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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We just want to thank you for continuing to support Stormsurf and the folks who advertise with us. It's been a good year and we have new project and new content in development and coming your way. We hope you have a great holiday and get some waves, or fresh tracks! Forecasts will be sporadic over the next 2-3 weeks while we try and have a little fun ourselves. Again, thank you and have a happy and safe holiday!
On Sunday (12/30) North and Central CA had residual swell from a storm that was on the dateline producing surf in the 4 ft overhead range at top breaks and clean early but with a little warble on it from north winds just off the coast. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were head high and clean with a little punch. Southern California up north was getting dateline swell with waves waist to chest high and clean and well lined up but inconsistent. Down south waves were shoulder to head high, clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new local westerly swell with waves 15 ft and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was flat. The East Shore was getting minimal east tradewind windswell at knee to thigh high and somewhat bumpy.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A myriad (5) of generally small and short lived gales have produced swell that is in the water and pushing towards the US West Coast and Hawaii. These gale were as far away as west of the dateline and as close as 1700 nmiles away from the US. All had seas in the 30-37 ft range, but none were as strong or organized as the dateline storm that produced swell that hit North CA on Saturday (12/29). Swell from 2 of these is currently hitting Hawaii (today - Sunday 12/30). After these hit a less energetic storm pattern is forecast, but not out. The focus is to turn west of the northern dateline by Wed (1/2) with a gale producing maybe 30 ft seas there aimed east with fragmented energy evolving sporadically from it into Friday near the dateline with seas no greater than 30 ft. In short, smaller surf to follow but not flat.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (12/30) the jetstream was ridging northeast from Japan as a single flow then falling into a weak trough on the dateline with winds up to 170 kts at the peak of the ridge but weak in the trough. Limited support for gale development indicated. Another pocket of winds developed north of Hawaii at 160 kts before splitting heavily about 700 nmiles west of California. A bit of a trough was trying to organize in the Northern Gulf but not real supportive of gale development. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to amplify some with 170 kts winds building into it on Monday (12/31) pushing east into Tuesday then pinching off north of Hawaii. Continued support for gale development possible in that trough then fading Wednesday. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to continue pushing off Japan with winds rebuilding to 170 kts splitting roughly north of Hawaii through Sun (1/6). No solid troughs are forecast but the consolidated jet to hold and the general pattern is to be supportive of gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (12/30) a gale was tracking north from Hawaii bound for the Northern Gulf of Alaska (see 7th Gale below). Otherwise a broad gale was landlocked inland of the Kuril Islands with no fetch over exposed waters of the Pacific. Over the next 72 hours that gale is to moderate and ease east with up to 40 kt west winds pushing to the dateline resulting in 32 ft seas tracking flat east on the 48N latitude reaching the dateline Wednesday evening (1/2). Smaller 17 sec period swell could be radiating towards Hawaii and the US West Coast if all goes as planned (304-306 degs NCal, 319-331 degs HI).
3rd Gale - from Japan
On Wed PM (12/26) another gale developed off Japan with a broad area of 40-45 kt westerly winds and 37 ft seas forecast at 41N 164E. A fading area of 40-45 kt westerly winds continued Thurs AM (12/27) with seas 37 ft at 42.5N 176E. That fetch is to dissipated to 35-40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 34 ft at 45N 180W.
Modest longer period swell to push southeast towards Hawaii and east towards the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sunday at 1 AM with period 18 secs and size building. Swell to peak near 5 AM with pure swell 7.1 ft @ 17 secs (12.1 ft) from 309-314 degrees.
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Monday (12/31) with period 18 secs and size tiny and inconsistent but building to maybe 7.2 ft @ 17 secs late afternoon. 15 sec energy to hold into Tuesday AM. Swell Direction: 297 degrees
4th Gale - Dateline
A new fetch of 40-45 kt northwest winds built on already agitated seas Friday AM (12/28) with seas building from 28 ft at 36N 170E. The fetch faded from 40 kts in the evening pushing west to the dateline with seas building to 34 ft at 35N 178E. Fetch faded Sat AM (12/29) from 35-40 kts with seas 33 ft at 40N 175W. This system was gone by evening.
Some degree of modest utility class swell is expected for the Hawaiian Islands with lesser and well decayed energy for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting Sunday at 6 PM and size on the way up, peaking about 11 PM at 7.8-8.4 ft @ 17 secs (13.3-14.3 ft). Swell Direction: 305-315 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival Wednesday at 5 AM with pure swell 6.0-6.7 ft @ 17 secs (10.2-11.4 ft). Swell Direction 283-290 degrees
5th Gale - Dateline
This is really a continuation of the gale above. On Saturday evening (12/29) additional 40 kt northwest fetch and 32 ft seas developed at 39N 171W. Actually fetch started 6 hours earlier and continued 6 hours beyond.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Monday early afternoon with pure swell 8.3-8.6 ft @ 17 secs (15-17 ft). Swell Direction: 324-335 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wednesday (1/2) at 5 Am with pure swell 6.0-6.7 ft @ 17 secs (10.2-11.4 ft). Swell Direction 283-290 degrees
6th Gale - Gulf
Another sporadic gale formed from the remnants of gales #4 and #5 above off the US west coast on Saturday AM (12/29). Winds were near 50 kts and seas 34 ft over a tiny area at 40N 160W lifting northeast fast. In the evening this gale was well off Washington heading for the Northern Gulf with 50 kt west winds and 34 ft seas at 45N 151W. Sunday AM this system was in the northern Gulf with all fetch aimed at Alaska.
Another pulse of small 17 sec period swell to spray the US West Coast.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Monday (12/31) near 8-10 PM with pure swell 7.0-7.8 ft @ 17 secs (11.9-13.3 ft). Swell Direction: 291 degrees
7th Gale - California
One last tiny gale is forecast wrapping up due north of Hawaii and west of San Francisco starting Sunday evening (12/30) with an infinitesimal fetch of 45 kt west winds and seas 30 ft at 37N 164W peaking 6 hrs later with seas to 32 ft at 39N 160W.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wednesday (1/2) near 6 PM with pure swell 6.5 ft @ 17 secs (11 ft). Swell to fade overnight with 14 sec residuals for Thursday (6.0 ft @ 14 secs (8.4 ft). Swell Direction: 283 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are occurring.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (12/30) weak high pressure at 1026 mbs was off Southern CA generating a modest 15 kt north winds flow over outer waters of Central CA. Locally east to northeast winds prevailed early. Southern CA remained protected. Monday the high is to falter and north winds subside, though still blowing to 10 kt locally in many location in the afternoon. Tuesday an east winds flow to set up for the state in the 10 kt range. Wednesday a front is to push close to Central and North CA with winds turning southeast to maybe 10 kts and even south to 15-20 kts in extreme North CA. Thursday a return to a light wind pattern (if not slight offshore) is projected and extending into Friday. Saturday and Sunday winds turn southeast to east as a local low approaches the Pt Conception area. Southern CA to remain unaffected.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were 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 hours a small but relatively energetic gale is forecast developing 600 nmiles west of San Francisco on Wed AM (1/2) with 40-46 kt west winds and seas building. By evening the gale is to be holding while lifting north with seas to barely 30 ft at 42N 135W (296 degs NCal). The gale is to be gone by Thursday AM. If all goes as planned a short burst of larger raw swell is possible for the Central and North CA coast shortly thereafter.
Beyond remnant energy from the Kuril Island gale is to move into the Western Gulf on Thurs (1/3) and dissipate with seas fading from 22 ft. There's suggestion of those remnants redeveloping on Sun (1/6), but that is far from believable at this early date.
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 (12/30) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up at 3.42. The 30 day average was up to -7.95 with the 90 day average up some at -0.44. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated light easterly anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) all the way to the dateline then giving way to neutral anomalies continuing all the way to Central America. This suggest a weak version of the Inactive Phase. A week from now (1/7) a mixed bag of light east and west anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent extending to the dateline then turning to light east anomalies on into South America. This suggests a continuation of Inactive Phase of the MJO moving over the Central Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/29 suggest a modest Inactive Phase was in-play over the dateline with the Active Phase of the MJO locked in the Indian Ocean. Both models are now in agreement indicating the Inactive Phase is to slide slightly east over the next 10 days if not continuing 2 weeks out while the Active Phase builds in the Indian Ocean and makes some headway into the West Pacific 2 weeks out. The Statistical model is more aggressive than the Dynamic model in this regard. Theoretically this should be supporting a split jetstream pattern offering no real catalyst for gale development over the coveted dateline region. But that is not occurring and a consolidated jetstream is forecast to remain in play. This is good news and suggests the Inactive Phase is quite weak.
Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believed a return to a normal MJO cycle was occurring with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. But the collapse/stalling of the MJO in November and December rendered that projection false. As of now (12/30) it seems the MJO is weakly Inactive at worst. Conversely the singular jetstream flow aloft is symptomatic of the Active Phase. So it's a mixed bag atmospherically speaking. At this point in the season it appears we're in a dead neutral pattern and no energy pushing the global weather pattern in any direction. This would result in a long term pattern of average levels of storm potential.
The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A weak Kelvin Wave propagated east erupting along the Central American coast late October and initially we thought it did little to replenish the warm water pool, only holding it at a steady state. Some data suggested a slightly strong impact, but nothing remarkable. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event in the West Pacific between Sept 2 and Oct 9. That Kelvin Wave had 2-3 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water and was located in pockets under the equator. It has reached the Central America coast in December and provided a little boost to water temps, but nothing dramatic. Water temps off Ecuador have returned to normal of even slightly warmer as of 12/13, and are now looking to be just average or nearly neutral.
And what initially appeared to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggested a return to a neutral ENSO pattern. But that has collapsed (see above). That said, projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development but almost a return to La Nina with -0.5 deg C water temps by late January into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013. But virtually all the other ENSO models predict a slow decline from El Nino threshold temps into Spring 2013, but never dipping into negative territory. The CFSv2 model is a minority opinion, if not a complete outlier. This is a bit better than hoped for and still gives us a glimmer of hope for a normal Winter in terms of storm production. But looking at the atmosphere, there's no overt signs of anything remotely resembling El Nino, and if anything, with a split jetstream pattern over the North Pacific, it looks still like some vestiges of La Nina. So the warm spurt in July 2012 was just a false start.
It appears we are in a dead neutral ENSO pattern with neither El Nino or La Nina imminent. But that is a far better place than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. Based on current data the outcome for this Winter is not looking good. We had expected a normal number of storms and swell, but the total lack of any real activity so far is going to make us downgrade that projection. A complete lack of ENSO energy typically signals a lack of storm energy, and is perhaps a harbinger of the coming 5 months. Longer term the expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update 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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Cortes Bank Mission (12/21-12/22/2012)
The Making of 'Chasing Mavericks' - See some background footage on how the movie was made: Part1, Part2
The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long - A must see for any aspiring big wave rider: http://vimeo.com/51117940
Greg Long XCel Core Files - Here's a great profile of Greg Long and his contributions toward pushing the state of big wave surfing. Well Done - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd9pqgiXfxk&feature=player_embedded
Chasing Mavericks - The Jay Moriarty Movie: Two trailers for the new movie about Jay, Frosty and Mavericks has been posted. Movie opens on 10/26/12. Here's the link: http://www.mtv.com/videos/movie-trailers/818957/chasing-mavericks.jhtml & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNdYoX9Vfxg&feature=relmfu
Props from the Pros: Stormsurf was mentioned over the past week in two different media sources. One was in an interview Kelly Slater did with the New York Times and another was in a promotional piece Ramon Navarro did for the Big Wave World Tour. Many thanks to Curt Myers from Powerline Productions for alerting us and of course thanks to Kelly, Ramon and the Tour for using our service. Here's the links:
Steve Colleta Surfboards - Check out surfboards by local shaper Steve Coletta - A long time Santa Cruz local and master shaper. Progressive shapes for North and Central CA waves http://www.naturalcurvesboards.com
Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
Buell Wetsuits - When surfing in Santa Cruz, we've been seeing a new wetsuit in the line-up worn by many top flight surfers. They're getting good traction and are well respected. Take a look: http://www.buellwetsuits.com/
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
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