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 (3/29) North and Central CA had more localized Gulf swell hitting producing unorganized waves in the 9-10 ft range with a light southerly flow adding just a bit of added warble to it. In Santa Cruz surf was 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and warbled but clean enough. Southern California up north was getting real lined up swell with waves at waist to chest high and clean. Down south waves were waist high and trashed by indiscreet heavy texture and bump. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northeast swell with waves head high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell with waves chest to head high on the biggest sets and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at waist high and chopped by enhanced northeasterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Swell from a gale that was off the Pacific Northwest on Wed-Thurs (3/29) with 32 ft seas is expected into Central CA on Friday while yet another on forms just 500 nmiles off Central CA Fri-Sat (3/31) with 34 ft seas setting up raw swell for Sunday and pushing down into Southern CA. Maybe one more small one off Central CA on Wed (3/4) with 22 ft seas, then things really go quiet regardless of what the MJO is doing.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - On Thursday (3/29) a split was starting to form in the jetstream over Japan. But east of there winds were consolidated blowing at 150 kts rising gently over the dateline pushing into the Central Gulf of Alaska then impacting the US coast near the Oregon-CA border. Some support for gale development in the Gulf. A split was occurring near the dateline with weak energy peeling off and heading south then east well under Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours the split is to push east and become far more pronounced with the northern branch pushing up into the Bering Sea near Kamchatka then diving southeast falling below the Aleutians near the dateline and then on through the Gulf of Alaska with a decent trough developing off California on Saturday with 170 kt winds feeding into it. Good support for gale development then in that trough. all the while the split point is to be moving east (to the dateline). Beyond 72 hours some form of a secondary trough is to persist through Tues 4/3 in the Eastern Gulf with winds still 120 kts but focused more north. The areal coverage of that trough is to become very limited to just right along the coast of British Columbia. A large split is to be pushing east moving into the East Pacific on Wed (4/4) with all energy int he northern branch pushing well up into if not north of the Bering Sea and holding into Fri (4/6) completely shutting down the North Pacific from supporting gale development.
Surface - On Thursday (3/29) swell from the 4th Gale (see below) was moving into outer US waters. Generic unorganized low pressure was circulating in the Gulf of Alaska. High pressure at 1024 mbs was over the dateline. No real fetch of interest was present. Over the next 72 hours another gale is to build off the California coast and push inland on Saturday. And maybe one more might develop off Oregon on Sunday evening (4/1) with 40 kt west winds and seas on the increase lifting hard northeast and pushing into British Columbia Monday AM with seas in the 22-24 ft range, but all targeting the Canadian coast with sideband swell down to maybe Oregon late that evening. Nothing else of interest forecast.
4th Local California Gale
Yet another gale developed in the Gulf of Alaska Tuesday evening (3/27) with 40 kt west winds building aimed best at Washington. Seas on the increase. By Wed AM (3/28) 45 kt west winds were building well off the Washington Coast with seas building from 26 ft at 47N 153W pushing due east. Fetch held into the evening moving close to Washington with 32 ft seas building at 47N 147W (305 degs NCal). The gale was on the verge of impacting Washington on Thurs AM (3/29) with winds still 40 kts and seas barely 30 ft at 47N 138W (310 degs NCal) then moving into Washington in the evening. Swell from this fetch to push mainly into the Pacific Northwest on Friday (3/30) with north angled energy radiating down into Central CA by Fri noon with swell 10.2 ft @ 16-17 secs (16 ft) but shadowed from 305+ degrees in the SF Bay Area. South winds in effect.
5th Local California Gale
Another gale is forecast developing 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii on Thursday PM (3/29) with 35 kt northwest winds building and seas on the increase. By Friday AM (3/30) a small fetch of up to 45 kt northwest winds is forecast with seas building from 22 ft at 37N 153W mostly bypassing Hawaii. In the evening the system is to really ramp up with 55 kt northwest winds positioned 850 nmiles west of San Francisco with seas 28 ft at 37N 142W and on the increase. Sat AM (3/31) 55 kt northwest winds to be 500 nmiles off the Central CA coast with 34 ft seas at 37N 133W (directly off San Francisco) (270 degs NCal). The gale is to move onshore over Central CA Saturday evening with 32 ft seas from previous fetch starting to impact the coast from Pt Arena south to nearly Pt Conception.
Rough data suggests large swell pushing into Central CA of 14 ft @ 16 secs (22 ft) possible on Sunday (4/1) coming from 270 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 (3/29) a front was stalled over north-most California with south winds there, but neutral winds near San Francisco and a light northerly flow south of there. This pattern to hold into Friday. Rain holding from Bodega Bay northward. But by Saturday a new strong local gale is to plow right into Central CA through the day with south winds and rain down to Santa Barbara County and 14 inches of snow for Tahoe. That is to be followed directly by strong high pressure on Sunday with rain clearing and north winds 30 kt near Pt Conception, but only 15-20 kt up at San Francisco early and holding through the day. Southern CA to be a north wind mess on Sunday too. Winds to be settling down on Monday but still brisk north over Pt Conception (20 kts) then finally fading everywhere on Tuesday as a weak front tries to push up to Central CA. Another pulse of low pressure to move onshore over Central CA on Wednesday with light west winds forecast, rain to Monterey Bay (a few inches of snow for Tahoe) and then high pressure trying to build in on Thursday (4/5) with north winds 5-10 kts for most of the state, and stronger near Pt Conception.
At the surface in the South Pacific a new gale formed southeast of New Zealand just off Antarctica on Thurs AM (3/22) with 45 kt south winds and 35 ft seas at 57S 155W lifting northeast with more 45 kt south winds and seas to 36 ft in the evening at 53S 148W. The gale held Friday AM (3/23) while tracking east with 45 kt south winds and 39 ft seas at 50S 141W. In the evening winds were fading from 40 kts with seas 36 ft at 49S 138W and residuals holding into Sat AM (3/24) with seas at 34 ft at 46S 133W. Another pulse of decent southerly swell to result for CA with swell coming from 188-197 degs.
Southern CA: expect swell arrival starting Friday AM (3/30) with period to 19 secs a 11 AM and size tiny (2 ft @ 19 secs (3.8 ft) but building and well rideable by sunset as period falls to 18 secs (3 ft @ 18 secs (5.5 ft). Swell to start peaking on Saturday AM (3/31) with pure swell 4.1 ft @ 17 secs (7 ft with sets to 8.5 ft). Swell to hold decently on Sunday (4/1) with swell 3.8 ft @ 16 secs (6 ft with sets to 7.5 ft) and falling off late as period drops to 15 secs. Swell Direction 188-197 focused on 194 degs.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs yet another small fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds is to develop tracking east well west of California on Monday PM (3/2) building to 40 kts on Tues (4/3) with seas to 24 ft over a tiny area then fading Wed AM just off Central CA. Seas at 22 ft at 37N 132W (280 degs Central CA). More raw local swell possible for most of CA if all goes as forecast.
A calmer pattern to follow.
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 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 forecast for MJO activity.
As of Thursday (3/29) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down more to -7.23. The 30 day average was down to 4.75 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to 4.99. The latest pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO appears to starting to have some effects.
Current wind analysis indicated weak easterly anomalies were over a tiny area from 180W to 160E and inconsequential. The coverage of these winds was fading and shifting east. Westerly anomalies were moderate to strong extending from the Eastern Indian Ocean pushing east to 160E and building. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was effectively gone. A week from now (4/6) the pattern is to continue with solid if not strong westerly anomalies building from the Indian Ocean to 180W and making easterly headway to 160W with easterly anomalies gone. This is looking to be a full on Westerly Wind Burst (WWB). This indicates that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is gone by then with the Active Phase in full control of the West Pacific. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/28 are in agreement suggesting the core of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is gone with the Active Phase of the MJO locked just west of the dateline (173E) and tracking east. This means we are supposedly already in a more favorable environment to support gale formation in the preferred dateline region. But as of right now, the upper level models are not quite picking up on that change. The thought is it will take a few days for the upper atmosphere to respond to the change in the MJO, and that the storm track will take a few days beyond that to respond. It will be interesting to see if the MJO really has any effect over the next 2-3 weeks, or whether the coming of Spring trumps everything else and high pressure continues to rule supreme. Regardless the Inactive Phase is already building in the Indian Ocean and expected to push east into the West Pacific by 2-3 weeks from now according to the statistical model, while the dynamic model has the Active Phase holding over the dateline and not loosing strength through 4/11. Would be real nice it that turns out to be true. .
Remnants of what was a moderate plus 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 Spring and early Summer of 2012. But after that, a slow but steady return to a more normal pattern is expected to take hold, offering better chances for decent surf for the Fall and Winter of 2012-2013. We're almost there - it's been a long 2 years.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
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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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
Mavericks Surf Shop Grand Opening - Sunday, 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 replaced 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 accomplished 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 sample.
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