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 Tuesday (4/30) North and Central CA had local northwest windswell surging with waves 2-3 ft overhead and warbled and pretty much blown out, but with some size. Cleaner at the usual protected summer spots. Down in Santa Cruz waves were waist to maybe chest high with bigger sets at top spots and clean - a mix of local windswell and rare southern hemi energy. Southern California up north was waist high and clean with some bigger sets, but all looking like windswell. Down south southern hemi swell was trying to move in but still very rare, with sets waist high or so and lightly textured. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high or so and clean, with some rideable lines still pulsing through. The South Shore had some New Zealand swell still hanging around with waves waist high and reasonably clean, but nothing much to talk about.The East Shore was near flat with tradewind windswell maybe knee to thigh high and nearly chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
In the North Pacific low pressure that's been stalled northwest of the Hawaiian Islands for over a week is to continue to produce small but rideable windswell through the coming weekend (5/5), then fading out. After that the North Pacific is to go to sleep. Relative to California local north windswell is to continue in some form, biggest through Wed (5/1) then smaller but still rideable through the early weekend, then dropping out. 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 has already hit and is fading in Hawaii and is stating to arrive in California, good for rideable surf through the end of the workweek. Otherwise no swell producing weather systems are forecast behind. Take what you can get now. Details below...
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (4/30) weak low pressure located just east of the dateline and south of the Aleutians was still circulating but producing only 20 kt west winds aimed somewhat at Hawaii, with most fetch aimed at Japan and points north of there. Seas were only 12-14 ft aimed at Hawaii, which will decay significantly before arriving there. Still, there some suggestion of a small pulse of windswell arriving on Oahu late Sat (5/4) into Sun (5/5) peaking at 3.3 ft @ 11 secs (3.5 ft faces).
High pressure at 1032 mbs was centered off Oregon of producing a solid gradient along the North CA coast generating 30-35 kt north winds and generating sizable local north short period windswell. Over the next 72 hours the gradient is expected to peak Tues PM (4/30) generating 35 kt north winds with 20 kt fetch reaching south to a point off the Channel Islands. The strongest of the gradient is to start pulling away from the coast later in the day. By Wednesday (5/1) the gradient is to start fading but with winds still 30 kts early and pulled well away from the Central Coast with an eddy flow in effect. The gradient to fade more as the winds continue to move away from the coast. By Thursday AM (5/2) the gradient is to be effectively gone with winds turning northeast and down to 20 kts tracking away from the CA coast. Windswell fading (see QuikCASTs for details).
Over the next 72 hours 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 mid-Friday (5/3). Maybe some minimal east windswell to start building along east facing shores for Thurs-Fri, but nothing remarkable.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (4/30) high pressure at 1032 mbs was centered 500 nmiles west of Central Oregon and ridging into British Columbia. A strong pressure gradient was driving 35 kt north winds down the North CA coast, generating larger north windswell and pretty raw conditions at exposed breaks mainly north of Monterey Bay. By Wednesday AM 35 kt north winds to persist over Northern CA but the fetch is to start easing away from the Central Coast with a full eddy flow back in play by mid-AM, and with north winds in the gradient starting to fade late AM fading from 30 kts. 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. Interestingly low pressure is to set up over Central CA by late Saturday with a light west winds flow (10 kts) pushing down into Southern CA too and then winds turning southwest on Sunday building to 15+ kts over Central CA as the low drops to 1004 mbs and closes off located 250 nmiles west of Monterey Bay. Southern CA to be seeing southwest winds at 5-10 kts. The low to slowly dissipate off the Central CA coast Monday into early Tuesday with southwest to south winds slowly dissipating.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (4/30) the jet was narrowly split with both streams tracking flat east. Winds in the southern branch were barley 120kts in one pocket with no troughs indicated. No support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with maybe a slight ridge building under New Zealand and a slight trough trying to develop in the far Southeast Pacific on Fri (5/3). No support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours the ridge to build and push southeast reaching the Antarctic Ice Sheet by Sun (5/5) locking things down from storm development in the east. But at the same time a bit of a trough is to start building under New Zealand with 140 kts southeast winds building and feeding into it by Tues (5/7). Some moderate support for gale development possible.
Surface - On Tuesday (4/30) swell from a storm previously south of New Zealand on Sun (4/21) was passing Hawaii and making inroads into California (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: Swell fading on Wed (5/1) from 2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 181-189 degrees
South CA: 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: 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 no large scale swell producing fetch areas of interest are forecast.
No local windswell producing gradient activity is forecast along the California coast. In fact, a small local low pressure system is forecast pushing off the North and Central Coast on Saturday (5/3) pausing off the coast Sunday generating a light southerly flow at 15 kts, then moving back onshore late Monday. If anything, it will suppress local north windswell development. A rather placid pattern is forecast over the Eastern Pacific. Interestingly, a small low is forecast developing in the Gulf of Alaska north of Hawaii on Monday (5/6) tracking east with west winds to 25 kt on Tues (5/7) targeting the US West Coast. This is likely a fantasy of the models than something that will develop.
No trades of 15 kts or greater are forecast relative to Hawaii beyond 72 hours.
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 Tuesday (4/30) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down at -16.59. The 30 day average was down a fair amount at 1.33 with the 90 day average down too at 1.62. 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. If anything there was a slight tendency towards westerly anomalies west of the dateline and east anomalies east of the dateline, but all very minimal. A neutral MJO pattern appeared to be in control. A week from now (5/8) strong east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading some on the dateline then rebuilding some east of there extending along the equator mid-way to Central America. This suggests a building Inactive Phase of the MJO is possible.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/29 are in general agreement. Initially both suggest a weak Inactive MJO pattern was in control of the far West Pacific. It is forecast to build some 4 and 8 days out but with the dynamic model being more aggressive in that buildup than then statistical model. Even 15 days out it is to still be in-place, having migrated east to the dateline, but fading. Both models now suggest that in the Eastern Indian Ocean the Active Phase is to be building starting 8 days out and moving east. This makes sense suggesting first the Inactive Phase taking control of the West Pacific for early May, followed by the Inactive maybe by the later half of the month. So assuming all this comes to pass, it would suggest a return to a stronger MJO cycle. but the jury is still out as to whether that is what will really develop, or whether the models are just overhyping what has generally been a very weak MJO signal this year.
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 (4/29) a faint pool of slightly warmer water covers the north side of the equator from Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii with cooler water building 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, and is now getting some traction easing west of the Galapagos.It's not enough to call it a real La Nina cold pool yet, but it is starting to evolve in that direction. 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 (-1 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 4/30 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). A slight rebound to the +0.2 degree C level is possible over the summer, and holding there into Jan 2014. 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 fetch is forecast until late Monday (5/6) when a storm is forecast to start developing while tracking under New Zealand moving into and upper level trough producing a small area of 50 kt southwest winds down at the surface and seas building from 30 ft. Tues AM (5/7) the storm is to track northeast pushing up into the South Pacific with winds fading from 40 kts and seas to 32 ft at 55S 180W. A broad area of 35 kt southwest winds is forecast in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 54S 177W. Maybe some swell to develop if one is to believe the models targeting Hawaii best. Will monitor.
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
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table