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 Sunday (10/28) North and Central CA had weak local short period windswell providing waves in the waist high range and gutless. Down south in Santa Cruz residual southern hemi swell was producing waves at waist high on the sets and warbled. Southern California up north was knee high on the sets and clean. Down south sets might be thigh high with luck and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting solid fun sized dateline swell with waves in the 2 ft overhead range and clean. The South Shore was small with sets in the waist high range and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline swell at up to chest high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
The only real swell source relative to California is from a gale that formed over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutian Islands last Tues (10/23) then fell southeast towards Hawaii initially with seas at 26-28 ft but fading fading finally turning towards the east Thursday evening and trying to regenerate but not quite making it with seas holding in the 20-22 ft range, moving no closer than 1400 nmiles from California. It stalled in the Western Gulf and regenerated Sunday (10/28) producing more 20-22 ft seas aimed well at the US West Coast, then dissipated. Swell from this system has already hit Hawaii with smaller size expected for the mainland starting Monday and holding in some form through the workweek. Another system is forecast trying to develop on the dateline late Monday but not doing much, traveling east and finally starting to wrap up in the Northern Gulf late Thursday with seas in the 32 ft range. This is probably a reach for the models but something to monitor. Most swell energy is to be aimed at the US West Coast. But the big issue remains that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control of the West and Central Pacific and not favoring storm development for the next 2 weeks.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (10/28) the jet was trying to form a cohesive flow tracking more or less flat off Southern Japan falling into a weak trough off the coast there down at 23S (very far south), then rising up to 40N on the dateline and flowing flat east from there to a point just off the Central CA coast, veering northeast at the last minute and pushing into the Pacific Northwest coast. A pocket of 130 kts winds were over the dateline embedded in the jet, and trying to form a trough, but not doing anything of interest yet. A cutoff upper level high was in the Bering Sea. In short, no real support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the wind pocket on the dateline is to push east forming a bit more of a defined trough moving towards the North CA coast Mon-Tues (10/30) but likely not enough to produce a fetch of interest, just weather for the PAcific Northwest Coast. Beyond 72 hours the upper high in the Bering Sea is to dissipate and a new trough is to try and build in the Eastern Pacific Wed-Fri (11/2) with 130 kts winds at it's apex in the south offering some support for gale development in the Gulf then. Beyond a ridge is to build in the east supporting high pressure aloft while a weak wind pattern sets up in the west. But no sign of a split jet is suggested (thank goodness).
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (10/28) the remnants of the Dateline/Gulf gale were circulating in the Central Gulf of Alaska with winds fading from 30 kts targeting the US West Coast (see Dateline/Gulf Gale below). Another low pressure system was trying to develop off Japan with pressure 996 mbs, but no fetch of interest was present in it's southern quadrant. Over the next 72 hours only the Dateline Gale is be of any interest. The low off Japan is to be tracking east, generating a tiny fetch of 30-35 kt west winds during the day Monday (10/29) with a speck of seas to 20 ft on the dateline late evening into Tues AM (10/30) at 38N 178E, good for background swell of 13 secs for Hawaii with luck by Friday (11/2). Otherwise no no fetch or seas of interest forecast.
On Tuesday (10/23) a gale developed on the northern dateline region associated with the remnants of Typhoon Prapiroon and a trough that was pushing off Kamchatka producing 40 kt northwest winds in the morning with seas to 28 ft at 48N 177E. In the evening winds were fading from 35 kts over a modest sized area resulting in seas to 25 ft at 47N 178E targeting Hawaii up the 330 degree path. On Wed AM (10/24) the gale and associated fetch were fading while falling southeast with northwest winds 35 kts and seas at 25 ft seas at 44N 179W. By evening the gale was starting to reorganize while still falling southeast with 40 kt northwest winds building in it's southwest quadrant. Seas holding at 25 ft at 38N 177W (318 degs HI). Thursday AM (10/25) 30-35 kt west winds were building in the gales south quadrant with the gale now turning away from Hawaii and heading east towards the US West Coast. A moderate sized area of 22 ft seas from previous fetch were at 37N 172W (283 degs NCal). Fetch faded in the evening from 30-35 kts with 23 ft seas building at 36N 167W still targeting Hawaii (338 degs) and some energy for the US West Coast (280 degs NCal). Friday AM (10/26) the gale stalled in the Central Gulf with 30 kt west winds holding and 20 ft seas at 37N 158W targeting the US West Coast solely (284 degs NCal/290 SCal). The gale faded in the evening but not out (see Part 2 below).
North CA: Expect swell to peak on Monday (10/29) at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 ft - but even that might be overstated). Residuals fading Tues (10/30) from 4.0 ft @ 11-12 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 282-287 degrees
Dateline/Gulf Gale (Part 2)
On Saturday AM (10/27) the Dateline Gale redeveloped while stalled in the Western Gulf with a moderate area of 30-35 kt west winds building and seas regenerating to 18 ft. In the evening those winds to built to 35 kts with seas up to 23 ft at 43N 163W (296 degs NCal). The gale started pushing east Sunday AM (10/28) with winds fading from 30 kts and seas 22 ft at 42N 158W. The gale to fade from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 18 ft at 40N 152W. The gale is to die on Monday from a swell production standpoint, with it's remnants pushing up and into the Pacific Northwest coast on Tues-Wed (10/31).
In all if this system redevelops as forecast somewhat larger 13-14 sec period swell could be generated pushing towards the US West Coast with very limited sideband energy reaching down into Hawaii. Will monitor.
Hawaii: Background swell of 4 ft @13 secs (5 ft ) expected Tues AM (10/30) fading from 3 ft @ 11 secs on Wed (10/31). Swell Direction: 345+ degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wednesday (10/31) pushing 5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.0 ft) mid-day then fading steadily, down to 5 ft @ 11-12 secs (5.5 ft) Thursday and 4 ft @ 10 secs early Friday (11/2). Swell Direction: 185 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (10/28) no tropical system of interest were occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (10/28) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs dissipating off the Southern CA coast with north winds over outer waters fading from 15 kts as low pressure was starting to build to the northwest pushing towards the area. A sign of the fading high was Fog moving into the Central CA coast. North winds to be effectively gone by Monday and holding that way into mid-week except in the extreme northern edge of the state where a southerly flow is expected building by Tuesday as the low starts impacting the Pacific Northwest. The front from that system is to push down to almost Monterey Bay on Wednesday with south winds reaching almost Morro Bay late. Rain possible starting early Wed (10/31) for the Cape Mendo region pushing south to San Francisco early Wednesday evening and then on down to Santa Barbara County by Thursday AM (11/1), dissipating there. Light rain possible for Tahoe Thursday AM with very high snow levels. A light wind flow to follow for the entire coast Thursday (11/1) into Friday with more low pressure scheduled for the Gulf of Alaska through high pressure trying to get a nose into Pt Conception on Saturday building Sunday with north winds setting up for the Central coast late in the day.
Surface - On Sunday (10/28) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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 weak system tracking across the North Pacific is to theoretically start developing in the Northern Gulf on Thursday AM (11/10 with north fetch building from 30-35 kts targeting Hawaii down the 155 degree path and also starting to take aim on the US West Coast. By evening 45 kt northwest winds are to be in the NOrthern Gulf aimed exclusively at the US West Coast (Pacific Northwest down to Central CA) with seas building from 22 ft. A solid fetch of 50 kt northwest winds are forecast Friday AM (11/2) with seas to 32 ft over a tiny area up at 50N 152W (310 degs NCal). 45 kt west winds to be wrapping into the gales south quadrant in the evening with 34 ft seas up at 50N 148W targeting the Central CA coast northward but aimed best at British Columbia. Saturday AM (11/3) west fetch to be fading from 30-35 kts with most fetch at 40 kts in it's east quadrant tracking north towards Alaska. 24-26 ft seas fading at 48N 148W (309 degs NCal). This system to be gone by evening. This is far from an ideal setup, but at least some north angled swell is possible if all goes as forecast for Hawaii and the US West Coast. At least it's something to monitor but far from believable.
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 Sunday (10/28) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up some at 6.90. The 30 day average was down some at 2.60 with the 90 day average up at -0.51. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) extending to the dateline fading to neutral beyond and even turning modestly westerly in the equatorial Pacific southeast of Hawaii. This is indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the West Pacific with maybe some stray residuals of the Active Phase moving through the East Pacific. A week from now (11/5) modest east anomalies are forecast continuing over the Maritime Continent strongest near the dateline but fading over the Central Pacific. This suggests that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to hold over the West Pacific with the Active Phase moving east out of the Pacific and into the the Caribbean Sea (evidenced by the formation of Hurricane Sandy).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/27 are coming into better agreement suggesting a moderate Inactive Phase is in control of the West Pacific. The statistical model suggests it is to fade over the next 2 weeks and nearly gone by 11/10 with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean and starting to push from into the West Pacific while the dynamic model suggests only weakening in the Inactive Phase 2 weeks from now with the Active Phase also fading, moving towards a neutral pattern. Given the demise of what almost looked like El Nino earlier in the year, we believe a return to a normal MJO cycle is likely with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more regular and balanced in strength. This Inactive Phase is evidence of that, and if the theory is correct, the Active Phase should appear as scheduled and with equal strength by mid-November. An increase in swell producing storms would seem likely then. But until then the North Pacific suffers.
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A warm pool that built and peaked off Ecuador 7/2 fed my multiple Kelvin Waves earlier has been steadily loosing ground, and is now almost gone. Pulses of cooler than normal water continue tracking through the core of the warm pool (as of 10/25) signaling it's demise. A neutral water temp pattern is taking shape. A weak Kelvin Wave propagated east both subsurface (2-3 deg C anomaly at 118W) and at the surface (1 deg C anomaly), moving east of 120W and off the charts by 9/17. It has not done much to replenish the warm water pool. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event that started Sept 2 in the West Pacific and continued for 21 days in a row through 9/22 then faded on 9/25 only to return with gusto on 9/28 before finally dissipating on 10/9. The resulting Kelvin Wave is to provide reinforcing warming expected 90 days out (Dec). This Kelvin Wave was evidenced by 2 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water building under the dateline around 10/23, and has since reached 3 deg C and is located to the east at 150W. But it will only be enough to keep things in the normal range and not add any net additional warm water into the mix when it hits the Central American coast.
And what appears to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggests that El Nino is not forming, but instead is dissipating. Latest projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development either but rather a return to a neutral state by November or almost a return to La Nina with -0.6 deg C water temps by January into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013. Likely another false start or at best a weakly warmer pattern developing.
At this time there is no atmospheric evidence of a El Nino pattern in-play. Remnants of La Nina are almost gone in terms of their affects on the atmosphere. We believe we're in a hybrid atmospheric state with the trend shifting more towards the normal category. La Nina is dissipating but El Nino is not materializing.
As of right now its seems the Active Phases of the MJO are not strong enough to usher in some flavor of real El Nino, but the Inactive Phases are not strong enough to shut off the warm water pump to the East Pacific either. Regardless, we are effectively past the La Nina hump and the tendency will be for a return to a normal if not slightly El Nino-like enhanced state. This is way better than where we've been for the past 2 years (under the influence of La Nina). The preference is that El Nino does not form this year, because that would only usher in another La Nina the year or two beyond. Rather, a neutral pattern biased slightly warm would be good, followed by at least another year of slightly warmer temps ultimately converging in a stronger El Nino 2-3 years out. And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts before a legit El Nino forms). We think we are in a slowly building multi-year pattern that will culminate with a real El Nino 2 or more years beyond.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
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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The Making of 'Chasing Mavericks' - See some background footage on how the movie was made: Part1, Part2
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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/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table