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 (4/18) North and Central CA was seeing local north windswell as the only swell source with waves chest high or so and cleaner than days previous but still a bit warbled, but not bad. Down in Santa Cruz waves were tiny at thigh to maybe waist high and clean. Southern California up north was thigh to maybe waist high and clean early, but just windswell. Down south waves were chest to head high on the sets coming from the southern hemi and relatively clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting another pulse of swell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and clean. The South Shore was thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Locally generated short period north windswell is the name of the game for Central and North California now with southern hemi swell the main source for Southern CA. Take what you can get cause the North Pacific is all but shut down. A cut-off low that was circulating over the dateline Mon-Tues (4/16) produced 18-20 ft seas, and that swell is hitting Hawaii now. And the models continue to suggest it will reorganize in the Western Gulf on Mon-Wed (4/24) generating more 18 ft seas aimed due south at Hawaii offering a hope for more windswell later next week but nothing for the US West Coast. A secondary fetch is also forecast for the dateline mid-next-week aimed well at Hawaii too but with only 17 ft seas. Doubtful anything rideable to result. Looking south, swell from a small gale that developed in the deep southeast Pacific Sunday AM (4/7) was hitting CA, but with less size than anticipated and fading and focused best on Southern CA. A pair of small gales developed on the very edge of the Southern CA swell window Sat (4/13) and Mon (4/15) with 38 ft and 28 ft seas respectively. Maybe some swell for Southern CA coming east of 180 degrees and then 184 degrees this weekend into early next week. But little of that making it further north than there. Beyond the model have taken a turn for the better with a new system forecast developing southeast of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) lifting northeast with seas 38 ft, but fading fast on Monday. So at least there's something to watch on the models. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (4/18) the jetstream was weak and fragmented, meandering off Japan with no particular organization dipping weakly into something that almost looked like a trough near the dateline then splitting with the northern branch rising and pushing into British Columbia and the southern branch tracking over Hawaii and then into Baja. But nowhere were winds even 110 kts meaning there was no support for low pressure much less gale development. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to ridge pretty firmly north from Japan reaching up to Kamchatka then falling into the same old weak trough just east of the dateline with winds not exceeding 100 kts. No real support for even low pressure development indicated. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to ridge hard tot he north over Kamchatka then start diving southeast falling into a building tough Sat (4/20) with 110 kt winds falling down into it and getting steeper Sunday, almost pinching off north of Hawaii on Monday but not, but with wind speed falling off. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to miraculously hold with 100 kt winds flowing through it centered just northwest of Hawaii mid-next week then getting cut off with energy flowing over it and the trough dissipating by Thursday (4/25). Some support for low pressure development likely.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (4/18) weak low pressure associated with the remnants of a cutoff low previously on the dateline (see Dateline Low below) was circulating just south of the Eastern Aleutians. No swell producing fetch was indicated. Otherwise high pressure at 1036 mbs remained centered 650 nmiles west of Pt Arena CA resulting in the usual springtime pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast generating 20 kt north winds over North CA pushing down the coast but west of nearshore water relative to Central and South CA. This fetch was producing local north short period windswell mainly for Central CA. The gradient/fetch to hold Friday then regenerate some for the weekend with winds up to 25 kts and sinking south some with fetch impacting the Central CA coast southward to near Pismo Beach (see QuikCASTs for surf details).
Easterly trades relative to Hawaii were blowing at 15-20 kts on Thursday (4/18) over a good sized area east of the Islands resulting in small easterly short period windswell along east facing shores and expected to hold steady over a decent sized fetch into late Friday. Limited short period east windswell possible on east facing shores. But by Saturday that fetch is to dissipate with winds falling below the critical 15 kts threshold. East windswell fading out.
Weak low pressure to continue circulating just south of the Eastern Aleutians and in the Western Gulf through the weekend, but no swell producing fetch is expected to result.
Swell from a cutoff low that was on the dateline started hitting Hawaii on Thurs (4/18). On Sunday evening a small fetch of 35 kt northwest winds generated 19 ft seas at 44N 172E targeting Hawaii. The fetch fell southeast Monday AM (4/15) with a marginally larger area of 20 ft seas at 42N 172E. By evening the fetch was fading from barely 30 kts with 18 ft seas fading at 37N 177E. Residual 18 ft seas were trying to hang on Tues AM (4/16) at 36N 177W. Small windswell pushed into Oahu on Thursday (4/18) peaking at 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft), then is expected to start fading by Fri AM dropping from 4.2 ft @ 12 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 315 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/18) high pressure at 1036 mbs was firmly in control of waters off California centered 600 nmiles west of Pt Arena CA generating a rather normal pressure gradient with 20 kt north winds pushing over the North CA coast and over and just offshore of Central and Southern CA. In all conditions were markedly improved from days past. The gradient to remain present but not strong Friday with winds over Cape Mendocino 20 kts out of the north and pulled away from the coast for Central and South CA. But by Saturday high pressure to start building some with 25 kt north winds taking root firmly just off all of North and Central CA and 20 kt winds extending south of Pt Conception mostly west of the Channel Islands. More of the same Sunday but with 25+ kt north winds focused a bit more near Cape Mendo and extending south to near Pt Conception, pulled just away from the coast, getting more that way as the day progresses and the gradient lifts north. Monday the gradient to hold with 25 kt north winds in control of Cape Mendocino with an eddy flow (or at least calm winds) in effect from Bodega Bay southward down into Southern CA. A very summer like pattern is expected. No real change forecast expected except winds building to 30 kts over North CA later Tuesday (4/23) with the eddy becoming more pronounced before the entire gradient collapses on Thurs (4/25).
Surface - Swell from a storm that built in the deep Southeast Pacific last weekend has peaked along the California coast with size less than hoped for, and is to be fading out by Friday (See Southeast Pacific Storm below). Swell from a pair of gales previously in the Southeast Pacific is pushing north mainly towards Southern CA (see below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours a new gale is forecast building south of New Zealand on Sat AM (4/20) generating a compact area of 50 kt west winds over ice free waters of the deep Southwest Pacific. Seas on the increase. By evening a decent fetch of 55 kt southwest winds are forecast producing seas to 40 ft at 62S 177W (204 degs CA and totally shadowed by Tahiti, 190 degs HI). On Sun AM (4/21) fetch is to be fading from 45 kts over a decent sized area aimed well to the northeast with seas 40 ft at 59S 164W (200 degs CA and partially shadowed, 181 degs Hawaii and aimed pretty east of the great circle tracks heading there). By evening fetch is to fading fast from 40 kts aimed well northeast with seas fading from 34 ft at 57S 155W (198 degs for CA and mostly unshadowed, east of any track to HI). If all goes as forecast a nice but filtered pulse of Southwest swell could result for California and south swell for Hawaii. It's something to monitor.
First Small Gale
On Friday evening (4/12) a tiny gale developed well off Southern Chile producing a tiny spec of 45 kt south winds and seas on the increase. By Sat AM (4/13) a small area of 50-55 kt south winds were in place lifting slightly north generating a tiny area of seas to 38 ft at 40S 110W. In the evening , fetch was fading fast from 45 kts and the gale was tracking due east now with seas from previous fetch fading from 36 ft at 37S 107W. This system was only in the Southern CA swell window (an of course Central and South America too). Some small longer period swell is likely pushing north targeting Southern CA.
Limited utility class swell is expected to start reaching Southern CA on Friday (4/19) pushing 1.6 ft @ 19 secs (3.0 ft) late. Swell to peak on Sat (4/20) at 2.3 ft @ 17 secs early (3.5-4.0 ft) holding through the day. Residuals on Sunday (4/21) at 2.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 174 degrees
Second Small Gale
A second small gale developed Sunday evening (4/14) producing a tiny fetch of 35-40 kt south winds in the deep Southeast Pacific aimed almost due north and pushing northeast. But by Monday AM (4/15) winds were already fading from 35 kts on the edge of the California swell window resulting in only 26 ft seas at 47S 127W aimed almost due north. By evening winds regenerated to 40 kts with seas building to barely 28 ft at 43S 126W again aimed almost due north or up the 184-186 degree path to California. By Tues AM (4/18) this system was all but gone.
Limited utility class swell is possible for Southern CA starting Mon (4/22) afternoon with swell building to 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft - likely a high estimate) building Tues AM (4/23) to 3 ft @ 15-16 secs early (4.5 ft). Swell fading Wed AM (4/24) from 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 186 degrees.
No other obvious swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Southeast Pacific Storm
On Sunday (4/7) a storm developed in the deep Southeast Pacific. 55 kt southwest winds were positioned just off Antarctica with seas 42 ft over a tiny area at 65S 137W aimed well up the 187 degree great circle path to SCal. The storm tracked northeast in the evening with southwest winds holding at 50-55 kts resulting in a small area of 43 ft seas at 62S 125W aimed 25 degrees east of the 184 degree great circle path to Southern CA. On Monday AM (4/8) the core of the fetch was east of any clear path to Southern CA but with lingering 40-45 kt southwest fetch still in-play resulting in 38 ft seas at 58S 120W aimed 20 degrees east of the 180 degree path to Southern CA. By evening the gale regenerated with 50 kt south winds just east of the Southern CA swell window and seas 34-36 ft at 55S 115W (178 degs SCal). By Tues AM (4/9) all fetch was clearly east of even the Southern CA swell window. A decent pulse of small significant class southern hemi swell is expected for most of California, favoring the south end of the state and doing better for Central America.
Northern CA: Remnants left on Friday fading from 1.8 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 176-182 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 low pressure in the Western Gulf is forecast to build some by Mon AM (4/22) generating a small fetch of north winds at 30 kts aimed due south towards Hawaii with seas building. By the evening near 35 kt north winds are forecast with seas building to 18 ft (at 06Z Tues) at 45N 163W. Fetch is to hold into Tues AM (4/23) with 18 ft seas holding at 44N 163W targeting the Islands well. Fetch to continue in the evening but covering less area with 18 ft seas falling south at 41N 164W. Fetch to be gone by Wed AM (4/24) with seas from previous fetch 18 ft at 45N 166W. Assuming all goes as forecast some degree of limited 10-11 sec period swell could result for Hawaii from 355+ degrees.
A secondary fetch tiny fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds is also forecast developing on the dateline Wed AM (4/24) producing 16 ft seas by evening at 40N 166E. Fetch to hold into the evening easing east with 16 ft seas moving to 38N 170E, then fading. next to no odds of noticeable swell reaching even Hawaii. It's something to monitor though.
Otherwise high pressure and the local pressure gradient is to hold over extreme North CA Mon-Thurs (4/25) generating 25-30 kt north winds off Cape Mendocino generating more short period north windswell for mainly Central CA. A eddy flow is forecast during that time for all of Central and Southern CA ushering in a very summer like local pattern.
No trades of 15 kts or greater are forecast relative to Hawaii. No easterly windswell if interest is forecast.
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 (4/18) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at 11.61. The 30 day average was up some to 6.38 with the 90 day average up slightly at 2.41. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent and a modest easterly flow over the dateline region continuing east to a point south of Hawaii. Near neutral anomalies if not slight west anomalies continued east from there into Central America. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was barely in-play but still present near the dateline. A week from now (4/26) weak east anomalies are forecast rebuilding over the Maritime Continent but fading to neutral over the dateline extending on the equator into Central America. This suggests a neutral Phase of the MJO is to likely be in-play.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/17 are back in agreement. Initially both suggest a dead neutral MJO pattern was occurring. But by 4 days out the projections diverge slightly with with the statistic model indicating a very minimal Active Phase of the MJO trying to get a toehold in the West Pacific extending to 10 days out (centered at 160E) while the dynamic model suggests an Inactive Phase in the exact same area for the exact same duration. The mostly likely outcome is no MJO at all for the next 2-3 weeks. This indicates a continuation of a weak MJO cycle and no support from it towards development of even a weak El Nino.
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 (4/18) a faint pool of slightly warmer water covers the north side of the equator from Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii with slightly cooler water over the same area south of the equator. A tiny thin current of markedly cold water continues tracking off the Central American coast to the Galapagos Islands, then dispersing making no western headway. A plume of lightly cooler than normal water continues radiating off the California coast tracking just southeast of Hawaii and barely making it to the equatorial dateline, typical of the effects of a somewhat stronger than normal East Pacific high pressure system. But it looks to have less coverage with every update. Suspect it will start growing again with the heavy burst of northerly winds being experienced along California the past 2 weeks. Subsurface waters temps continue indicating a weakening pool of cooler water (barely -1 deg C) in place at 125W and down 100 meters, blocking the transport path. In short, temperatures on the surface are not warming and the subsurface path, though not strongly blocked by cooler water, is not doing anything to transport warm water eastward, even if there was warm water to transport. And the coastal pattern off the US mainland suggests somewhat higher pressure and cooler water temps, all signs of a weak La Nina-like pattern.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 4/18 have stabilized. They suggest water temps peaked at Nino 3.4 in early April at (+0.6 degs C) and then a slow but steady downhill glide is forecast with temps bottoming out in August near normal (0.1 degs C), rebounding some in October (+0.2) on into Dec-Jan (+0.3). A consensus of all the other ENSO models suggest near normal water temps into Summer and early Fall 2013 with no warming indicated. We are in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier where accuracy of all the ENSO models is historically low. So for now the outcome is uncertain, but not trending towards anything that would be considered warm. Historically, if a warm water buildup indicative of any significant El Nino pattern were to occur, it would be starting to happen by now (normally would start building in Feb-Mar). That is clearly not the case for this year.
We are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than previous years (2010-2011 and 2011-2012) 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 reach over the dateline. The result was very westerly but reasonably sized utility class swells for the Islands with far smaller 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 Last Updated 10/6/12
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetchis 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table