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 (4/20) North and Central CA was looking like summer time with only locally generated north windswell in the water at waist to maybe chest high and almost clean but weak and warbled and uninteresting. Down in Santa Cruz waves were flat and clean with no windswell wrapping in and no southern hemi swell sneaking in. Southern California up north was thigh high on the sets and warbled and weak early, pure windswell. Down south southern hemi swell was evident with waves chest high plus on the sets and relatively clean early and well lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was getting local north windswell with waves waist high or so and clean but weak. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at shoulder to head high and lightly chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Very small locally generated short period north windswell of a summer time theme was all that Central and North California was seeing from the North Pacific. But very southerly angled southern hemi swell was starting to build in for Southern CA and expected to work it's way north over the weekend into next week. An incessant cut-off low continued circulating in the Western Gulf of Alaska aimed due south at Hawaii, though not strong enough to generate swell just yet. But it is to pulse Mon-Tues (4/23) perhaps generating 15 ft seas and offering a hope for more windswell later next week (4/25) but nothing for the US West Coast. A secondary fetch also remains forecast for the dateline mid-next-week aimed well at Hawaii too but with only 18 ft seas. Maybe something tiny to result. But in all the North Pacific is going to sleep for the summer. Looking south, 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. Some new swell from the first of these gale is starting to show in Southern CA coming from less than 180 degrees, with the second expected from 184 degrees early next week. But little of that swell is to make it north of Point Conception except at the most exposed breaks. Beyond the models suggest a new system forming southeast of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) lifting northeast with seas 38 ft, but fading fast on Monday. So at least there's one more system to pin our hopes on for something rideable. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (4/20) the jetstream was weak and meandering, ridging hard north off Japan over Kamchatka and well into the Bering Sea before dipping south over the dateline and falling into a trough just east of the dateline before splitting weakly with the northern branch rising and pushing up into British Columbia while the southern branch tracked just south of Hawaii and eventually into Baja. Winds were 90-100 kts in the trough east of the dateline offering no real support for anything other than weak low pressure at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to hold with winds falling into it building to 100-110 kts on Sunday (4/21) and holding into Tuesday, then fading as the trough gets cutoff with most energy in the northern branch tracking east through the Bering Sea falling southeast through inland Canada. Limited support for low pressure development indicated. Beyond 72 hours the part of the jet ridging through the Bering Sea is to eventually wither and die by Fri (4/26) with a rather interesting flat flow of 100 kt winds taking shape tracking from Japan over the dateline and into Northern CA. No troughs of interest forecast though with no support for low pressure development indicated.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (4/20) exceedingly weak low pressure associated with a cutoff low previously on the dateline was circulating in the Western Gulf of Alaska but no swell producing fetch was indicated. Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs remained centered 650 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA resulting in a modest springtime pressure gradient along the North and Central CA coast generating 25 kt north winds just along the Central CA coast producing local north short period windswell mainly for Central CA and exposed breaks in Southern CA. The gradient is to slide north Sunday (4/21) generating a broader fetch of 25 kt north winds off North CA down to Monterey Bay early and retreating northward through the day with almost a summer time eddy flow developing for Central CA. This pattern to hold through Wed (4/24) before completely dissipating later in the workweek and holding next weekend. Rideable local north short period windswell the expected result for the early half of next week mainly for Central CA and then fading even there by Thurs (4/25), gone for the weekend (see QuikCAST's for surf details).
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. By Mon AM (4/22) the low is to surge some generating a small fetch of north winds at 25-30 kts aimed due south towards Hawaii with seas building to 15 ft. By the evening 25-30 kt north winds to hold with seas still 15 ft at 40N 164W. Fetch is to hold into Tues AM (4/23) with 14 ft seas fading at 38N 164W targeting the Islands well. Fetch to be gone by the evening with no additional swell production capacity indicated. Assuming all goes as forecast some degree of limited 10 sec period north windswell (~3-4 ft) could result for Hawaii from 330+ degrees by Wed (4/24).
No easterly trades of interest relative to Hawaii are forecast for the next 72 hours with low pressure in the Western Gulf suppressing high pressure activity near the Islands.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (4/20) modest high pressure at 1030 mbs remained in control of waters off California centered 600 nmiles west of Pt Arena CA generating a rather normal pressure gradient with 20-25 kt north winds pushing over the North and Central CA coast, pretty typical for the time of year. By evening the high pressure system is to start ridging into the Pacific Northwest with the gradient shifting north centered over Cape Mendocino with winds still 25 kts and 20 kt winds pushing down to waters just off Pt Conception and beyond the Channel Islands. More of the same Sunday with 25 kt north winds focused near Cape Mendo and extending south to near Pt Conception, pulling away from the coast as the day progresses. 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 as the eddy becomes more pronounced through Wednesday. Then Thursday (4/25) the entire gradient begins to collapse fading through Friday with no north fetch and southerly eddy winds dissipating. By Saturday only a light northerly flow is forecast pushing down the CA coast at 10 kts.
Surface - On Saturday AM (4/20) the first of two swells from a pair of gales previously in the Southeast Pacific was hitting Southern CA (see below). Otherwise a new storm was building south of New Zealand (See New Zealand Storm below). Over the next 72 hours only the New Zealand storm is to be occurring. No other swell sources are forecast.
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 started hitting Southern CA on Friday (4/19). 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.
New Zealand Gale
A new gale was building south of New Zealand on Sat AM (4/20) generating a compact area of 45 kt west winds over ice free waters of the deep Southwest Pacific. Seas on the increase. By evening a decent fetch of 50 kt southwest winds are forecast producing seas to 34 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 38 ft at 60S 167W (202 degs CA and partially shadowed, 184 degs Hawaii and aimed pretty east of the great circle tracks heading there). By evening fetch is to fading fast from 45 kts aimed well northeast with seas fading from 38 ft at 59S 158W (199 degs for CA and mostly unshadowed, 181 degs HI but mostly aimed east of any track there). By Mon AM (4/22) residual 35 kt south fetch is to still be in-play with seas from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 57S 150W (195 degs CA and unshadowed). All fetch is to be gone after that. If all goes as forecast a nice but filtered pulse of Southwest swell could result for California and south swell for Hawaii. It's getting closer to being a reality.
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 secondary fetch tiny fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds are forecast developing west of the dateline Tues PM (4/23) becoming more pronounced by Wed AM (4/24) producing 17 ft seas near 43N 168E and up to 18 ft in the evening at 40N 173E. On Thursday (4/25) the low is to move over the dateline and become slightly better organized but only producing 25 kt west-northwest winds but aimed well at Hawaii. 17-18 ft seas forecast at 38N 180W. Winds to build to 30 kts Thurs PM into Fri AM (4/26) with 20 ft seas forecast Fri AM at 42N 172W aimed due west, then quickly fading as the gale starts lifting northeast and dissipating. Given that all this is still 5+ days from forming, odds of anything actually developing are low. It's something to monitor for fun though.
No trades of 15 kts or greater are forecast relative to Hawaii with low pressure hanging north of the Islands, suppressing high pressure development and therefore trades. No easterly windswell of 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 Saturday (4/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was dropping some at -8.00. The 30 day average was down some to 6.19 with the 90 day average was down slightly at 2.31. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent and dateline regions fading to neutral east of there and continuing on into Central America. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was trying to hold on over the Western Pacific. A week from now (4/27) near neutral anomalies with only a slight easterly component are forecast 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 4/19 are in agreement. Initially both suggest the weakest hint of an Inactive Phase of the MJO was occurring centered over Indonesia . But by 4 days out the projections diverge slightly with with the statistic model indicating it fading some then barely returning 8 and 15 days out, but never getting good exposure in the West Pacific.The dynamic model suggests this weak Inactive Phase to move a bit further east into the West Pacific 4 days out, then dying completely with a full neutral pattern forecast through 15 days out. The mostly likely outcome is no real MJO signal or slightly biased towards a very weak Inactive Phase 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 4/20 have stabilized. They indicate water temps peaked at Nino 3.4 in early April at (+0.6 degs C) and are forecast to begin a slow but steady downhill glide bottoming out in August near normal (+0.1 degs C), rebounding some in October (+0.2) and holding into Dec-Jan (+0.2). 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/
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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