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 (4/27) North and Central CA had surf at thigh high, crumbled and weak with a light southerly flow adding some texture. Down in Santa Cruz waves were knee high and clean - basically flat but with no wind. Southern California up north was knee high on the sets and clean and weak. Down south southern hemi swell was fading out with the last dribbles showing at waist high, weak but at least it was clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with North Pacific swell finally gone. The South Shore had a few little waves in the waist high range with some chest high plus sets at top breaks and quite clean early. The East Shore was getting minimal east tradewind windswell with waves thigh high and clean early.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
One last little pulse of swell from low pressure that's been hanging northwest of the Hawaiian Islands for a week now is to move into Oahu by Sunday (4/28). But after that the North Pacific is to go into hibernation, with virtually no swell producing fetch forecast again til the Fall. It's been a fun winter, though nothing exceptional. Relative to California, no swell of any kinda, be it southern hemi swell or local windswell was occurring. Fortunately a short burst of local north windswell is suggested for the first half of the workweek. But then fading to calm for the second half of the week. Looking south, a small short-lived storm formed southeast of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) lifting northeast with seas 36 ft, then faded fast on Monday. Swell is radiating northeast with some energy expected for Hawaii by Sunday (4/28) and then pushing into California for early next week. But no other swell producing systems are forecast behind. So unless more windswell magically appears on the charts, things are going to get tough. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
No easterly trades of interest relative to Hawaii are forecast for the next 72 hours with low pressure still lingering in the Western Gulf suppressing high pressure activity near the Islands.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (4/27) weak low pressure associated with a long lasting cutoff low retrograded some and was just east of the dateline but was producing no winds greater than 15 kts aimed at either Hawaii or the US West Coast. Weak high pressure at 1028 mbs was well off Northern CA doing nothing in terms of producing a gradient along the coast, therefore offering no support for local north windswell development for California. With the low near the dateline, trades continued suppressed relative to Hawaii offering no easterly trading windswell. A gale was circulating over the Southern Kuril Islands producing a small fetch of 30-35 kt west winds and expected to hold into Sunday AM but making zero easterly headway, with seas barely hitting 20 ft over a tiny area there. No odds for even background swell to reach the Hawaiian Islands given the resulting period will be 13 secs (decaying away on the 2800 nmile journey east along the 305 degree great circle path). Over the next 72 hours the Gulf low is to ease northeast, build slightly Monday (4/29) into Tues AM producing 20-25 kt northwest winds and 11 ft seas aimed at Hawaii, then fade while racing into Alaska. Maybe some minimal windswell in the 2-3 ft @ 9 sec range (2.0-2.5 ft) to result for the Islands mid-week.
High pressure is to start building 600 nmiles off Cape Mendocino CA on Sun (4/28) at 1028 mbs generating a weak pressure gradient along the North CA coast generating 20+ kt north winds possibly setting up minimal short period local north windswell at exposed breaks mainly in Central CA at that time. The gradient is to get slightly better defined on Monday (4/29) with winds to 25 kts pushing from Cape Mendocino south to San Francisco and then pushing 30 kt late evening peaking Tuesday AM (4/30) at 35 kts with 20 kt fetch reaching south to a point off the Channel Islands. The strongest of the gradient is to be a bit pulled back from the coast, especially later in the day. Wednesday (5/1) the gradient is to start fading but with winds still 35 kts early and well pulled away from the Central Coast with and eddy flow in effect. By Thursday (5/2) the gradient is to be effectively gone with winds turning northeast and down to 20 kts pushing away from the CA coast.
Hawaii Cutoff Low - On Wed AM (4/24) the semi-permanent cut-off low east of the dateline pulsed again producing 30-35 kt west winds in it's south quadrant by the evening aimed well at Hawaii with 17 ft seas building at 39N 173E (312 degs HI). Fetch held into Thurs AM (4/25) with 19-20 ft seas indicated at 38N 173W (327 degs HI). Fetch was fading fast by the evening with 17 ft seas fading at 40N 168W and not aimed well at the Islands.
Limited windswell likely building for Hawaii by Sat near sunset at 2.4 ft @ 13 secs (3 ft faces) building overnight peaking Sun AM (4/28) at 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 310-315 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (4/27) high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 700 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino CA and trying to move east but not doing much yet. A light northerly wind flow was drifting down the North and Central coasts, expected to build to 15 kts by late afternoon as high pressure moves a bit closer. By Sunday that high is to be 1028 mbs and 600 nmiles off the North Coast with a weak gradient starting to build with north winds 20 kts over all of North CA, pushing 25 kts late, and holding if not building to near 30 kts late on Monday, then 35 kts Tuesday AM (4/30). But the worst of this fetch is to remain well away from nearshore waters of Central CA and clear of Southern CA. By Wednesday AM 35 kt north winds to persist over Northern CA as the fetch pushes away from the Central Coast with a full eddy flow back in play, but with north winds in the gradient starting to fade late. Thursday the gradient is to be gone with a weak eddy flow in play for the entire state. Friday (5/3) a weak northerly flow to set up at maybe 10 kts holding into next Saturday.
Jetstream - On Saturday (4/27) the jet was diving southeast under New Zealand riding hard into Antarctica and continuing inland until 120W, on the eastern edge of the CA swell window, when it finally tracked northeast forming a trough off the southern coast of Chile but with winds only 100 kts, and of no interest to anyone. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to moderate but be replaced with a weak split flow with the southern branch meandering west to east along roughly the 50S latitude with winds 100 kts in pockets, then consolidating at 120W and eventually pushing into Southern Chile. No troughs capable of supporting gale development were indicated. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast but with a bit of a trough trying to develop under New Zealand on Fri (5/3) with 110 kts winds pushing up into it, offering some support for low pressure development. But that to be fading over the weekend while a new ridge builds over the Central South Pacific with 120 kts winds pushing south in it. Also a bit of a trough is forecast again east at 120W, but no support for gale development is immediately indicated.
Surface - On Saturday (4/27) a new swell was pushing northeast from a storm that was south of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) (see New Zealand Storm below). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems were occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.
New Zealand Storm
A new gale started 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. The Jason-1 satellite made a pass over the fetch and reported seas 29.9 ft with one reading to 33.0 ft where the model indicated barely 30 ft at 63S 173E (18Z). By evening a decent fetch of 50 kt southwest winds were building producing seas to 32 ft at 62S 177W (204 degs CA and totally shadowed by Tahiti, 190 degs HI). On Sun AM (4/21) fetch was fading from 45 kts over a decent sized area aimed well to the northeast with seas 36 ft at 61S 167W (202 degs CA and partially shadowed, 184 degs Hawaii and aimed pretty east of the great circle tracks heading there). The Jason-1 satellite passed directly over the core of the fetch at 18Z and reported seas of 36.0 ft with one reading to 40.4 ft. This was exactly what the model predicted. By evening fetch held at 45 kts aimed well northeast with seas holding at 36 ft at 60S 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 40 kt south fetch was still in-play with seas from previous fetch fading from 30 ft at 57S 150W (195 degs CA and unshadowed). At 18Z the Jason-1 satellite passed near the core of the fetch reporting seas 30.2 ft with one reading to 35.1 ft, a bit better than what the model predicted. In the evening residual 35-40 kt south fetch was fading generating 26-30 ft seas at 50S 150W (297 degs CA and unshadowed).
On Tuesday (4/23) a secondary fetch developed producing a small area of 45 kt south winds generating 34 ft seas over an infinitesimal area at 51S 140W pushing flat east. Limited energy was tracking up the 194 degree path to California. By evening that fetch was starting to fall southeast with southerly winds still 45 kts and seas 37 ft at 52S 131W (188 degs CA), but the southeastward movement of the fetch severely limited northward propagation of the swell. Additional 35 kt southerly fetch developed on Wed AM (4/24) briefly pulsing to 45 kt in the evening resulting in 30 ft sea at 48S 128W aimed somewhat to the north. More sideband swell pushing up into the California swell window from 186 degrees. But most energy was aimed at Chile.
A nice but filtered pulse of southwest swell is expecting to result for California and south sideband swell for Hawaii. additional follow-on energy with less energy is also to push up into California.
Hawaii: Expect preliminary swell (from a earlier fetch) arriving on Saturday (4/27) with pure swell 1.6 ft @ 15 secs late (2.5 ft). The core swell to arrive starting Sunday (4/28) pushing 2 ft @ 17-18 secs late (3.0-3.5 ft faces). Swell holding Mon (4/29) at 2.1-2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) on into Tues (4/30) at 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading on Wed (5/1) from 2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 181-189 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (4/29) with pure swell maybe 1.6 ft @ 20 secs at sunset (3 ft) and inconsistent). Swell building some on Tues (4/30) with swell building to 2.6 ft @ 18 secs near sunset (4.5 ft). Swell holding Wednesday at 3.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.0-5.5 ft with sets to 6.5 ft at top spots). Swell fading Thursday (5/2) from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5 ft). Residuals fading on Friday (5/3) with swell dropping from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5+ ft). Background energy fading out Sat (5/4) at 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195-202 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (4/29) with pure swell maybe 1.0 ft @ 20 secs at sunset (2 ft) and very inconsistent). Swell building some on Tues (4/30) with swell building to 2.0 ft @ 19 secs near sunset (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell building Wed (5/1) to 2.3 ft @ 17 secs late (4 ft with sets to 5 ft at top spots). Swell holding Thurs (5/2) at 2.8 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell fading Fri (5/3) from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5+ ft). Residuals dissipating Sat (5/4) from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 193-201 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 the cutoff low north of Hawaii is to push into Alaska Tues-Wed (5/1) generating no fetch greater than 20 kts aimed at the US West Coast. No swell generating expected.
No local windswell producing gradient activity is forecast along the California coast.
No trades of 15 kts or greater are forecast relative to Hawaii until Thurs (5/2) when low pressure hanging north of the Islands finally moves out of the area, with high pressure trying to get a better foothold. At that time 15 kt trades to develop, but then fade by late Friday (5/3). Maybe some minimal east windswell to start building along east facing shores.
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 (4/27) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -14.21. The 30 day average was down some to 4.43 with the 90 day average down too at 2.00. Overall this is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent extending east to the dateline on into Central America. This appeared to indicate the Inactive Phase of the MJO was gone. A week from now (5/5) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent and dateline continuing neutral east of there extending on the equator into Central America. This suggests a neutral phase of the MJO is likely to remain in-play.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/26 are in general agreement. Initially both suggest a dead neutral MJO pattern was in control of the equatorial Pacific. A slight turn to a very weak Inactive Phase is possible 5 day out building some 8 days from now with both models suggesting weak suppressed precipitation. It's to linger just west of the dateline through 15 days out, but covering a mostly small area. Interesting but in the Eastern Indian Ocean one model suggests the Active Phase building 10 days out while the other suggests the Inactive Phase in control. Clearly neither model has a clue what's going to occur longer term. Best guess is a continued pattern of the atmosphere being slightly biased towards a very weak Inactive Phase. But over-all we expect a continuation of a weak MJO cycle with no support 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 (4/25) 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 slightly 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. And it looks like it's gotten cooler, the result of a prolonged burst of northerly winds previously over the CA coast. Subsurface waters temps on the equator continue indicating a stable pool of cooler water (barely -2 deg C) in place at 150W and down 130 meters, blocking the transport path. A small pocket of slight warmer water appears to be backing up in the West Pacific suggestive of La Nina. It's all shades of gray though. 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 4/23 have stabilized. They indicate water temps peaked at Nino 3.4 in early April at (+0.6 degs C) and are slowly falling expected to bottom out in May near normal (+0.1 degs C) and holding there into Jan 2014 (0.0 degs). 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. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014.
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
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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
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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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table