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 Monday (12/26) North and Central CA was seeing new Gulf swell was hanging in the 10 ft range/double overhead and clean but a bit warbled from northwest winds over outer waters. Down south surf was 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and clean. Southern California was thigh high with a few bigger sets up north and clean early. Down south surf was waist to chest high and clean early but swamped by tide. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband Gulf swell with waves in the head high range at better breaks and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same Gulf swell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
Swell from a gale that was north of Hawaii Fri-Sat (12/24) and produced 30-32 ft seas is starting to hit the Central CA coast. That will provide rideable surf for a few days. A far weaker and smaller system followed right behind tracking east from the dateline Sat-Sun (12/25) with seas barely to 30 ft. Tiny sideband swell to result for Hawaii Tues (12/27) and better for the US West Coat on Thurs (12/29). Another small gale is approaching the dateline Mon (12/26) peaking in the evening with seas to 34 ft then slowly fade while tracking into the Western Gulf late Tuesday with seas fading from 28 ft. More swell possible for the primarily the US West Coast. Beyond a series of 3 gales are forecast setting up off the US West Coast to the dateline Saturday (12/31) and marching east with seas in the 30 ft range, but the models are very unstable and any particular outcome is not certain.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Monday (12/26) the jet was flowing east off Japan at 180 kts lifting slightly northeast on the dateline, then barely splitting with most energy continuing on the original trajectory pushing up into British Columbia but only at 140 kts. No troughs of interest were in evidence. Weak wind energy was also peeling off the main flow at 170W falling south pushing almost to the equator before turning east. Over the next 72 hours a big change is forecast with the wind in the west moving east with 170 winds tracking in a consolidated flow all the way through the Gulf of Alaska and reaching Washington by Wednesday and holding. Still no real troughs forecast through offering no real support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the split flow is to start trying to develop on Friday (12/20) with some wind peeling off just east of Hawaii but a still respectable flow is to continue on into Oregon. The flow is to continue unchanged into Monday (1/2) but with a series of small troughs building north of Hawaii and pushing east into the US West Coast near Washington. Some support for gale development expected in these troughs close to the US West Coast.
Surface - On Thursday (12/22) a solid gale was tracking northeast up into the Gulf of Alaska (see 1st Gulf Gale for details). Another gale was forming right behind it (see 2nd Gulf Gale below). Weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was off the California coast deflecting these systems to the north towards Canada. The high was also generating trades at 15-20 kts pushing over the Hawaiian Islands.
Over the next 72 hours the 2nd Gulf Gale is to be of interest. And yet a third gale is forecast developing just west of the dateline on Saturday AM (12/24) with 40 kts west winds over a small area with seas building from 22 ft at 43N 175E. IN the evening a small area of 50 kt west winds are forecast tracking east with seas building to 32 ft at 43N 180W (326 degs HI and 296 degs NCal). fetch is to fade by Sunday AM with seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 42N 174W (328 HI and 293 degs NCal). If this develops as forecast some degree of small but decent period swell would result for both HAwaii and the US West Coast.
3rd Gulf Gale
On Friday AM (12/23) 35 kt northwest fetch is to build directly under a previous gale and getting good traction on an already agitated sea state targeting the California coast well with sideband energy pushing towards Hawaii. A broad area of 26 ft seas developed at 41N 165W. In the evening a small area of 45 kt northwest winds wrapped from the previous gale into this fetch pushing seas up to 32 ft at 42N 160W targeting mainly the US West Coast (289 degs NCal, 297 degs SCal). That fetch is to dissipated Saturday AM (12/24) with seas fading from 28 ft at 41N 152W (285 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal and bypassing HI. Additional fetch is to build north of that area too on Sat AM at 40 kts north of the 45N latitude. This to result in another small patch of 26 ft seas in the evening up at 48N 147W targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest and NCal (299 degs and shadowed).
Another decent pulse of 15-16 secs energy has developed and is already radiating east into Central California on Monday (12/26) with pure swell 7.5 ft @ 15 secs from 288-290 degrees. Smaller and more northerly angled swell is already hitting Hawaii.
Dateline Pulse #1
A tiny gale developed on the dateline on Saturday PM (12/24) with barely 30 ft seas aimed all to the east at 43N 180W. On Sunday AM (12/25) seas were already fading from 26 ft at 42N 170W with 24 ft residuals at 40N 163W in the evening. Tiny background sideband swell possible for Hawaii on Tues (12/27) afternoon at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft faces) from 328 degrees with equally small size for Central California by Wednesday (12/28) just after sunset with swell 5 ft @ 17 secs ((8.5 ft) from 296 degrees.
Dateline Pulse #2
Another tiny gale developed west of the dateline on Sunday PM (12/25) and by Monday AM seas were 34 ft aimed all to the east from 493N 173E (a long ways away for everyone). By Monday PM the system was on the dateline with seas at 35 ft at 41N 180W. Tuesday AM (12/27) residual 32 ft seas to be fading at 42N 170W and dropping in the evening from 28 ft at 43N 161W. Small sideband swell possible for Hawaii late Wednesday evening (12/28) with small size for Central California by late in the workweek with period 17 secs from 293 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (12/26) high pressure a 1028 mbs was trying to ridge weakly into Central CA focused on Pt Conception. Northwest winds were modeled there at 15 kts but less up at Monterey Bay and points north. Southern CA was calm. Low pressure was in control of the Gulf of Alaska and ready to impinge on the Pacific Northwest. By Tuesday high pressure is to have a hold on Central CA with northwest winds at 15 kts in control from San Francisco southward while a dividing line between stormy weather and high pressure is to set up over the Gulf of Alaska on a line starting a few hundred miles off Cape Mendocino extending well into the Pacific. Light rain building for Cape Mendo northward. Wednesday nearshore the stubborn batch of northwest winds at 15 kts and high pressure is to remain over Pt Conception, with southerly winds over Cape Mendocino (and rain there) but near calm winds and clear conditions in between holding through Friday (12/30). Saturday high pressure is to ease north ridging into the Pacific Northwest with weak northwest winds over Central CA and a building gradient over Cape Mendo by Sunday with northwest winds 15-20 kts up there and 10 kts looking likely for all of Central CA. Light northeast winds for Southern CA. But all that to be short lived with light offshore forecast for all of CA by Monday (1/2).
At the surface in the South Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change 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 hrs a more interesting pattern is forecast courtesy of a more favorable jetstream pattern. Starting Saturday (12/31) a series of three gales are forecast setting up with the first just 800 nmiles west of San Francisco with a second on the dateline and a third off Japan, all marching east. The first is to veer northeast with seas in the 30 ft range before auguring into Oregon on Sunday. The second one is to build with seas pushing 36 ft on Monday (1/2) 1000 nmiles west of Oregon while the third one makes it just over the dateline and starts building with seas to 30 ft on Monday. It's still way too early to believe any of this will happen, but it's a step in the right direction.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather event that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized by either enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is on control of or 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 day, 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 jetstream 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 forecast for MJO activity.
As of Monday (12/26) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 41.00. The 30 day average was up to 23.32 with the 90 day up at 14.82. No signs of an Active MJO in these numbers and in fact this is starting to look much like last year when the 30 day average was in the 25-30 range.
Current wind analysis indicates moderate easterly anomalies remain stubbornly entrenched over the West Pacific extending from 170W to 130E, then shifting to near normal west of there. This is an expansion of easterly anomalies and suggests the Inactive Phases of the MJO was still in full control of the West Pacific supporting a split jetstream pattern. A week from now (1/3) the models indicate those anomalies are to be fading down to the light to near neutral state (a good thing). The longer range models are in closer alignment now suggesting that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be fading significantly by 1/4 with a weak version of the Active Phase of the MJO building over the dateline by 1/9. The 40 day upper level model suggests a slow eastward evolution of the Active Phase through late January. At this point, it's anyone's guess what might develop, but we're becoming perhaps a bit more optimistic that some flavor of a weak Active Phase will leave it's home base between Indian and Indonesia and migrate east.
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 in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance during tropical/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 of the MJO 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 of interest 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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Powerlines Productions, Big Wave Filmmakers since 1994, deliver their latest project, Super Natural on November 3rd in San Francisco at the Balboa Theater at 7:15 PM. The documentary film takes you on a tour with some of the best big wave surfers in the world riding giant waves from powerful Pacific winter storm systems. Filmed during the epic El Niño and La Niña winter seasons the movie takes you on an insiders journey to the fa bled big wave breaks of Maui's Pe'ahi (Jaws) and Northern California's Mavericks . World class surfers and underground legends tell their stories as they go back to the roots of paddling into giant waves thought to be unfeasible years ago without the use of jet skis. Mixed with a hand picked soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat highlights, see what makes these athletes 'Super Natural' as they risk it all chasing waves and dreams for the ultimate thrill. Featured Surfers: Shane Dorian, Chris Bertish, Danilo Couto, Yuri Soledade, Carlos Burle, Ion Banner, Travis Payne, Alex Martins, Tim West, Twiggy, Greg & Rusty Long, Shawn Dollar, Peter Mel, Skindog Collins, Ed Guzman, Pato Teixeira and Zach Wormhoudt. Advance tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/204985
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.
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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.
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table