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 Tuesday (10/4) North and Central CA was seeing locally generated Gulf windswell producing waves in the 2-3 ft overhead range but torn apart by southwest winds and lot's of local bump in the mix. Not pretty. Down south the same Gulf swell was wrapping into exposed breaks producing waves to maybe chest high and pretty ragged. Southern California was seeing minimal Gulf swell up north with waves thigh to waist high, weak and textured with some light west wind on it. Down south the same swell was producing surf at thigh to waist high, textured but kinda sunny and almost nice looking. Hawaii's North Shore was getting limited sideband Gulf windswell with waves waist high or so and clean. The South Shore was the place to be with southern hemi swell hitting nicely with waves up to 2 ft overhead and clean and well lined up. The East Shore was getting Gulf swell, south swell and east windswell all about in the just under waist high range with trades chopping it up some.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
On Tuesday (10/4) southern hemi Swell #8S was hitting Hawaii while also tracking towards the US West Coast. Local Gulf windswell was hitting North and Central CA but with poor conditions. And another gale was dropping out of the Gulf expected to result in 20 ft seas just off Cape Mendo on Wednesday resulting in more raw swell just beyond but also producing solid precipitation over all of Central CA with snow in higher elevations. Long term the models continue indicating a stronger and larger system developing on the dateline over the weekend pushing into the Central Gulf but dissipating some. Possible larger swell to result.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (10/4) the jetstream was looking solid flowing flat off japan then ridging up into the Western Gulf of Alaska before falling south with winds 170 kts forming a trough just off the Pacific Northwest, then pushing inland over the Oregon-North CA border. Good support for gale development off the Pacific Northwest coast. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to push inland over Central CA on Wednesday while a new flat jet configuration sets up traversing the North Pacific from Japan into British Columbia with winds in the 130 kt range over it's length. A bit of a small trough is forecast pushing through the Gulf on Fri (10/7) but not overly supportive of gale development down at lower levels of the atmosphere. Beyond 72 hours another pocket of wind energy is to push off Japan reaching the dateline on Saturday (10/8) with winds 150 kts and trying to generate a trough there easing east into the Gulf of Alaska on Monday with winds holding velocity likely providing more support for gale development. But by mid-next week a large ridge is forecast developing off Kamchatka pushing east, likely shutting gale production down for a bit.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/4) another gale was falling out of the Gulf (see Another East Gulf Pulse below). Otherwise a weak but broad area of high pressure was 600 nmiles north of Hawaii, driving the storm track over top of it. A gale was just off Kamchatka pushing east, following the road to the north of the high and expected to travel over the Aleutians, but not generating any real seas of interest (22-24 ft but far away from an landmass). Over the next 72 hours the Kamchatka gale is to fade before making it cleanly into the Gulf of Alaska with no swell production of interest forecast.
Another East Gulf Pulse
Another weak but somewhat decent sized fetch of 30 kt northwest winds started falling into the Central Gulf on Monday PM (10/3) building in areal coverage with winds at 30-35 kts Tuesday AM (10/4) generating 18 ft seas at 48N 143W and unremarkable. That fetch is to fall southeast off Oregon in the evening and continue to circulate with winds in the 30 kt range through Wed AM (10/5) resulting in seas at 20 ft at 47N 139W Tuesday PM falling to 42N 133W Wed AM or about 600 nmiles off the North CA coast. Fetch and seas fading in the evening to 19 ft at 39N 129W or about 400 nmiles off Pt Arena (292 deg NCal). Possible moderate raw swell to result pushing into North and Central CA by Thursday (10/6) at 9 ft @ 12 secs (10 ft faces) but along with wind and chop.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (10/6) a neutral pressure pattern was in control off the CA coast. But another gale was queued up off the Pacific Northwest and falling southeast towards the state. And there was already a pretty good amount of bump and warble in the water off Central CA, meaning things will only get worse before they get better. A front with south winds was pushing down to San Francisco late Tuesday and is to be over Pt Conception on Wednesday AM and then sweeping through Southern CA mid-day. Solid to heavy rain to reach San Francisco Tuesday PM sweeping south Wednesday AM to Pt Conception and even Southern CA late morning. Solid snow accumulations remain projected for Lake Tahoe from this pulse continuing for 24 hours starting Wed 5 AM thru Thurs 5 AM (1.5-2.0 ft between Squaw, Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood). Clearing high pressure to start build in over the state on Thursday with northwesterly winds forecast everywhere (including Southern CA) at 15-20 kts, fading some Friday and then settling into a weak gradient off Cape Mendocino on Saturday (10/8) with light wind if not a weak eddy (south winds) nearshore earlier in the day. But high pressure is to return on Sunday with northwest winds in control at 10-15 kts over north and Central CA fading Monday as another gale moves into the Gulf. Preliminary data suggest it is to remain north of the CA area mid-week.
At the surface on Tuesday (10/4) no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Starting Monday AM (9/26) a solid storm started developing southwest of New Zealand with southwest winds confirmed at 55-60 kts coverage a moderate area and expanding with seas building fast from 36 ft at 57S 155E (216 degs NCal and unshadowed and up the 203 deg path to Hawaii but shadowed by New Zealand). In the evening 55 kt southwest winds were confirmed holding at 55S 170E resulting in 41 ft seas at 56S 165E (214 degs NCal and unshadowed and moving into the Hawaii swell window at 201 degs).
Tuesday AM (9/27) 50-55 kts southwest winds were modeled 57S 178W and confirmed via WindSAT resulting in a solid area of 43 ft seas at 56S 175E (211 degs NCal and barely unshadowed and 195 degs HI). In the evening southwest fetch was fading from 40-45 kts but still large in areal coverage with seas peaking at 47 ft at 56S 174 W (206 degs NCal and shadowed and 30 degs east of the 188 deg path to Hawaii). A new fetch of 50-55 kt southwest winds was building at 55S 173E.
The new smaller fetch of 50-55 kt southwest fetch built Wed AM (9/28) embedded in the fading larger fetch of 35-40 kt southwest winds with 40 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 55S 164W (203 degs NCal and just barely shadowed and aimed pretty well east of the 184 deg path to Hawaii). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the southern edge of the fetch at 18Z and reported seas at 30.1 ft with a peak top 38.4 ft where the modeled suggested 34 ft seas. This suggest the model was just a little bit on the high side. In the evening the storm was starting to fade though a patch of 45-50 kt southwest winds persisted lifting northeast with seas dropping from 40 ft seas at 50S 170W (209 degs NCal and barely shadowed by Tahiti and 35 degrees east of the 191 degree path to Hawaii. WindSAT confirmed a small area of south winds at 60S 172W near 7Z.
By Thursday AM (9/29) all fetch of interest was gone with seas from previous fetch at 36 ft at 47S 162W (206 degs NCal and shadowed and 184 degs HI). The Jason-1 satellite passed over the western quadrant of the fetch and reported seas at 31.4-32.3 ft with peak readings to 36.7 ft where the model suggested 35 ft. this was about right, maybe modeled just a bit on the high side again.
Both WindSAT and Jason-1 satellites confirmed this storm forming pretty close to modeled expectations with winds to 55+ kts and seas to 47 ft. This is impressive. But the storm did not grow as large as Storm #7S about a month prior, and it tracked a bit more flat west to east, meaning more of the swell was shadowed relative to the US West Coast. And a little less energy was aimed up at the Hawaiian Islands. Just the same 36 hours of seas greater than 40 ft were produced from the initial fetch, and a smaller secondary fetch developed adding a smaller amount of 40 ft seas behind that. The net result is to be significant class swell for most breaks in the North Pacific (and of course Tahiti).
Hawaii: Swell to hold Wednesday (10/5) at 3.6 ft @ 17 secs through most of the day (6 ft faces with sets to 7.5 ft). A slow decline to set in on Thursday (10/6) with swell fading from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 sec early (5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Residuals on Friday at 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft faces). Swell Direction: 190-201 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting Wed (10/5) near 3 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny if even noticeable building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs and sunset (3 ft with sets to 4 ft). More size to build on Thurs (10/6) with swell 2 ft @ 19-20 secs early (4 ft) building to 2.6 ft @ 18-19 secs late (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft). Swell to peak on Friday mid-morning (10/7) with pure swell pushing 3.0 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to start fading Saturday dropping from 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft).Residuals Sunday at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 208-213 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Wed (10/5) near 5 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny if even noticeable building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs and sunset (3 ft with sets to 4 ft). More size to build-in on Thurs (10/6) with swell 2 ft @ 19-20 secs early (4 ft) building to 2.6 ft @ 18-19 secs late (5 ft faces with sets to 6 ft). Swell to peak on Friday mid-day (10/7) with pure swell pushing 3.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (5 ft with sets to near 7 ft). Swell to start fading Saturday dropping from 3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Residuals Sunday at 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 206-211 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 remnants of a tropical system are to start developing while tracking east of Japan and approaching the dateline Friday AM (10/7) then starting to develop solidly in the evening with winds to 55 kts in it's southwest quadrant targeting Hawaii and seas building from 20 ft at 40N 170E. By Saturday AM (10/8) 50-55 kt northwest to west winds are forecast over a decent sized area at 45N 178E (195 degs NCal and 326 degs HI) with seas on the increase from 34 ft over a small area at 43N 178E. In the evening fetch is to fade from 45 kts and aimed more purely to the east with seas building to 36 ft at 43N 175W. A small area of 45 kt west winds is to hold Sunday AM (10/9) as the storm tracks due east with seas building to 37 ft at 47N 168W (aimed right up the 300 deg path to NCal and 60 degrees east of the 342 deg path to HI). Amazingly the fetch is to hold in the evening with winds still 40-45 kts pushing flat east with 36 ft seas at 47N 160W and moving feast too. A quick decay is forecast Monday AM (10/10) with winds down to 35 kts and seas fading from 30 kts. That said. some degree of 30-35 kt west fetch is to hold through Tuesday PM with seas 22 ft pushing right up to the Washington coast. If all goes as forecast (highly unlikely at this early date) some longer period sideband swell could reach Hawaii with larger and rawer swell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. This is all likely the result of the turn from the Inactive to the Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO). Will monitor.
As of Tuesday (10/4) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was heading down as expected at 7.67. The 30 day average was up at 11.99 with the 90 day average up slightly to 8.07. Since the SOI is a lagging indicator, and we believe the Active Phase of the MJO is now in control of the West Pacific, the expectation is that these numbers should continue to fall.
Current wind analysis indicated moderate easterly anomalies were blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific to a point just over the dateline (150E) then fading east of there with real westerly anomalies beyond and reaching to Indonesia. Weak westerly anomalies were also over the East Pacific. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading if not moving east some but still in control of most of the Central Pacific while the Active Phase has edged east some, getting exposure in the West Pacific. The models indicate that a near neutral wind pattern is to push east over the Central Pacific a week out (10/12) with the Inactive Phase losing control and a weak iteration of the Active Phase building into the Central Pacific for the next 2 weeks (10/15). But if anything, the Active Phase has about peaked out already. This pattern seems likely to support a continuation what we've already being seeing, that is tropical systems developing in the extreme West Pacific with their remnants tracking over the Aleutians and dropping into the Gulf of Alaska and occasionally developing some. But already the Inactive Phase of the MJO was starting to build in the Indian Ocean. Beyond 2 weeks the Active Phase is to start fading with the Inactive Phase pushing from the Indian Ocean towards the West Pacific, but not quite making it yet. 3-4 weeks out it is expected it will move into the Pacific likely putting a damper on storm development. So the best window for storm development in the North Pacific is the next 2-3 weeks (thru 10/27).
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/3) continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Hawaii to the dateline and holding steady if not increasing their coverage slightly. Embedded were pulses of cooler water still pushing from east to west. Cooler than normal waters were also present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. This is typically what is referred to as a 'horseshoe pattern'. At least the cooler waters off the US West Coast were not expanding coverage anymore nor getting cooler as they had in late July into August. But warmer than normal waters are not building any over the Galapagos Islands, and if anything were shrinking as trades increased there with a defined but thin cool patch now evident on the equator extending from the Galapagos into Central America. Overall the big picture looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things are unchanged. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, then returned starting in early July. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) developed in mid-July locked at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. On 7/21 it vaporized, with a clear subsurface path present allowing warmer subsurface water to flow eastward. But then as quickly as it redeveloped, it died with the cold pool re-emerging starting on 7/30 and built far stronger by early August with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii blocking the warm water flow eastward. It weakened some in late August then reappeared in early Sept and dropped to -4 degs C slowly rebounding to -2 deg C on 9/13, holding there until 10/6 when it dropped to -3 C. Regardless of the details, this area of cool subsurface water was blocking the normal warm flow to the east and suggests that overall a pattern biased towards the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control. There's some hope this developing Active Phase might help to dislodge it some, but it will likely have no staying power.
Ocean currents for the equatorial Pacific on 9/5 were unchanged from the previous month flowing anomalously west in the far West Pacific with a small pocket of strong easterly flow at 120W. Previously we found anomalies developed flowing from west to east starting in February and were continuing through June 2011 (a little weaker towards mid-June than earlier in the month). Westerly anomalies continued in July to (thru 7/22) Easterly anomalies were isolated to a small area on the equator at 120W. We oft look at such symptoms as an El Nino indicator, but that does not seem likely given all the other data. But that coupled with a falling SOI at least it depicts a tendency towards normal conditions. Will monitor. Historically it is very unlikely if not impossible to have an El Nino form directly behind a La Nina. More typical is several years of a slow buildup before an actual El Nino event occurs. This suggest the warm waters currently pooling up off Ecuador will likely dissipate as summer progresses but at the same time, the cooler than normal horseshoe pattern over the North and South Pacific will dissipate too.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Spring of 2012. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
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
Add a STORMSURF Buoy Forecast to your Google Homepage. Click Here:
Then open your Google homepage, hit 'edit' button (top right near graph), and select your location
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
Stormsurf Mobile App (1/9/11) We are proud to announce the official public release of our smartphone mobile app. It provides access to our most popular and commonly used products, optimized for use on the road, on the beach or anywhere you don't have a desktop or laptop. With a smart phone and signal, you will have access to our data. And we're not talking just a few teaser products - We're talking full feature wave models, weather models, real-time buoy data, manually built forecasts and hundreds of spot wave and wind forecasts enabling you to construct a surf forecast for any location on the planet, all from your cell phone and all for free. No subscription required and no hidden fees. And better yet, there's a few new things sprinkled in that are not yet available even on our full-featured web site. From your smart phones browser just navigate to: www.stormsurf.com/mobile
Mavericks Surf Shop Grand Opening - Sunday, December 19 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. rain or shine! Check out the new home of Jeff Clark's Mavericks Surf Shop, now located at 25 Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor. The shop features much of Clark's surfing memorabilia, classic boards and photos, as well as an entirely new line of Jeff Clark original Mavericks clothing, accessories and surfboards. The shop has been open in the new location since December 8, and the Grand Opening party is set for this coming Sunday, just in time for Christmas. The party starts at 2 p.m., with live music, food and drinks. Jeff Clark and many Mavericks surfers will be there to meet the public. Local restaurants Ketch Joanne's and Princeton Seafood will serve up delicious food, while San Francisco Wine Trading Company is providing the beverages. The shop will be open all weekend, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Stormsurf Maintenance Upgrades: Buoy 46059 and 46012 were replaced a month or so ago. Totally new buoys were installed. Here on Stormsurf we had to reset the algorithms used to calculate 'pure swell' for them. That was accomplished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059
Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sample.
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.
||Casa Noble Tequila If you are looking for an exquisite experience in fine tequila tasting, one we highly recommend, try Case Noble. Consistently rated the best tequila when compared to any other. Available at BevMo (in California). Read more here: http://www.casanoble.com/
New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.
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.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
Free Stormsurf Stickers - Get your free stickers! - More details Here
Read all the latest news and happenings on our News Page here
Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table