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.
On Thursday (7/10) in North and Central CA local windswell was producing surf in the thigh to waist high range and warbled if not chopped from southerly winds except at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was all but gone with only occasional thigh to waist high sets coming through and clean in kelp protected areas. In Southern California up north windswell was producing waves in the thigh high range with clean conditions early. Down south residual southern hemi swell was producing waves in the waist to maybe chest high range on the sets and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small with Tasman Sea swell producing waves in the waist to maybe chest high range and clean. Trade wind generated east windswell was producing waves at waist high and chopped at exposed breaks on the East Shore.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
No swell producing fetch is occurring or forecast for the North Pacific other than local windswell and limited to North and Central CA. That said tiny energy from what was Super Typhoon Neoguri was tracking northeast expected to reach Hawaii on Sat (7/12) and North CA on Sun (7/13) continuing for a few days. The models suggest another strong Typhoon to develop in the same area following a similar path in the week ahead. In the southern hemisphere a small gale developed off the northwestern tip of New Zealand on Thurs (7/3) with 30 ft seas, setting up small swell which is currently hitting Hawaii with tidbits from it expected to reach into the US West Coast by the weekend. And a slightly broader but still small and weak gale developed southeast of New Zealand late on Sun (7/6) pushing hard northeast on Mon-Tues (7/8) with 30 ft seas aimed northeast towards Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. But after that, nothing is forecast with high pressure in control of the upper atmosphere.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (7/10) trades were 15 kts fairly continuously within 1000 nmiles east of the Hawaiian Islands offering limited support for generation of easterly windswell along east facing shores there. Weak high pressure was in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska generating a weak pressure gradient along the Oregon and extreme North California coasts producing a small area of 20 kt north winds limited to Cape Mendocino resulting in small north short period windswell radiating south into Central CA.
Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to develop in the Northern Gulf of Alaska cutting the legs off of the Northern Pacific High with north winds fading to nil off North CA and Oregon on Friday and Saturday (7/12) with the usual summer time north local windswell dropping out. Once the low fades on Sunday (7/13) high pressure is to start trying to re-establish itself, but the gradient is to be focused on Pt Conception initially, not lifting into Northern CA until Monday. No windswell for North and Central CA until then.
Easterly trades relative to Hawaii to fade in coverage on Friday (7/11) and then hold through the weekend, but not out with a smaller more southward di.cgiaced fetch of easterly trades at 15 kts continuing to produce very limited east windswell for exposed east shores. Interesting, but a new high pressure system is to try and start building over the dateline Fri (7/11) easing east, but is to start fading late Sunday as the remnants of Typhoon Neoguri paired with other low pressure theoretically try and regenerate on the North Dateline region then tracking east. The net result is to be the general suppression of trades relative to Hawaii by late in the weekend. This is again suggestive of a upper level pattern somewhat influenced by a developing El Nino and supportive of low pressure in on the dateline. This is exactly what one would want to see occurring in the July timeframe if El Nino were to be coming to fruition.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Typhoon Neoguri's remnants were fading just south and off the coast of Kyoto Japan tracking east-northeast with winds 40 kts, and fading. Non-tropical low pressure associated with Neoguri to track north over the weekend positioned just west of Kamchatka on Sun (7/13) with it's upper circulation then progressing rapidly east and potentially redeveloping some over the Northern Dateline region on Tues (7/15) then pushing into the Western Gulf on Wed (7/16). 20 kt westerly fetch to develop, but not strong enough to produce swell. But the fact that this system is to redevelop at all, after taking a rather horrid route through the Kurils and over Kamchatka, suggests something favorable is occurring in the upper atmosphere over the North Pacific. but, this is just a projection. It's worth monitoring just to see what actually occurs. Of note: We use North Pacific jetstream positioning in July as one indicator of what might occur for the coming Fall and Winter months for the North Pacific. This situation would fall positively into that category.
Neoguri got no clean exposure to North Pacific waters other than the time it was east of Taiwan on Mon AM (7/7) with seas estimated at 40 ft at 22 N 127E (284 degs HI, 298 degs NCal). Small sideband swell with period 17 secs is possible for Hawaii starting Sat (7/12) at 1.0 ft @ 17 secs (1.5 ft) with slightly more direct energy for North CA on Sun (7/13) at 1.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (2 ft) and continuing for several days (see QuikCASTs for details).
The models continue to suggest a new tropical disturbance is to start developing 1200 nmiles east of the Central Philippines on Fri (7/11) following a route and development pattern very similar to Neoguri, through somewhat smaller in areal coverage. Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (7/10) high pressure was 1026 mbs off Northern California with a weak gradient of north winds at 20 kts in.cgiace over Cape Mendocino waters with an eddy flow in control from Pt Arena southward. The gradient and any winds are to fade to nil for Friday and Saturday (7/12) except north winds building over Pt Conception to 20 kts late. That north flow at 15 kts to build in coverage Sunday but still centered over Pt Conception then lifting rapidly north Monday with 25 kt north winds again in .cgiay over Cape Mendocino Tues (7/15) with an eddy flow taking over Central and South CA again. And eddy flow to hold nearshore for through Thurs 97/17) with 15 kt north winds positioned well off the North CA coast.
Jetstream - On Thursday (7/10) the southern branch of the jet remained in a zonal configuration running flat west to east and di.cgiaced south on the 70S latitude line if not further south and running across the width of the South Pacific. A new broad batch of 110 kt winds were building in the flow in the Southwest Pacific suggestive of a new ridge building there. No troughing was indicated anywhere across the South Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the ridge is to sweep east down at 70S with winds 120-130 kts actively eliminating any odds for trough formation. And yet another reinforcing pulse of wind energy is to develop in the southern branch on Sat (7/12) with velocity to 140 kts continuing the lockdown on the upper atmosphere while tracking east. Beyond 72 hours winds to abate some by Mon (7/14) but still di.cgiaced southward and zonally configured,offering no support for trough formation and therefore gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. And yet more winds energy is to be building under New Zealand on Thurs (7/17) likely reinforcing the existing lockdown beyond.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (7/10) swell from Storm #2S was fading over California. Tiny swell from a small gale that was in the Tasman Sea is hitting Hawaii but on the down swing, bound now for the US West Coast but tiny in size (see Tasman Sea Gale below). Swell from another small gale that developed east of New Zealand is in the water pushing towards Tahiti, Hawaii and California (see New Zealand Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a pair of cutoff gales are forecast developing and tracking east from a point 1200 nmiles south of Tahiti. The first formed on Wed PM (7/9) peaking Thurs AM (7/10) with 28-30 ft seas over a tiny area at 40S 130W all aimed due east towards Chile and tracking flat east. No swell expected to radiate north up into our forecast area. A second similar system is forecast developing Sat (7/12) in the same area with 38 ft seas aimed south over a tiny area at 35S 140W tracking east-southeast and fading, again targeting Chile and Peru.
Tasman Sea Gale
A small gale was trying to organize in the Tasman Sea on Wed PM (7/2) with 40 kt winds aimed north over a tiny area and seas building from 24 ft at 40S 164E. On Thurs AM (7/3) 40 kt south winds built in coverage with seas up to nearly 30 ft over a tiny area at 36S 168E. This system peaked 6 hours later (18Z) with 30 ft seas at 33S 171E (209 degs HI and partially shadowed by Fiji, 230 degs NCal, 232 degs SCal). Fetch was fading fast in the evening from 40 kts with 28 ft seas fading at 30S 174E. Swell has already past Fiji and Hawaii, with a little energy possible for the US West Coast with luck.
California: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (7/12) with period 17 secs peaking late with pure swell 1.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (2 ft). Swell fading Sunday (7/13) from 1.4 ft @ 15 secs early (2 ft). Swell Direction: 230 degs NCal, 232 degs SCal.
New Zealand Gale
A gale developed south of New Zealand on Sun PM (7/6) with southwest winds building from 45 kts over a small area and seas to 28 ft at 59S 175E. A decent fetch of 40 kt south-southwest winds built Mon AM (7/7) pushing well to the northeast with seas building to 26 ft at 54S 175W. In the evening fetch was holding at 40 kts still aimed north-northeast with seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 46S 170W (214 degs SCal and shadowed, 211 NCal and barely shadowed, 188 degrees Hawaii). By Tues AM (7/8) south winds were fading from 35 kts with 28 ft seas fading over a tiny area at 39S 162W. This system dissipated after that. A decent pulse of swell to result for Tahiti with small energy for Hawaii and smaller and shadowed energy for California.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sun (7/13) with swell building to 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (4 ft) late. Swell building into Mon AM (7/14) reaching 3.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.8 ft) and holding. Swell fading Tues (7/15) from 3.1 ft @ 14-15 secs early (4.5 ft). Residuals on Wed (7/16) fading from 2.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 188 degrees
California: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Wed noon (7/16) with period 17 secs and size building reaching 1.8 ft @ 16 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell peaking at 2.0 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft) early Thurs (7/17). Residuals expected on Friday (7/18). Swell Direction: 211 NCal and 214 degs SCal.
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 high pressure is to reestablish in the Northeastern Gulf on Mon (7/14) forming the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino with north winds there 25 kts over a small area generating small northerly short period windswell radiating down the North and Central CA coast holding into Tues (7/15). But that gradient to be fading late Tuesday and all but gone on Wednesday as the remnants of Typhoon Neoguri redevelop on the North Dateline and then stall in the Western Gulf of Alaska into Thurs (7/17). No fetch or swell of interest to result, but as stated above (see Tropics section), this has potential significant long term i.cgiications. Otherwise an eddy flow to hold for Central CA through the period, reinforcing warmer local water temps and suppressing upwelling.
Relative to Hawaii, by Monday (7/14) high pressure is to be supressed north of the Islands with trades fading and suppressed through Thurs (7/17). No easterly windswell of interest is forecast along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
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.cgianet. 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 .cgiit 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 (7/10) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) had not updated since 7/7. At that time is was 10.96. The 30 day average was up to -4.29 and the 90 day average was steady at 2.48. The near term trend based on the 30 day SOI was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. High pressure and a rising SOI is to be the rule relative to Tahiti till about Thurs (7/10) as another low pressure system develops just south of Tahiti likely driving the SOI negative through the weekend. Yet another low to possibly follow mid-next week. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a small area of weak west anomalies over the Maritime Continent reaching east to 155E then turning light easterly from that point to the dateline. East anomalies fading east of there but then redeveloped south of Hawaii, building to moderate strength mid-way to the Galapagos then fading slowly into Ecuador. A week from now (7/18) moderate east anomalies are forecast over the entire equatorial Maritime Continent turning neutral on the dateline and holding to a point south of Hawaii. Weak to modest east anomalies are to develop east of there almost reaching to the Galapagos. The GFS model indicates west anomalies currently in the Western Kelvin Wave Generation Area associated with a developing tropical system while weak trade continued in the eastern end of the Area. Trades are to collapse Saturday (7/12) and hold into Tues (7/15), then starting to rebuild in the far east and pushing west later next week (7/17). Persistent trades to build north of New Guinea too starting Sat (7/12) and holding through the end of the model run. Previously an Easterly Wind event occurred in the West Pacific 6/13-6/19 building to the moderate.cgius category but does not appear to have turned off the warm water flow to the east (more below), though it was close. The TOA array indicated westerly anomalies developed 6/25 west of the dateline (at the surface - the ground truth) and held through 7/6 in the moderate range, then turned neutral on 7/7. Additional data from the TOA array with live sensors on the surface indicate weak west anomalies (0-+2 m/s) have continued in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area though the months of May and June between 145E-165E, offering some encouraging news. Regardless, the forecast for the next week (if believable) is not as optimistic.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
Previously a series of WWBs occurred 1/8-4/20 creating a large Kelvin Wave that is now impacting Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru. And weak westerly anomalies continued through the month of May. This was very similar situation that led up to the big El Nino's of '82/32 and '97/98. But in those instances the WWBs and Kelvin Wave generation progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months.
An article presenting a Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and this 2014 WWB event has been posted here.
A second analysis from 5/28 is posted here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/9 are in sync. They both suggest a weak to modest Active MJO signal is in effect in the extreme West Pacific. 5 days it is to hold with the statistic model having is slowly fade 10-15 days out while the dynamic model has holding solid through 15 days. This is good news if it occurs. The ultra long range upper level model for weeks had been suggesting a building Inactive Phase of the MJO taking over the equatorial Pacific over the month of July. But as of the 7/3 run, that pattern collapsed and is now r.cgiaced with a weak to modest Active Phase currently in the west and tracking slowly east through 8/4. A very weak Inactive Phase is to set up in the Indian Ocean and maybe start making progress into the extreme West Pacific on 8/4 making it to the dateline on 8/19. This is a major upgrade and good news. A very weak MJO pattern biased Active is what one would expect if an El Nino were to develop. If a neutral pattern actually prevails in July it provides hope that the warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some impact on the atmosphere above. As said before, we're at the point where weak westerly anomalies should be standard in the West Pacific if El Nino where developing, attributable to warming waters temps over the width of the equatorial Pacific. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. As of the most recent imagery (7/10), a warm water regime remains in control from Ecuador west over the Galapagos and drifting west from there with warm anomalies extending on to the dateline. But most of it is confirmed east of 120W (in the Nino 1 & 2 regions). Hi-res SST data depicts +2.25-3.0 deg anomalies embedded in the triangle. But there are continued suggestions that water temps are starting to decrease with a building pocket of neutral to -0.5 anomalies building off the entire coast of Peru and drifting northwest. This appears to be more than just local upwelling. Small pockets of +4 degree anomalies in the triangle have vanished and the coverage of the +2.25 degree anomalies is shrinking quickly. We suspect the bulk of the warm water produced by the massive Kelvin Wave generated by Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April has reached the surface in the east (3 months later) and is starting to disperse. Those waters are advecting west, tracking barely into the Nino 3.4 region, but not getting much reinforcements to fill in the whole area. This remains the tail of the proverbial dog, while Westerly Wind Bursts are the nose. The issue remains getting more warm water into the pipe to eventually erupt near the Galapagos.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water as is the West Pacific (north and south). Signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California has become a little more pronounced, but not bad, especially given the time of year. And this is expected if El Nino was in.cgiay. This is significant in that is suggests high pressure induced north winds are less than normal off California for this time of year. And the only cool water present is streaming off Southern Chile pushing west reaching up to the equator just south of Hawaii, but getting shunted south by the warm water on the equator east of there. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific remains impressive.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are fading. Residual warm subsurface water from the previous Kelvin Wave are dropping. They are currently are +3.5 deg C above normal, and fading. The core is 50 meters down at 110W. Temps previously were up to +6 degs C above normal on 6/21. As best as can be identified this Kelvin Wave covers a smaller area now, starting at 145W building into Ecuador with the core between 120W and 100W. Satellite data as of 7/2 continues to downgraded the areal coverage of the Kelvin Wave again with increased surface water heights only 0 to +5 cms limited to 115W into Ecuador. This is a significant downgrade in the past 10 days. Subsurface models as of 7/2 depicted the flow from the West Pacific to the east was still open, but with no significant warm water in it. But, the pipe was not closed. That said, a small pocket of +0.5-1.0 anomalies are theoretically in.cgiace under the dateline and building (though no sensors are active there - so it's modeled data), suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave trying to take shape. And with a week or two of westerly anomalies forecast, perhaps more warm water will start pushing east. Still, it's 2-3 months before it will arrive at the Galapagos or the end of Sept.
The Pacific Equatorial Surface Counter-Current (from 2N to 2S from the Philippines to the Galapagos) as of 7/7 continued tracking anomalously east to west from the Galapagos to the dateline (through the heart of the Nino 3.4 region), the exact opposite direction it should be to build warm waters in the East Pacific. But it appears the actual current and anomalies are tracking less strong east to west than data from 7/2 and late June. This is somewhat encouraging news. This west moving current started 6/17. The current continues flowing west to east in the far West Pacific, holding over the past 7 days, suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave taking shape. The assumption is the change in direction in the current was attributable to development of easterly winds in the same area in mid-June, and could possibly change if westerly winds continue to hold in the West Pacific.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/8 have downgraded suggesting water temps building to +1.0 deg C by early Sept peaking at + 1.4 deg C (down from the +1.55 deg C predicted in early July) holding into Jan 2015, then fading. Previous forecasts peaked at +1.75 in Nov 2014, so we're 0well off that mark.
Analysis: Assuming it will take 2-3 months for the tail end of the big Kelvin Wave generated by the WWB that ended effectively on 5/1 to erupt over the Galapagos and Ecuador, the existing warm pool should start completely dissipating by 8/1 with neutral water temps taking over the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle, unless something develops to reinforce it. A new WWB appears to be developing in the West Pacific (starting 6/28), and even if it were to continue, it would not reach the Galapagos till 9/28. So there's a 8 week 'hole' with no significant warm water to resu.cgiy the Ecuador triangle (8/1-9/28). This will likely cause water temps to decease some in the Nino1+2 regions. If no additional Westerly Wind Bursts occur, warm water in all Nino region will dissipate. This is what occurred in the 2012 False-Start El Nino. Of course the other consideration is that the June easterly wind burst was the start of the 'upwelling' Phase of the Kelvin Wave. It's normal after a downwelling Kevin Wave impacts the Ecuador coast, that some period of upwelling (cooling) occurs. But without another WWB building on the dateline to set up another downwelling Kelvin Wave event, then the developing El Nino pattern could dissipate. So monitoring surface wind anomalies in the West Pacific are critical to determining the future of this years potential El Nino pattern.
As of right now we're waiting for a feedback loop to develop, reinforcing the warm water flow and buildup of warm water off Central America into the Fall. The big concerns are the easterly wind event of the week of 6/17, the development of a west moving Pacific Counter Current, a dissipating Kelvin Wave and the degradation of peak water temps in the Ecuador triangle. What is needed is another Westerly Wind Burst or at least continued westerly anomalies, and no hint of Easterly anomalies. That appears to be trying to happen at the moment. Anything that reduces or suppresses trades in the equatorial West Pacific will suffice to continue the transport mechanism. So out-and-out west surface winds are not required. The macro level concern is that the East Pacific warm pool has NOT been in.cgiace long enough to develop a co.cgiing with the atmosphere above it, though there are some signs that a co.cgiing is starting to develop (low pressure tracking over the dateline and into the Gulf resulting in northwest swell for the US West Coast, reduced high pressure induced north winds along the CA coast). Only once the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied on a global level (that is the ocean has imparted enough heat into the atmosphere to start changing the global jetstream pattern) can one begin to have confidence that a feedback loop is developing and a fully matured El Nino is in.cgiay. About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. From a skeptics perspective, that's another month before anything is guaranteed, and exactly the same time the warm pool is to be dispersed. But if we're just in the 'Upwelling Phase' of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, and more west anomalies and a new Kelvin Wave are being generated in the West Pacific, then all will remain on-track. The next 2 -3 week are critical.
Overall the immediate outlook remains unchanged, but potentially trending towards something that would be considered warm by Aug-Sept 2014. At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Regardless of the WWBs etc, we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern at this time with neither any form of El Nino or La Nina present or imminent. But given all current signs, atmospheric transition appears to be underway, and hopefully intensifying into Fall. There remains 2 months ahead where any number of hazards could derail this event. But this is a better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. And it seems apparent we've recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. In a normal situation one would expect there to be at least one or two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). Historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms). We've turned the corner, but we'll remain cautious and not say to much yet, especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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