waves thigh high and pretty warbled.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale pushed off Kamchatka Thursday peaking in the evening with seas to 42 ft, then quickly tracked northeast and moved into the Bering Sea within 24 hours. Some reasonable background swell to result for Hawaii by Monday and far less size for California by Wednesday and the swell shadowed by the Aleutians up into Oregon. Beyond the models suggest another gale developing just west of the Kuril Islands next Wed (3/27) tracking east producing 26 ft seas just west of the dateline, then quickly fading 24 hours later on the dateline. Nothing else projected to follow with Winter quickly wrapping up. 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 over this weekend (3/24). Beyond maybe a small gale is to flair up on Wed (3/27) southeast of New Zealand producing 34 ft seas over a small area, with another developing from it's remnants in the Southeast Pacific on Friday with maybe 36 ft seas but aimed mostly to the east. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/23) the jetstream was split just east of Japan with the northern branch weakly tracking northeast to the Western Aleutians then fading completely before reaching the Gulf of Alaska. The southern branch fell southeast from the split point then rebounded up over Hawaii and then into Baja. Overall only one small pocket of winds even reached 130 kts, and that was just over Japan and quickly fading. No support for gale development was indicated over the width of the North Pacific. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast until later Monday (3/25) when wind energy at 120 kts is to start building over Japan and feeding up into the Northern branch of the jet pushing up off the Kuril Islands to Kamchatka. Beyond 72 hours that wind energy is to help form a trough off Kamchatka by Tues (3/26) with winds 130 kts pushing east over the Aleutian Islands and fading then redeveloping some in the Western Gulf of Alaska by late Thurs (3/28) into Friday Maybe some limited support for gale development possible.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/23) swell from a gale that tracked over the dateline was hitting California weakly but totally buried under locally generated windswell. Another swell was pushing primarily towards the Hawaiian Islands from a gale that pushed off the Kuril Islands on Thurs (3/21) (see Kuril Island Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring with no winds greater than 25 kts in-play over the entire North Pacific. No change forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 pushed 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 was fading fast with barely 45 kt west winds hanging on while lifting northeast winds with seas fading from 37 ft at 49N 165E (307 degs NCal and almost shadowed by the Aleutians, 320 degs HI). By evening the gale was almost gone moving into the Bering Sea with 30 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.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Monday (3/25) with pure swell building through the day peaking late at 4.8 ft @ 17 secs (8 ft). Size to hang on overnight with pure swell down to 4.8 ft @ 15 secs (7 ft) early Tues (3/26) and fading to 4.5 ft @ 14 secs late (6 ft). Swell Direction: 318-320 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival Tuesday after sunset and peaking on Wed (3/27) at 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 302-305 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (3/23) high pressure and north winds were the rule over outer waters at 20 kts for the North and Central coasts. A lighter wind regime was present nearshore early. High pressure and north winds to finally start fading Sunday as low pressure start tracking towards Oregon, but still 15 kt north winds expected everywhere but Southern CA. Monday winds fade to near calm as another very weak low approaches from the west, but fading all the while. Near calm winds all locations Tuesday and Wednesday though light south winds possible (5 kts) from San Francisco northward. Light scatter drizzle possible from San Francisco northward through Wednesday evening. The low is slowly fade and move onshore over Oregon through Thursday (3/28) with light winds continuing. There again a possibility of light drizzle moving into the North and entire Central Coast Thursday afternoon. Friday high pressure and north winds are to return over the Channel Islands and all of North and Central CA holding into the weekend.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were occurring. A second pulse of swell energy was radiating northeast from the Second Gale (see details below) with longer period energy already hitting California. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.
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: Expect 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 overnight and peaking Sunday AM (3/24) with pure swell 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft at better breaks). Swell fading Monday AM (3/25) but still fun with swell 2.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) then dropping. Residual 15 sec energy Tuesday (3/26) at 2.2 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 195-196 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival late on Sat (3/23) and by sunset pure swell to be near 2.0 ft @ 20 secs (4.0 ft). Swell coming up slightly overnight and peaking Sunday (3/24) with pure swell 2.0 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft at better breaks). Swell fading Monday AM (3/25) but still fun with swell 2.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0 ft with sets to 4.0 ft) then dropping. Residual 14-15 sec energy Tuesday (3/26) at 2.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 192-194 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 35 kt west winds on Tues PM (3/26) with seas on the increase. On Wed AM (3/27) a broader fetch of 30-35 kt west winds to be holding while pushing east off the coast mid-way to the dateline with seas building to 20 ft at 45N 170E (319 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). Winds to build in the evening pushing east at 40 kts with seas building to 27 ft at 44N 174E (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 25 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.
Nothing else to follow.
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 Saturday (3/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some to -5.17. The 30 day average was down to 8.11 with the 90 day average holding in positive territory at 0.85. 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 mostly neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent holding neutral 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 no particular phase of the MJO was in play. A week from now (3/30) light but steady east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline and points east of there. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be gaining ground in the West Pacific. This to provide no support for storm development in the North Pacific attributable to the MJO.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/22 are in agreement suggesting a nearly indiscernible Active Phase was positioned south of Hawaii and fading fast. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was building over Indonesia and the West Pacific reaching 165E. Over the next 10 days the Inactive Phase is to become centered at 165E while weakening, almost reaching the dateline 15 days out (4/5) and fading. No Active Phase buildup is forecast behind.
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 retreated slightly. They suggest a slow build up to barely warm temps by April (+0.1 degs C) only to give that up in July (-0.3 degs C) and holding there into Oct and November (-0.3 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table