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 Saturday (3/31) North and Central CA had residual north angled swell from Friday still hitting with a front from the next weather system moving in producing south wind and unorganized waves in the 9 ft range and chopped with rain on top. In Santa Cruz surf was 2-3 ft overhead and blown to bits by south wind and rain. Southern California up north was getting the next north angled swell at select breaks with with waves waist to chest high and warbled. Down south waves were head high and powerful but pretty disorganized with alot of warbled and texture in the water. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more northeast swell with waves waist to chest high on the sets and clean with a little warble. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell with waves waist to chest high on the biggest sets and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at head high and chopped by enhanced northeasterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
One more stronger gale was just 600 nmiles off Central CA Sat AM (3/31) producing 55 kt westerly winds and 37 ft seas setting up large raw swell for Sunday that will eventually push down into Southern CA. After that near calm is forecast until another small gale supposedly develops north of Hawaii on Saturday (3/7) with 22 ft seas.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jet stream - On Saturday (3/31) a split in the jet was occurring just off Japan with 130 kt wind rising over the split point then turning east and tracking over the dateline just barely south of the Aleutians and pushing into the Central Gulf of Alaska falling into a trough just off the California coast. Winds up to 150 kts in the trough offering good support for gale development there. The southern branch was peeling off the main flow at the split point meandering towards the equator and then tracking east well south of 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 the dateline then diving southeast falling below the Aleutians and into a trough in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska by Tues (3/3) but with winds only 100 kts feeding into it, offering minimal support for low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough is to push onshore over Southern Oregon late Wednesday with the split holding mid-way between Japan and the dateline and energy east of the split point evenly split between the north and southern branches and wind speeds only 100 kts in pockets. No support for gale development and no change forecast through Sat (3/7). There is some suggestion that the split point is to be moving east, reaching the dateline 180 hrs out with 130 kt winds west of the split point. But not really support for gale development indicated.
Surface - On Saturday (3/31) a storm was positioned off the California coast (See Storm #4 below). High pressure at 1028 mbs was right behind it with another low at 1000 mbs on the dateline and yet another high behind that at 1028 mbs. Only the system off California had any swell generation potential and the front from it was pushing onshore over Central CA. Over the next 72 hours Storm #4 is to push inland over California late Saturday (3/31) with high pressure moving in right behind setting up brisk north winds at 25+ kts along the coast there but fading into Tuesday (3/3). Another high at 1032 mbs is to be 1400 nmiles north of Hawaii at that time pushing a weak low northeast and up into the Canadian coast with no swell generation potential for anyone but Canada (22-24 ft seas all pushing northeast). In all a pretty placid pattern is to be setting up.
Local California Storm #4
Another gale developed 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 55 kt northwest winds was confirmed with seas building from 24 ft at 38N 153W mostly bypassing Hawaii. In the evening the system was really ramping up with 55 kt northwest winds positioned 850 nmiles west of San Francisco with seas 28 ft at 38N 142W and on the increase. Sat AM (3/31) 55 kt northwest winds were 500 nmiles off the Central CA coast with 37 ft seas at 37.5N 135W (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 at 35N 130W and the leading edge of the swell starting to impact the coast from Cape Mendocino south to nearly Pt Conception.
Large raw and unrefined swell is to be pushing into the Central CA coast at 4 AM Sunday (4/1) at 13.8 ft @ 17 secs (23-24 ft Hawaiian) coming from 272-275 degrees. Very raw and dangerous. Wind north 15 kts or more nearshore south of Pt Reyes.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (3/31) a front was pushing quickly through Central California with south winds and a short burst of heavy rain south of it and brisk west winds and high pressure building behind. Rain forecast down to San Diego late and 19 inches of snow for Tahoe through 4 AM Sunday. That is to be followed directly by strong high pressure (1030 mbs) on Sunday with rain clearing and north winds 25 kts 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) early then finally fading everywhere on Tuesday as a weak front tries to push up to North CA. Light rain moving to San Francisco late Tuesday evening. That front to fade while pushing south on Wednesday driving by low pressure off British Columbia. Rain to Morro Bay (a few inches of snow for Tahoe) and then high pressure is to be building in starting late Wednesday into Thursday (4/5) with northwest winds 5-10 kts north of Morro Bay and 20 kts from Pt Conception into Southern CA. Maybe some showers over North CA on Thursday. The same wind pattern to hold Friday then moderating Saturday (3/7) as supposedly a cutoff low moves towards the state.
At the surface in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.
Previously a 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: 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 on Monday fading from 3.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). 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 a double-barelleled high pressure system, one off CA at 1028 mbs and second over the dateline at 1032 mbs (on Wed 4/5) is to be in control and lumbering east. There are suggestions a cutoff low might form between the two high on Friday (3/6) with pressure 996 mbs and generating 40 kts winds and 22-24 ft seas, but that really stretches the limits of ones imagination. In short, things to get real quiet.
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 Saturday (3/31) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down hard to -23.50. The 30 day average was down to 2.04 (neutral) with the 90 day average down to 4.38. The latest pulse of the Active Phase of the MJO appears to be having some marked effects.
Current wind analysis indicated weak westerly anomalies were over the equator extending from the Indian Ocean to the dateline and even a bit east of there (170W). This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was in control. A week from now (4/8) the pattern is to continue with solid if not strong westerly anomalies building on the dateline by 4/3 and progressing eastward to 160We. This continues to look like a full-on Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) event could develop. This indicates that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is already gone and the Active Phase in full control of the West Pacific. The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/30 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 picking up on that change. But with the predicted WWB event, the upper atmosphere will likely have no choice but to respond to the change in the MJO, and that the storm track will follow a few days later. That said, it remains to be seen if the MJO really will have 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 4/13. 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