Friday, May 30, 2008

Waves for the Weekend - Something to ride

Looks like Saturday and Sunday will both have little pockets of surfy-ness...the tide and wind will keep it from getting too fun (we couldn't have that could we?) but there will be something to ride if you have the right gear and more importantly the right attitude.

Swellwise we are going to see a mix of S swell (180), some inconsistent background SW energy, and local WNW windswell.

The average areas will be around knee-waist high+. Standout S facing spots, mostly in Orange County, will have some chest-shoulder high sets. The windswell was doing ok at generating some rideable waves on Friday so I expect that to continue at least into look for the standout windswell spots to have some gutless chest high sets.

The tide is probably going to be an issue in the morning...there is a 3'+ high that hits right in the middle of the dawn patrol, which is going to keep things pretty soft and mushy. Shape should improve as it drains off but expect the consistency of the bigger sets to drop off as we head to the low tide as well (we just can't win).

Winds will be mostly light and variable in the morning but there may be some light W flow at the open beaches. Look for W winds 10-15 knots by the late afternoon.

Really the best time to surf will be right as we hit low tide and it starts to fill back we will just have to cross our fingers that the tide wins the race with the wind.

Like most of the week I don't think it will be worth driving very far for surf...the surf-window will be pretty short and the semi-crumbly/choppy shape won't be worth wasting your gas.

Travel Swell Alert: Another large SW swell heading to Central America and Mainland Mexico

We have got another strong storm brewing down near New Zealand that is looking to send a hefty SW swell to Central America and Mainland Mexico later this month.

California and Baja Mexico will also see some waves from this one but they will be quite a bit smaller.

Short-range forecasts are expecting this storm to be a beast...NOAA's WavewatchIII is predicting nearly 40-50' seas in the core of this system. Here check out this image from the swell model.

You can check out the animated version of this here

Here is a shot of the swell (in swell period form) about 6+ days from this post.

As you can see it sent a pretty solid blast of energy towards Tahiti and then on to Central America and Mainland Mexico. You can also see the South Pacific Island shadowing that occurs on SW swells (it is always sad to see that gap in the swell line up perfectly with SoCal...damn islands).

Here is the animation run for the swell can watch the swell move across the pacific.

If you look close you can actually see that the bigger swell isn't the only one in the water...there are actually a couple of other SW swells that have been kicked out. This is great from a travel means that you aren't putting all your eggs in one you will have a good chance to score a longer run of waves.

Ok enough about the storm here are the arrival times and details on the swell.

Central America and Mainland Mexico - Since the swell is pretty SW in swell direction (210-225) it is actually going to both regions about the same time. There is another smaller SW swell coming in from the same direction that arrives on June 6th and holds around for a couple of days. This first one looks good for head high and overhead surf at the standout breaks maybe even a few bigger sets at top spots. The bigger swell hits on June 9-10th with surf in the overhead to well-overhead range for most areas while the standouts, mostly in Southern Mainland Mexico and Northern Central America see double-overhead+ sets. Spots light Puerto Escondido will probably go bigger than that as well. There will be some shadowing for Costa Rica and Panama from the Galapagos expect smaller surf in those countries. One other thing to keep in mind is the weather...TS Alma just got done douching the area with may not be very easy to travel to the more remote spots.

Baja Sur - The first SW'er (205-220) hits Baja Sur around 7th and sets up some shoulder-head high surf for the standout breaks on the Pacific Side...the Tip/East Cape may be a bit shadowed so expect smaller less consistent surf through that area. The second, bigger, SW swell peaks on the 10-11th with more shoulder-head high+ surf for the average spots and inconsistent overhead+ sets at the standout breaks. If you head down this way try and keep in mind that while there will be decent waves in this area it will lack a lot of consistency...especially compared to a swell coming in from a more southerly swell direction. So plan on it being fun...but not all-time.

Southern California and Baja Norte - Socal will have the first SW'er (200-220) limp in around the 7-8th...not the greatest swell for SoCal but it will put some chest-shoulder high sets at the top breaks in South OC and San Diego. The second, larger SW'er hits on the 11th with average spots building into the chest high+ range while the standouts, again in San Diego and South Orange County, see shoulder-head high sets. (I am being a bit conservative...there may be a bigger set sneaking though at times).

Nor/Central California – It actually hits about the same time as SoCal so you would be seeing the first swell on the 7-8th and the peak of the larger swell around the 11th. This one should be good for some head high sets at the standout SW facing spots…and you won’t suffer as much inconsistency as SoCal.

Anyway that is what I got for now...we still have enough lead time to get a cheaper plane ticket (if you get on it in the next day or so.) As usual if you head out of town make sure to send me some pictures and let me know how it was.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Christian Surfers, Huntington Beach - Surf Days

My friends over at Christian Surfers, Huntington Beach asked me to post an invitation for their "Surf Days" (sponsored by Sambazon).

According to Rosh, Stan, and the gang...they have a bi-monthly surf day at a beach in HB where they serve breakfast, get a few waves, and make some new friends.

I think they even have some extra surf if you are looking to learn to surf, or just forgot your stuff, you can still get in on the "Surf Day" action.

The actually had one of these surf days over the holiday weekend but I was lame and didn't get the invite posted in time. The next one will be coming up in a few weeks.

Here are the official details.

To All,

Your friends at Christian Surfers invite you to join us for our bi-monthly surf days Sponsored by Sambazon.

Get some hot coffee, eat some great breakfast grub and meet some new people.

We are meeting:

SATURDAY JUNE 14th 6:30 - 9:30 AM


SATURDAY JUNE 28TH 6:30 - 9:30 AM


Check out our local site at
And the national site at
Also our sponsor

Thanks to Sambazon, Adam Wright and the local community for all your support!


These guys have a pretty good time, and they are all about getting waves (they surf more than I do) would definitely be worth a check if you are looking to make some new surf-stoked friends.

Just an FYI...this blog is down with all religions, races, faiths, beliefs, conspiracy theories, or just plain ol' gut if you have a gathering, get-together, or party that you think other surfers might be into let me know and I will see about posting it on the blog. -Adam

Friday – New S swell but more of that funky wind

Friday looks like a surf day…again not great…but rideable.

We will have a new S swell (180) moving in to mix with some inconsistent SW energy and some local windswell.

Most spots will continue to hang around waist high with some inconsistent plus sets sneaking through on the low-to-high tide push.

Standout S facing breaks…mostly in Orange County but also showing in a few areas of North LA…will have some more consistent waist-chest high waves with a few shoulder high sets coming through on the better tides. North OC looks like it will be the biggest off this new S swell.

Winds are still not that great…looks like that funky-chicken morning conditions we have had for the last couple of days will continue. So look for mostly light and variable to light onshore winds in the morning…it should be clean early but expect it to bump up around mid-morning.

I still don’t think that it is worth driving very far for the surf…I would stick to a camera check early in the morning just in case the wind jumps on it too early…but if you are within striking distance of North OC then I would consider making a run to one of the good S facing beaches in that area.

Tropical Alert – Tropical Storm Alma

Hey gang we got our first Tropical Depression last night, which has now turned into a Tropical storm, and may become a hurricane later today.

Before you get too excited look at where it is located…

It is pressed right up against Central America and it is forecast to move back over land before it dissipates, (which means no surf for us.)

Here is how the odds of getting swell of break out right now.

Chance of getting surf in SoCal – 0%

Chance of getting surf in Baja Sur – 0%

Chance of getting surf in NorCal - 0% (I wish I could put less than zero)

Chance of Central America getting slammed by heavy rain, lightening, and flash floods – pretty damn good

Anyway even though it isn’t a swell-maker I thought I would pass it along. It shows that there is potential in the EPAC for more storm formation. Cross your fingers that we get one to spin up in our swell-window before too long.

I probably won’t be issuing a ton of posts on each storm (just as they increase surf potential)…so if you need more information or just more consistent updated make sure to check out the National Hurricane Center website.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thursday's Surf - Holding pattern

Thursday will be a (small) surf day.

Look for the surf to be very similar to Wednesday. We will have a mix of inconsistent SW energy, some local NW windswell, and some background S swell.

Most spots will hold around knee-waist high with a few plus sets sneaking through on the tide push.

Standout S-SW facing spots will have some chest-chest high+ sets on average with a few inconsistent bigger sets on the better tides. Shape looks best at the S-SW facing combo breaks that have a better shot at pulling in the mix of swells...Areas like North San Diego, South OC, and parts of the South Bay will see the biggest surf sizes.

Winds and weather will continue to be only "ok" since there is still some leftover sloppiness coming off that upper-level low-pressure. Look for light/variable to light-onshore texture showing for most areas throughout the morning. The really exposed breaks will have some W winds around 3-5 knots while the more protected breaks stay cleaner. Look for NW winds around 10-15 knots to move in through the afternoon.

Again I wouldn't expect much from the surf on Thursday. It will be rideable...but you are going to want to stick with your smaller/softer wave gear like longboards and fishy shapes. Shape will be a mix of small peaks, sort of boggy shoulders, and a bit of crumble to it in some areas. If you can, try and stick with the tide push where we can get the most out of the small swells.

Another Fatal Shark Attack in Ixtapa Mexico

I know I am a couple of days behind but I just caught this story on the interweb and thought I would pass it along in case some of you missed it.

According to news sources there have actually been 2 new shark attacks, one of them fatal, down around Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo coastline in Mainland Mexico.

If you remember Adrian Ruiz a surfer from San Francisco bleed to death from a shark attack while surfing the nearby area of Troncones Beach in April.

These latest attacks were reported at a beach called Pantla and at Playa Linda beach.

At Pantla Beach, Osvaldo Mata, was reported to have been mauled by a large 6' shark which bit off his hand and gouged his thigh. Apparently his brave friends paddled over and helped him to shore but he died of his wounds before medics arrived.

You can read more about the fatal attack here

The second attack, which occurred a couple of days later at Playa Linda, was on Texan Bruce Grimes. According to the news article the shark gave him a quick swim-by and then snagged his arm as he was trying to get back to the beach. After a bit of a struggle Grimes apparently was able get away from the shark and make his way to shore and eventually drive to medical help where he ending up with something close to 100 stitches. (Got to give the man credit for keeping his shit together enough to get to help.)

You can read more about the attack at Playa Linda Here

Man this is really seems like 2008 has been a horrible year for shark attacks both domestically and internationally. (If some of you have seen a story about year to year frequency of shark attacks forward it on).

I love animals and nature as much as the next guy (if not more) but I am definitely starting to have issues with humans getting pushed back into the food chain.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wednesday’s Surf – rideable but nothing to get super excited about

Wednesday will be surf day but sort of gutless and small for most areas…particularly through the morning.

There will be a mix of SW swell, local NW windswell, and some building S swell (180). Most spots will be around knee-waist high+ on sets while the standout combo breaks…mostly through Orange County and parts of San Diego see some chest high sets in the morning and a few bigger sets as we head into late afternoon.

Winds look ok…it will start off with light/variable to light onshore in the morning. Look for building NW winds around 10-15 knots through the afternoon.

There still isn’t enough swell to spend our precious bazillion dollars-a-gallon gas hunting around for sub-quality surf. I think your best bet is to stick local and make do with what is showing at spots close by. If it is surfable you scored…if not well Mr. Moneybags (and I say that with affection and a liberal amount of sarcasm) you get to make the call whether you should hunt around for a different waist-chest high semi-textured mushburger. Yeah good luck with that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Tuesday’s Surf – We got ripped off

A long weekend is always nice but we sure got hosed from a weather and surf perspective the last few days. There were a couple of short windows that snuck through here and there but you had to be a bit of an opportunist (and immune to the bird flu) to pick them off. Anyway time to go back to work…

Tuesday looks like a surf morning…but the afternoon looks junky.

We will have a hodgepodge of swell on Tuesday. There will be the ever-present NW windswell, some inconsistent SW swell (210-220), and some S swell (170-180) that is holding in the background.

Even with the range of swells there won’t be a ton of size out there. Most breaks will be in the waist-high+ range. The standouts, mostly the really good combo spots, will see surf in the chest-shoulder high on the bigger sets. Look for the best shape on the tide push.

The winds are expected to be light and variable in the morning…but I would expect a few spots of texture and onshore flow in the really open spots. The W winds pick up again in the afternoon and come onshore around 10-15 knots.

I am not really all that excited about the surf tomorrow…I think that in general it will be a bit gutless, inconsistent on sets, and maybe a touch bumpy by midmorning. If you have to surf the best bet will be to find a combo beach break close by. Don’t spend a lot of time hunting around if you can avoid it…it isn’t worth the loan that you will have to take out to fill up your gas tank. There is some better S swell showing later this week that may have some cleaner conditions going along with it…you may want to wait for that.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Surf For Memorial Day Weekend - UPDATE - clean up!

Good news...looks like that storm that was supposed to plague us through the weekend has moved on faster than it was forecast.

We are seeing much cleaner conditions this morning (compared to the last couple of days). It is actually almost glassy or even a little offshore for most areas (Santa Barbara down through San Diego).

The surf isn't looking huge...we are still working off a mix of leftover S swell and some WNW windswell. Since the windswell is dropping fast we are seeing most of our size go along with it. Right now most spots are seeing waist high waves. Standout breaks are seeing some chest high sets with maybe a rare plus set sneaking through at times.

I think water quality is a bit questionable...we got drilled with rain in a few areas and we hadn't seen much runoff for a while (which isn't a good combo for nice clean water). So you might want to take that into account before paddling out.

For the extended forecast it looks like Memorial Day will be cleaner...they are still expecting some unstability in the weather but winds are looking light. Expect similar sized surf to Sunday with a touch more SW swell at exposed areas.

Friday, May 23, 2008

2008 East Pacific Hurricane Season – Update

The Climate Prediction Center just issued a seasonal outlook for the 2008 East Pacific Hurricane Season.

As usual the actual “outlook” straight from the government is a bit on the dry side…but basically is breaks down to this.

The official opinion is that it will be a below average season. The CPC is estimating that there is a 60-70% chance of the following.

11-16 named storms (tropical storm level or higher)
5-8 hurricanes (Cat 1 or higher)
1-3 major hurricanes (Cat 3 or higher)

Which while it is cool that they give specifics for the number of storms I am not really sure that it means that much when you factor in the 30-40% margin of error.

It is worth remembering that from a surf standpoint it isn’t so much the quantity of the storms but the quality. We have had plenty of good tropical surf seasons with only a handful of hurricanes…it is just that a lot depends on where the storms form and how they behave. With a few well placed storms and we can get a ton of waves. (Though the odds are better the more storms we get…yeah I love having to contradict myself in the same paragraph)

Here is a little post I put together a couple of weeks ago that has some info on what to look for…

2008 East Pacific Hurricane Season

You can read the official NOAA press release here

Here is the actual seasonal outlook from the CPC

Surf for Memorial Day Weekend - Stupid weather!

Saturday is not going to be a surf day...unless you are super desperate.

Sunday will be slightly better than Saturday but still bad.

Monday will be cleaner than both days but weather and conditions will continue to be unstable.

The funkiness will continue this weekend as that lovely upper-level low-pressure continues to hamper conditions and generally trash the surf.

Swellwise we won't be doing much better...looks like the WNW windswell that pushed in over the last couple of days will be dropping fast as we head into Saturday and will continue to weaken both Sunday and Monday. S swell will continue to limp in through the background as well.

New but very inconsistent SW swell shows on Monday and mixes in with the fading leftovers from the weekend.

Look for the average exposed breaks to have surf running around waist-chest high all weekend long...with a slight pick up on Monday as the new SW'er arrives. The standout combo spots will have sets around shoulder high on the better tides but sets will be inconsistent and mostly pretty gutless since the majority of the size will be coming from the dropping windswell.

Really the weather will continue to be the biggest factor in the surf over the next several days. Winds are forecast to be strong out of the SW-W on Saturday, topping out near 20 knots in some areas. Conditions will start to stabilize slowly on Sunday and continue to slip back into something like normal on Monday but southerly flow is expected to continue throughout the weekend.

It is a complete bummer that the weather is screwing with us over a long weekend...I was looking forward to a couple of long surf sessions without having to dash back to work.

If you absolutely have to surf and you can't wait for the weather to shift around...then I would try and stick to spots that have some protection from the wind. They don't have to be totally sheltered but they need to have something to knock the bump down. If you go...plan on it being pretty bad...that way if you happen into a semi-surfable little nugget you will be pleasantly surprised. Look for more nuggets to become more and more likely as we get closer to Monday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Friday’s mess – more wind and junky conditions

I think the National Weather Service is saying it best this afternoon…

Here is their latest update for tomorrow.


If you don’t like reading block letters then I will summarize it…Yeah the crappy weather and generally poor surf will continue on Friday…and just to keep you guessing it looks like we might throw in some extra-terrifying lightening and waterspouts.

Surfwise expect more shoulder-head high+ NW windswell and touch of S swell still hanging on to the buoys. Most spots will have poor shape but there may be a few pockets on the inside, of the most protected spots, that see some slightly more rideable shape.

OC did actually see a brief pause in the winds late in the day on Thursday…so I saw a couple ugly but surfable waves sneak through at a couple of North Orange County breaks…unfortunately it didn’t last long and as I finished my pizza at the Big Belly the winds were already back on it. I guess where I am going with this is…if you are lucky enough to live close to the beach, keep an eye on conditions…these upper level lows are very unstable and we could see some occasional little dead areas form where you might be able to pick something off.

Winds are forecast to be primarly out of the S for SD and OC…so I would probably say those areas are your best bet if you absolutely need to surf tomorrow. You may find a slightly better looking wave at spots that are protected from the S winds…and can pull together some decent shape off the windswell mix.

Personally I am going to leave my board in the garage tomorrow…there was a decent amount of rain falling inland that may jack up water quality and I don’t need another case of river-poo-itis.

Finally here is a close-up quikscat map of the winds hitting the outer waters yesterday and today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thursday's Surf - A couple of whacks with the ugly-stick

Thursday is not looking like much of a surf day...there may be a small window early in the morning but onshore winds will jump on it fast.

Thursday we will have lot WNW windswell in the water along with some slowly fading S swell. Most W facing spots will have surf in shoulder-head high range while the standout combo spots see overhead sets. All areas will have at minimum poor+ shape while the really open spots see straight poor-poop conditions as the winds pick up quickly through early-mid morning.

If any of you looked at the buoys today...the offshore (but still relatively close) buoys are going crazy...nearly 18- to 19-feet at 11 seconds with nearly 40 knot gusts of wind! The seas around the nearshore islands must be a total cluster. Check out this image...

There is one little ray of hope for semi-surfable conditions super early in the morning (say around 5-7am). Looks like those winds will spin the eddy super tight right next to the coast in the morning. IF, and it is a big IF, the center of the eddy gets in the right spot we could see a side-offshore to offshore flow right around dawn in the LA and North OC areas...unfortunately the other spots look pretty screwed.

Your best bet is an early morning cam/weather/buoy check. If the planets manage to align and winds back off in those two areas (LA and OC) it might be worth a quick strategic surf-strike for the dawn patrol. If you don't wake up in time (or aren't a morning person) I would probably just write the day off...winds come up pretty fast so look for all areas to have W winds 10-20+ knots by lunchtime.

These outer water winds are expected to stick around in some fashion all the way through don't expect much improvement until the second half of the weekend. Oh and water temps are going to take a giant dive...we might even be breaking out the booties once these onshore are done with us...(damn it.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wednesday’s Surf – Sloppy seconds with a couple of clean nuggets

Wednesday will be a surf day for some areas and sort of pig nasty for a lot of others.

We are going to have plenty of swell on Wednesday. There will be a mix of steady S swell from the Southern Hemi, a hefty dose of WNW windswell, and some really ugly short-period S windswell (which will be mostly wind bump).

Almost all areas are going to see shoulder-head high surf tomorrow. The standout S facing spots, NW windswell breaks, and combo spots will have overhead+ sets mixing in.

The real problem is going to be the wind. There is a strong eddy that is already building this evening and will max out tomorrow. It basically means a lot of NW winds through Santa Barbara and to a lesser degree through Ventura. It also means that San Diego and Orange County can expect S-SW winds around 10-15 knots through the morning, which will be a total mess.

It looks like the only area that gets much of a break is North LA County and the South Bay. Thanks to the position of the eddy it looks like LA dodges a bullet. North LA will have light N winds while the South Bay sees light S winds both of which are decent directions for each area.

I would say that LA would be the best bet for tomorrow…at least for the morning. Onshore winds will push in for all areas by the afternoon and the outer waters are going to get thrashed…probably 20-30+ knots. The North LA spots will probably have the best shape because they are working off the cleaner S swell. The South Bay will be a stacked up mix of large windswell.

There will be a few fallback spots in other areas…in San Diego and OC look for those spots that are protected from the S winds (like Dana Point breaks in the OC and La Jolla spots in SD). Ventura and Santa Barbara areas it will be best if you head to spots that are sheltered from the N flow…the insides of a lot of the points may be alright but the windswell shape is going to leave a lot to be desired.

Newport Wedge Video 5.19.08

Here is some video of the Wedge on Monday. (Thanks pix0r!)

You might want to turn the sound on the video down (or off)...the guys shooting the video are really freaking excited about the wedge...well you will see what I mean.

Newport Beach Wedge - 5-19-08

Hey gang...Toby over at was cool enough to send over some pictures of the Wedge that he took on Monday (May 19). He said he shot these in the afternoon but had heard that it was bigger earlier in the day. Even these shots make it look like it was heaving.

With the new swell continuing to arrive it may be worth a look today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tuesday's Surf - Is that a nice S swell or are you just happy to see me?

So the new S swell was coming on pretty strong on Monday. Naturally the surf was coming up because I was stuck in a business conference in Anaheim all day…(you may send me emails of thanks at a later time for the human sacrifice)…from all of the various reports that I got it sounded like the swell was hitting the OC the most with decent size in both LA and SD as well. Though I didn’t see it personally I heard the Wedge was pushing double-overhead+ on sets. (Send over some pictures to torture me if you have them...I in turn will post them to torture others and the circle of pain can continue.)

Anyway on Tuesday…well the good news is that the S swell will finally peak and we will see some steadily increasing NW windswell arriving through the afternoon to break up the southern hemi energy. The bad news is that the winds are going to get to it a bit more than they did on Monday.

San Diego, Los Angeles, and Ventura
Surfwise…look for most of San Diego and LA to have surf in the shoulder-head high range for Tuesday morning. Both of the winter areas in each region will get bigger and more consistent (and probably start to see overhead sets) as the new NW windswell arrives later in the day. The S facing standouts should have a few overhead sets mixing in for most of the day. Ventura will see the same sizes but with fewer spots exposed to S swell and more exposed to the building NW swell in the afternoon.

Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara will be a bit more shadowed from each swell. Look for surf in the waist-chest high range for the better exposed areas in the morning. Standout NW facing windswell spots will have some bigger shoulder high+ sets by the afternoon.

Orange County
The OC is going to be the biggest tomorrow thanks to its ability to focus S swells, particularly in the North County areas. Look for most S facing breaks to have consistent shoulder-overhead surf while the top spots see sets going a couple of feet overhead+ on the better tides. Extreme focal points, like the Wedge (and others), will have sets going several feet overhead and I wouldn’t be surprised to continue to see some double-overhead+ peaks rolling through. South OC will be a touch smaller than the northern areas but will still have plenty of swell showing. NW windswell fills in through the afternoon…and will most likely bring winds along with it.

Winds and Weather
The eddy spins up a touch more on Tuesday (Wednesday is looking really poopy)…look for S-SE winds around 3-5 knots in the morning. WNW winds around 10-15 knots build in the afternoon. Expect more fog and low clouds in the morning.

Your Best Bet
Sorry for all the headers…just thought I would break it out a little better since there is so much crapola going on…anyway with as much swell coming in we have a lot of choices for surf. Personally I would try to surf in the morning before the winds get too strong. I would also try and stick to spots that protection from the S winds and yet still have some exposure to the S swell…sort of tough to do but worth it if you can pull it off. Look for the biggest surf through North OC…and probably a lot of closeouts on the bigger sets until the NW windswell gets going a bit more.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Monday’s Surf – New S swell and the start of another eddy…freaking figures.

In general Monday will be a surf day…but there will be a bit of eddy texture starting to slip through in some areas.

We will be doing alright swellwise on Monday. We will have a mix of building S swell (even more energy arriving on top of the S swell we had arrive over the weekend), fading WNW medium period swell, and building NW windswell.

Most spots will continue to hold around chest-shoulder high while the standout S-facing breaks and good combo spots, mostly in Orange County, San Diego, and LA, see some head high sets at times.

What really sort of sucks is that the winds in the outer waters will be increasing on Monday and will start to spin up the eddy again. In general Monday won’t be that bad…if fact LA and Ventura will be clean in the morning…but look for some NW texture filling in through Santa Barbara and building S-SE winds starting to slip into Orange County and San Diego.

I think that it will be worth hunting down a few waves in the morning…combo swells are always fun…and even with a little bump on it you should be able to pick off a few decent rides. I would probably give it a quick cam check in the morning…sometimes the eddy can pick up faster than we want.

The weather is supposed to get worse as we head toward the middle of the week…more eddy and strong S winds junking it up as we hit Wednesday. Cross your fingers that this part of the forecast changes over the next few pressure-model runs

Just for yucks (and because I like pretty colors) here is a pic of the current CDIP model. Monday will be similar but with more S swell.

Friday, May 16, 2008

2008 Hurricane Season

May 15th is the official start of the East Pacific Hurricane season…or what I sometimes like to call “special happy time” but more frequently refer to it as “a royal pain in the ass for surf forecasters”. In celebration of the start of the season I thought that I would throw together a little info on East Pacific Hurricanes and how they affect the surf in Southern California.

Unless you have been living under a rock in the Himalayas (that doesn’t have cable or satellite TV) you probably have at least an idea of what a hurricane is…so I won’t spend a ton of time going over the storm itself…here is the official version from the National Hurricane Center…

“The terms "hurricane" and "typhoon" are regionally specific names for a strong "tropical cyclone". A tropical cyclone is the generic term for a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection (i.e. thunderstorm activity) and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation

Tropical cyclones with maximum sustained surface winds of less than 34 knots are called "tropical depressions" Once the tropical cyclone reaches winds of at least 34 knots they are typically called a "tropical storm" and assigned a name. From there when winds reach 64-knots then they called “hurricanes” (or cyclones or typhoons…depending on what geographic region you are in).”

The official version is a little dry considering they are trying to describe potentially one of the most destructive releases of latent heat energy that can occur in our atmosphere…but hey that is government for you…I am sure that they could describe a nuclear explosion in a way that would make you fall asleep after the third paragraph.

For this little lesson…first I am going to throw down a little geography and terminology, because that is the way that I roll, and it will help our conversation about surf make more sense later, particularly when we start dealing with active storms. Anyway here is a little of the geography…

Our region is a little “special”
When you look around the world there are generally 7 areas that have consistent cyclone activity but our special little corner in the east North Pacific actually boasts an extra-bonus feature…our storms have a tendency to move away from land and generally pose less of a danger to life/limb/and property. Don’t get me wrong…they are still ass-kicking weather systems and will sometimes spin back and wreak havoc through Mexico and Central America...but they are quite a bit less likely to do so than the other tropical regions.

This is sort of a catch-22 from a surf standpoint…hurricanes have a tendency to send the strongest swell along their movement path, which means that while we don’t have storms make landfall, (and come along and stick it in sideways like they do to the East Coast sometimes), we also don’t always get the best swell that we could from these systems.

The Layout
From a geographic standpoint the East Pacific tropical region runs from the west Coast of Central America, down to the equator, and then out to the 140W longitude line. The northern border is a little more flexible since storms have a tendency to die off as they hit cold water.

The incubator
The Gulf of Tehuantepec and the surrounding areas have a tendency to be the storm incubator of the EPAC tropics. The mix of coastal geography, local wind patterns, and extremely warm water provide a good catalyst for storm formation. In most tropical seasons you can track a number of storms back to this little caldron that is located down along the coast of southern Mainland Mexico.

The ITCZ is short for “Intertropical Convergence Zone”, which is good that they gave it an acronym because writing the full term gets old fast. The ITCZ is an area where two different cells of air circulation meet along the surface of the ocean and push skyward. This convergence has a tendency to create a band of thunderstorms and tropical systems that are the early stages of tropical waves (and eventually full tropical cyclones). Anyway the ITCZ is more of a fluid entity than a fixed weather feature…oh it always exists…but it can move around and change intensity as different factors influence it. The ITCZ is important in the fact that it provides a low-wind zone for tropical storms to start their cyclonic rotation without being disrupted. From a forecast standpoint it is important to keep track of the ITCZ…the further north it drifts the better of a chance you have a storm formation…to close to the equator and you lose the Coriolis Effect.

Sea Surface Temps
When it comes to forecasting surf from hurricanes it is always important to keep an eye on sea-surface temperatures. Hurricanes need some very specific conditions to form and maintain circulation. One of the biggest factors is the ocean temps. The general rule of thumb is that a storm needs sea-surface temps to be at least 80-degrees Fahrenheit (or around 27-degrees Celsius)...and that temperature needs to extend down about 50-meters below the ocean surface. The storm doesn't actually draw that much energy from the water but it is more about the water temperature's effect on the air-mass directly above it. (this sort of gives me a I leave the heavy mental lifting to the NHC's big brains)

Due to limitations of public satellites it is hard to get a read on ocean temps beyond what you can see on surface but you can sort of guestimate where the pockets of storm potential water is.

Once a storm has moved out of the warmer waters it starts to lose power as its convection fails. This also means a lot of the storms winds start to lift up off the surface of the ocean and swell production is cut off, which is obviously a good thing to keep an eye on if you are trying to score surf from a hurricane.

Upper level steerage and sheering winds
On some levels hurricanes are actually pretty fragile weather systems...we already talked about their need for warm water/airmass which affects them from a surface standpoint...well they also need specific conditions to occur in the upper level of the atmosphere in order to start circulation. In particular they need some light/moderate winds blowing through the higher altitudes to sort of spark up the circulation that eventually becomes the full-scale cyclone convection. If these winds are too light then the storm won't spin up. The adverse is true as well...if the winds are too strong they will shear the top of the storm off, breaking the balance needed to maintain rotation.

One thing to watch is how the large scale wind patterns are moving through the tropical region...sometimes a storm will start in a favorable area only to move into a region that has more wind moving in the upper levels and it will begin to shear...and again once the storm starts to unbalance the surface winds get disrupted and swell production is shut down.

La Nina and El Nino (its Spanish for "the nino"!)
You hear a lot about El Nino/La Nina patterns in connection to hurricanes...and they do have a strong influence on the season as a whole...but it is good to think of it in terms of "potential" rather than a guaranteed stellar surf season. Both of these patterns represent the difference in SST's for the East Pacific region. An El Nino year means that the SST's are above average and the La Nina means that they are below average. The thing to keep in mind that there is quite a difference between an El Nino that is 0.5 degrees warmer than average compared to an El Nino that is a whopping 4+ degrees warmer. The amount of energy that it takes to heat a large area of the ocean is staggering and the more heat that is poured into it the more energy it will have to release later to equalize itself.

Here is the official definition from the Climate Prediction Center...

El Niño - El Niño, a phase of ENSO, is a periodic warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific along with a shift in convection in the western Pacific further east than the climatological average. These conditions affect weather patterns around the world. El Niño episodes occur roughly every four-to-five years and can last up to 12-to-18 months. The preliminary CPC definition of El Niño is a phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific Ocean characterized by a positive sea surface temperature departure from normal (for the 1971-2000 base period), averaged over three months, greater than or equal in magnitude to 0.5oC in a region defined by 120oW-170oW and 5oN-5oS (commonly referred to as Niño 3.4). El Niño, which would appear off the coast of Peru around Christmas time, is Spanish for "the boy" referring to the Christ child.

Basically when you break it El Nino year means warmer water in the East Pacific Tropical region...more warm water means more potential hurricanes. La Nina means cooler water and less potential hurricanes…(Funny thing about that is the opposite is actually true for the US East Coast. El Nino means a less active tropical season while a La Nina means a more intense one. Damn can’t they make anything easy.)

And finally...this picture sums up the El Nino perfectly...

Ok enough science...lets get on to the surf.
Does your head hurt...yeah mine too...lets talk about the fun stuff...the surf that a hurricane can kick out.

Hurricane surf is pretty has a tendency to be punchy, stacked up, and at the right spots...really hollow. It also can sneak in from swell angles that we could never get from normal southern hemi storms, which in turn lets it hit spots that are normally small and sheltered.

If you have been surfing for a few years you probably have a hurricane surf story...everyone does...they sort of go "remember hurricane 'blank'? Man I surfed this longboard-spot/reef/harbor-entrance/ was like double overhead and reeling!"

The thing is that hurricane swells feel magical...they usually hit over the summer when the water is warm and clear and the swell is so consistent that you surf until your arms want to fall off. When you start thinking about Hurricane swells in the terms of the waves that you will surf of course you want to score more and more of it.

Getting Hurricane Surf
When you get down to brass tacks hurricanes are similar, but smaller, versions of mid and upper latitude the same principles apply to them when it comes time for them to generate swell.

You may want to brush up on how waves are can read my barely coherent ramblings on that here.

Here are the basic things that you need to keep in mind when forecasting surf from hurricanes.

Storm Size - The bigger the storm the larger the fetch, the more fetch the more potential swell.

Intensity - The greater the wind speeds the bigger the surf...generally goes hand in hand with storm size since the bigger storms have a tendency to have more intense wind speeds than the smaller systems.

Movement track - You want a storm to be moving toward you. Hurricanes that are moving are sort of like flashlights...the swell is sent out the along the movement track. So the longer the storm is moving toward your location the more swell (and bigger waves) you can expect.

Movement Speed - This is tied to movement track...a storm can move too fast and sort of outrun the swell it is producing, which limits both the quality and quantity. A slower moving storm will have time to build a better sea-state, which lets it build a better swell. A perfectly paced storm will actually create a "travelling fetch" which will let the storm pour more energy into waves that it has already created...basically building the swell without the need for faster winds.

Storm Track vs Storm Speed
Ideally if you want to get great hurricane surf you want the storm to be moving toward you at a slow to moderate pace. Now actually getting a hurricane to head your direction isn't all that is sort of like herding cats, (well if the cat was 300 miles across, didn’t respond to the slightest human stimuli, and could smash everything that you care about into tiny pieces…then yeah it would be just like that…where was I? oh storm movement) this is where good storm speed can help compensate for a bad storm track.

If we go back to the flashlight analogy...the faster a storm moves the tighter the beam of swell becomes. If a storm is stalled or moving at a very slow rate it is sending out energy in all directions but as the storm speed picks up the swell energy tightens along the movement path. This image is a good illustration of what I mean.

You can still get swell from a hurricane even if it isn't headed directly towards your location but the system needs to be moving at the correct speed in regard to your position.

These are good rules of thumb concerning storm speed.

1. The Storm is moving away from your location: You want the speed to below 2-knots
2. Storm is moving along a path 90-degrees perpendicular to your location: You want the speed to below 5-7 knots (depends on the storm size...a wider storm can be moving a touch faster).
3. Storm generally toward your location: You want the movement speed to be below 8-10 knots.
4. Storm is coming to punch your ticket and drive up your homeowners insurance: Then you can have storm speed up to 15-17 knots and still get swell...any faster and the system starts to outrun the swell energy…and probably your ability to escape to safety. (Man aren’t I cheery today)

Seasonal expectations
While you can get hurricane swell at almost any time during the tropical season... Southern California definitely sees better hurricane swell activity as we move through the middle to end of the season. The reason for this is more due to the nature of the seasonal wind patterns than anything.

During the "Early Season", which runs from the spring into early summer, tropical systems have a tendency to track straight from east-to-west and move out into the open ocean.

As you get into the middle of the season, which is summer into early fall, the storms start to make a slight jog northward and eventually hook back toward land. This hook starts to line up the movement track with SoCal making it more likely for us to get waves.

Finally at the end of the season most storms are performing the “hook” sometimes right after they have formed. This is one of the more dangerous times to be along the Pacific side of Baja since storms can spin back toward land relatively quickly. They can cause a lot of damage even making landfall as a tropical wave or depression…remember there is a lot of dry land in baja that can’t hold a lot of water…so even a couple of inches of rain (or say the 30 inches a tropical storm can drop in a short period) can cause major flooding.

Naturally you want to be somewhere in the middle/end of the season where the storms have a chance of "aiming" towards SoCal and the Pacific side of Baja.

Swell Windows and Swell Directions
Swell windows are pretty darn important to Hurricane swells...more so than the bigger frontal systems. First off a hurricane is a smaller storm so the fetch is narrower and the swell is more focused...this compounded by the fact that hurricane swells generally have shorter swell-periods which don't wrap around corners as well as long-period swells. So if the storm is out of your swell window you are sort of out of luck...I have seen swells where the angle of the swell will cut off surf like a knife-blade as you move a 1/4 mile up a beach.

Generally Orange County and LA have the most SE’erly swell windows and can take in swells from 155-160 degrees…some of the other spots like north San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura start seeing swell around 170. Other very protected areas like the South Bay need a more traditional SW swell around 200 degrees (which isn’t all that common for a tropical systems.

My half-assed opinion on the 2008 tropical season.
Ok this post is way to freaking if you made it all the way down to this part then you are probably at work, in class, or prison...somewhere where you have a lot of time on your hands.

Anyway I will try and sum up quickly...looking the long-range climate data from the CPC and the NHC it looks we may have a slower than average season. The CPC (Climate Prediction Center) is calling for weak La Nina condition for the EPAC for May, June, and July, which means less warm water available for storm production. Dr Grey over at the University of Colorado is calling for a stronger season in the Atlantic which usually indicates a slower season in the Pacific as well. They do expect the La Nina to weaken later in the summer, potentially increasing tropical storm activity as we head into late summer and early fall.

Personally, and my opinion of long-range climate models isn't really work all that much...I would basically expect a slow start to the tropical storm season, less major hurricanes and fewer named storms for the next few months. As we reach late summer this should turn around and become more active...setting up better swell potential as we head into the second half of the tropical season.

That is all I got for now...make sure to keep checking the blog I will probably talk about each tropical system as it forms throughout the season...either that or I will drink more this summer...I would say the odds are about 50/50 right now.

My favorite Hurricane Links
Here are a few of my favorite links to hurricane related stuff...I will drop these on my link list as well.

Climate Prediction Center

National Hurricane Center

NHC Satellites

Navy Research Laboratory Monterey

University of Hawaii - Tropical Page

FNMOC Ensemble Forecasts (good place to see upper level winds)

NOAA Sea-Surface Temps

Weekend Waves – Fun in the sun

Both Saturday and Sunday will be surf days…but Saturday will start off a bit slow.

Saturday we will have a mix of slowly building S swell and some increasing WNW energy (both windswell and NW energy). Most exposed breaks will continue to see waist high surf while the standout S facing areas see some chest high+ sets. Waves will be inconsistent at first but will fill in more as we move toward the end of the day.

Sunday the S swell (170-180) continues to slowly fill in (the main push of S-SE swell will actually peak Tuesday and Wednesday of next week). There will also be the background WNW energy helping to fill in the lesser exposed winter breaks and good combo spots. On Sunday most breaks will be around waist-chest high while the standouts see some chest-shoulder high sets off the S-swell by the end of the day.

Winds and weather look nice over the weekend…look for light and variable winds through the morning and moderate onshore breezes around 10-12 knots out of the NW by the afternoons.

The biggest surf will be showing through north OC and parts of San Diego but in general I don’t think it will be worth driving that far to try and score those waves. If you are just looking for surf you might as well look at the local areas and see if you can pick off a few there before expanding the search. If you have more of a “beach day” in mind where you surf and enjoy hanging out on the sand then it may be worth tagging on a few extra miles to head down to the OC/SD areas. Plan on bringing your smaller wave gear on Saturday. By Sunday we should be able to mix in the better “all-around” boards that work in both small and medium sized surf. Remember that thanks to the weather it will be pretty crowded at the beach…expect a lot of extra fiberglass at your favorite break.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Friday's Surf - I think we should take the day off

Friday will be a surf day.

Look for some fun but generally small surf on Friday. We will have a mix of S swell, some local WNW energy, and some slightly longer-period NW energy.

Most spots will continue to see rideable knee-waist high surf. Standout S facing spots...mostly through Orange County and parts of San Diego (definitely not Bend Oregon) will have some chest high sets.

Winds will be light offshore to light and variable in the morning. Look for onshore flow around 10-15 knots out of the W during the afternoon.

It supposed to be nice and hot tomorrow so I think we should boycott work, break out the fish boards, and go surf. Try and ease into it tomorrow if you can...the dawn patrol may be a bit swampy. The tide will be a little high in the morning but we should see shape improve as it starts to drop during midmorning. Personally I wouldn't waste a lot of time driving around looking for waves tomorrow...if you find a playful wave close to home I would jump on it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thursday's Surf - Surfing is better than work

Thursday is going to be a surf day...the combo of leftover swell and decent conditions will be a good excuse to jump in the water.

The surf is going to be pretty similar to Wednesday, which was fun at the combo spots...I surfed the local beach break during lunch and it was nice and playful (though the low tide really helped the shape).

On Thursday we will have a mix of S swell, weak WNW energy, and some local windswell. Most spots will continue to hold in the knee-waist high range. Standout combo breaks, mostly the beach breaks in San Diego and Orange County, will have some chest high+ sets sneaking through on the right tides.

Winds start off nice as well...mostly light and variable to light offshore in the morning. They do eventually turn onshore out of the W during the afternoon but they stay a bit lighter...mostly around 10-12 knots, which could be surfable at the more protected breaks.

Water temps are starting to improve a touch...Newport/HB felt around 60-61 degrees today...which is a big improvement over the cold stuff we have had for a while.

Like I said before Thursday should be decent surf day...nothing super exciting but playful enough to try and squeeze a session in at some point. If you are looking for a little more size then your best bet is going to be San Diego and OC beach breaks...they seem to be pulling in the swell mix a bit better than other areas...if you can, try and wait for the low tide. I would recommend your fishier shaped board or something that works well in smaller surf...that way you can pick off a few of the smaller waves while waiting for the sets.

Swell Alert - New S-SE swell for Southern California and Baja

There has been an evil-looking nugget of a storm spinning down in the SPAC over the last few days.

QuikSCAT was recording nearly 50-60 knots of wind in an area of fetch aimed mostly towards Baja and, to a lesser degree, Southern California

Here check out this chart

This is a close up of the storms core...see the black wind barbs...the ones with the little triangles indicate 50 knots of wind...the ones with the triangle and extra lines means +50 knots (10 knots for each full line).

And here is the lovely, yet super small, WWIII visual product viewer...along with my usual incredibly artistic arrows. (man I need to get adobe illustrator on my computer at work...photoshop is killing me).

Anyway this storm has been holding in place for a few days which is pretty good for swell production. It actually started off a little less it pushed out some weaker S swell before it set up a bigger lump of energy.

From a surf standpoint Baja Sur, in particular the Tip/East Cape areas, will see the biggest part of this swell.

SoCal will see a smaller, but still fun, version of the same swell at the good S facing breaks once the swell moves up into our area.

Here are the more specific details...

Baja Sur
Baja will see this new S-SE swell (170-185) arrive on Sunday the 18th and fill in slowly through the day. Eventually the swell peaks on Monday and Tuesday (May 19-20) with surf in the shoulder-overhead+ range for most exposed breaks and top standout areas see sets going 2-3' overhead at times. It should be a fairly consistent swell in the Baja Sur/Tip area thanks to the open swell window...but expect size to drop off a touch as you move up the Pacific side.

Southern California
SoCal will see this new S-SE swell (170-180) arrive on Monday May 19 and build slowly at exposed breaks throughout the day. It will actually be overlapping a smaller pulse of S swell already in the water so it should be pretty fun even though the bigger swell won't really get going through the afternoon. The S-SE'er will actually peak Tuesday and Wednesday (May 20-21). Look for the average exposed breaks to see chest-shoulder high+ surf. Standout spots, mostly through Orange County and a few other select areas, see head high and overhead sets. Weather (at least at this point) is looking good for this swell...cross your fingers that the wind forecasts hold together.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wednesday’s Surf – Smaller but with a few fun ones still mixing in

Wednesday will be a playful sized surf day.

We will have fading S swell mixing with background WNW energy and local windswell. Most spots will continue to hold around knee-chest high while a few of the best S facing combo spots see some chest high+ sets sneaking through at times.

Winds are looking good in the morning with mostly light and variable to light offshore flow. Afternoon winds pick up out of the W around 10-12 knots.

Man I am lagging on the forecast today…this is about how fast I was moving today for some reason. Don’t blink you might miss it.

Anyhoo…your best bet for tomorrow will be the summer areas, either breaks that excel at focusing the S swell or a really good combo break that can pull in both swells. Orange County will show the best on the mix of swells but I expect it to be fun in San Diego and the exposed breaks in LA as well. I would probably try and hit it in the morning as well…the wind looks like it will get jump on it pretty early mid-morning.

WNW Swell Alert: North Pacific gets off another shot of WNW swell before the summer!

We have a decent sized WNW swell (290-300+) heading into Northern and Central California later this week. Looks like weather will be good too. I would start working on your "sick" excuses for ditching work.

The North Pacific storm track just won't quit this year...every time it looks like it is about to kick the seasonal bucket it spins off another storm. This latest system formed to the northeast of the Hawaiian Islands and is setting up fetch for Northern and Central California as it moves into the Gulf of Alaska.

While it is weak compared to "normal winter" reckoning it is still is very healthy considering that it is May. You can see on the QuikSCAT image below that it is showing winds in the 35-45 knot range right in the key areas of fetch.

Here are the details on this swell...

Northern California
Look for the WNW swell from this storm to arrive throughout the day on Friday and then peak overnight into Saturday. Wave heights will be consistently in the head high to overhead+ range while the standout NW facing spots see well-overhead sets.

As a huge bonus winds and weather are going to cut us a break as well...the springtime gale that we have had for what seems like forever is finally going to back off right as this swell hits. Friday and Saturday will have clean morning conditions and only moderate onshore flow below 15 knots in the afternoons.

Southern California
This swell isn't aimed very well for SoCal...we will see some energy but the brunt of the WNW energy (290-300) will be blocked by Point Conception.

Look for this new WNW-NW to arrive through the day on Saturday, peak late in the afternoon and hold into Sunday. Like I said above SoCal will be much smaller...mostly knee-chest high at the exposed breaks, but we may see a touch of S-SW swell in the water as well which would allow a few peaky sets to sneak through at the combo breaks.

Make sure to keep an eye on the offshore 49059 NOAA buoy...we should start to see some new energy showing around midday/evening on Thursday.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tuesday's Surf - Clean Conditions? What's that? Your lips are moving but I don't understand what you are saying.

Tuesday could finally be a clean surf day...(ok you can stop laughing when I say that)

Naturally our swell will be dropping because the conditions will be improving. In the water we are going to see a mix of fading S swell, some local windswell, and a touch of WNW swell.

Most exposed spots will be around knee-chest high. Standout S facing breaks and good combo spots will have some shoulder high sets.

Winds are forecast to be light and variable through the morning but the charts are still showing some light eddy spin to the local pressure model. Likely we are going to see some light S-SE flow through San Diego and cleaner conditions as you move into the regions further north.

Look for all areas to have onshore winds out of the W around 10-15 knots by the afternoon.

If the winds hold off I think the S facing spots in OC should be fun...maybe even with some peaky shape thanks to the other swells we have in the water along with the S swell. I would probably still do a cam check in the morning to make sure that the eddy isn't just screwing with us...then head to the beach if it really is clean. If you pick a good break I think we can get away with a better all-round board and save the small wave gear for later in the week.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Monday’s Surf - Can’t get a break…

Monday will be similar to the weekend…There will be surf but it will continue to have some issues with eddy conditions.

This weekend was a bit of a bust, at least in my area (North OC). The winds never really cleaned up and the swell was showing on Sunday but didn’t push up much on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few waves and it was surfable enough for a weekend…I guess I am still a bit jaded by that excellent run of surf we had in Feb/March. I hope that you have a few more cleaner pockets than I had.

Anyway on to Monday.

Surfwise on Monday we will have a mix of peaking S swell and some local windswell. Most spots will continue to see chest high surf while the standout S facing areas in Orange County see some shoulder high+ sets.

Conditions will be a bit funky again…with eddy S winds around 5 knots through the morning and onshore winds out of the W-WNW around 10-12 knots by the afternoon.

It will be rideable and if you can find a semi-protected spot you might even find a clean little section…but in general expect some of that texture/crumble to most spots. Best shape/conditions will be around early to mid morning…onshore winds will strengthen through the afternoon.

Surf Break Maps: Salt Creek, Dana Point, Orange County, California

I think if you went back to a lot of the 1980’s surf mags and sorted through all of the photos, Salt Creek would be one of the top 10 most photographed surf spots. At the same time you probably wouldn’t see a lot of photos crediting that they shot the little hollow-barrel-slash-closeout covershot at Creek either. It is probably a combination of the w facing beach, high cliffs, and open swell window, which offer clean conditions and good lighting most of the day…oh and the fact that Surfer Magazine is right over the hill in San Juan Capistrano probably helped a bit too.

Salt Creek is another one of Orange County’s top waves and main surf spots. It sits roughly in the middle of the county’s coastline, bracketed by Three Arch Bay to the north and Dana Point to the south. From a surf-landscape perspective it is sort of a pressure-release valve for OC surfing…particularly for the guys that live in the Laguna Nigel, Mission Viejo, and Irvine areas (basically the central county region)…it sort of gives them a decent third option rather than just plowing to HB/Newps or down to Trestles.

From a wave-quality perspective Salt Creek can get pretty damn good. You have a smorgasbord of different waves types packed into a small area. Points, reefs, beach breaks, and shallow sandbars are all within paddling distance. Throw in the fact that the beach has exposure to both SW and WNW swells, that it can handle and even prefers a higher tide, and it is protected from southerly winds and you pretty much get the trifecta going for the surf area.

Finding Salt creek is pretty easy…just look down from the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point and you will see it directly below. Oh I always forget…it is a little hard to get past the Ritz door guards while you are shirtless, sandy, and in some beat-ass sandals. (Cross your fingers that the man with the rubber gloves will be gentle.) Actually you can check out Creek from Ritz Carlton Drive…you don’t even have to get out of the car just pull up and look through the fence that borders the park. It seems to drive both the locals and the authorities crazy for some reason…probably because it becomes a madhouse traffic jam when there is a good swell.

There are two pay parking lots just off Ritz Carlton Drive…they are the new ones with the pay station so don’t forget to get a pass…the parking ticket is something close 50-bucks.

For you broke suckers there is also a free public lot a little further down PCH…off Niguel Shores Dr (at least it was free the last time I checked.) You have to hike a ways back through the strand to get to Creek but if you have the time it will save you a couple of dollars.

The Hill
There is this steep hill from the parking lot down to the beach…it is paved and relatively smooth until you get to the bottom. Back it the day we used to bomb it on skateboards (but then I became less insane and more attached to total body function)…you can still try it but the pavement is a little slick on the damp mornings…and the fun run can turn into a widowmaker. Also the hill sucks some major ass when you are stumping it on frozen pins back to the top after a chilly winter dawn patrol.

The Surf
Like I said above Creek is a pretty good wave and on the right swell mix it can get really good. It is exposed to a wide swell angle and can pick up swells coming in from the S-SW all the way to the NW (the swell directions run from about 180-290+). Finding the perfect mix of swells for Creek depends a lot on which area you like to surf…each spot does a little better on certain swells than the others do. Generally you can see good surf from a decent sized S-SW swell, a strong W-NW swell, and the ever popular a good combo of the two directions. Creek will also work on shorter period windswells if you don’t mind surfing semi-shorebreak.

Here is a video of Creek that was posted on Youtube…the music it a bit suspect so you may want to turn down your volume.

The surf at Salt Creek is generally broken up into 4 areas.

Click on a link to get more details on each spot




The Point

Surf Break Maps: Heroins, Salt Creek, Dana Point, Orange, California

Heroins is pretty much a gadget wave…it can get good, and you can get pitted out of your gourd on the right swell, but it doesn’t break that often and really most people don’t even take the time to try and surf there unless there is a macking WNW swell in the water.

The wave at Heroins is a right-hander that breaks off the rocky shelf up around Monarch Bay. The bottom is a craggy pile of rocks with some jagged edges (sounds like fun doesn’t it) until you reach the inside sections closer to the sand. The take-off generally stays in the same place but you get a lot of water moving around on big swells thanks to all of the swell reflection off the reefs, cliffs, and rocks. In a lot of ways this wave is similar to spots up along the central and northern California coasts (minus the cold water causing extreme ball-shrinkage, man-eating sea-life, and the near consistent string of overhead+ winter swells)…ok I guess it isn’t really similar it just gives off a similar vibe on big days

Due to a few rock reefs along the top of the point and further off of the shoreline, Heroins actually has a pretty limited swell window. It can pull in a S-SW swell pretty easy but the orientation of the point/beach causes those swells to pile up and close out the sections. So in general it is not very surfable on S-SW swells. Heroins really starts to work on the bigger winter swells…W swells to be precise. The steeper NW-WNW swells have a tendency to skip past the point, which means that you lose out on a ton of potential swells…really if it had just a bit more open swell window it would probably be a decent and fairly consistent winter spot.

Heroins works best when you get a bigger, medium-long period W swell between 250-280…sometimes it will pull in some energy from a steeper WNW swell but the periods need to be pretty long and the swell needs to be very large.

When Heroins is firing you can get some pretty sick looking barrels setting up as the wave breaks the point section…it sort of opens up for short distance and then closes out as you get closer to the inside. It is a photogenic wave too…it is really easy to get some sweet looking shots from the beach with a telephoto. Personally I think that on most swells the wave looks better in a photo than it really it. Here is a good shot of the surf (it is on someone elses blog so I won’t actually post it here).

Picture of Heroins Surf

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
W (250-280) with medium-to-long swell periods. Likes the larger overhead+ swells.
Best Wind: NE-E, light-moderate winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sharp rock, sea-urchins, and sand on the inside
Best Season: Winter
Crowds: Not many people in the water most of the time…but it can get pretty aggro when a good W swell rolls through.

Surf Break Maps: Gravels, Salt Creek, Dana Point, Orange, California

Gravels is the most northern section of the more consistent Salt Creek surf area and is generally considered to be more of a bodyboard spot…or at least most of the Salt Creek surfers wish they could herd the spongers into a semi-contained area over that way.

Some of the Villa Park Surf Club longboarding Gravels

The wave at gravels is one of those classic deep-water-to-shallow-water set ups where the waves get a near clear shot at the beach. Basically the wave is semi-shorebreak at the best of times and breaking almost, if not directly on the sand on the average days. You can actually get a little lefthand section if the swell mix is correct but Gravels is usually considered a right. The wave is a borderline closeout but it can throw a decent hollow section when you have some swell in the water. I am not sure how it originally got the name gravels but it definitely fits…a few of the times I have tried to surf it over the years have left me with a bunch of grit in my ears and some sanded off patches of skin.

As I mentioned in the Salt Creek overview this is where a lot of surfmag covers have been shot…the lighting is good, the water is blue and clear (but not necessarily clean), and the high cliffs knock down a lot of the wind. It is also a short easy swim to set up some in-the-barrel water shots.

Gravels is at its best on a decent W swell or a good swell combo. It can work, and even work well, on a SW swell but it doesn’t really click like it does on the other better directions. Even when the wave is humming along expect it to be a fast, hollow section that is better suited for bodyboarding and bodysurfing. That being said some of the deepest barrels I have ever seen at Gravels where by a couple of little kids on 9’0” longboards...go figure.

Spot details:
Best swell direction: W (270-280) and a combo of SW (190-210) and W swell. It likes short-period W windswells when they have enough power.
Best Wind: NE-E, light-moderate winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand, with some larger particulate…lets just call it gravel for arguments sake.
Best Season: Fall, Winter, and early Spring
Crowds: Moderate…but it can turn into bodyboard chaos when you get a decent swell on the weekend.

Surf Break Maps: Middles, Salt Creek, Dana Point, Orange, California

Sometimes the sheer laziness of surfers, when it comes to naming our surf breaks, is almost embarrassing…there are a lot of breaks simply named “middles” out there. Hell if you are standing on the beach looking at the surf in between two other people you run the risk of being named middles. Oh well…not much we can do about it…just try and think up some better names in the future. In the case of this spot it gets its name because it is in the middle of Gravels and The Point.

The waves at Middles break along a stretch of semi-permanent sandbar that sits between the deeper Gravels trough and the rocks that stabilize the sand along the Point. Basically Middles is a decent, dumpy beach break that is shoved between a hollow shorebreak section and a left handed reef/point.

The wave shape at Middles is determined by a few things…the tide, the swell mix, and how the sandbar is situated. If one of these factors get too far out of whack Middles turns sectiony and closed out, with just a few makeable sections over by the left coming off the point. As these different factors get more favorable the waves at Middles can get super fun setting up some hollow peaks and fast rippable shoulders.

When the sandbar at Middles is in its “normal” shape the best swell direction is definitely a SW/WNW combo swell (with the WNW swell being either a medium or short period swell). The mix of energy will get broken up and reflected off parts of the Point and end up combining up right as they hit the rather steep sandbar. As a result you will see a series of scattered peaks stretching through most of the beach, some of which will be hollow and barreling if you have timed it right with the tides…which tends to need to be in the medium-high range of the tide swing…if the tide is too low Middles starts to close out.

Middles will also work well on a single, moderately sized, S-SW swell…the natural beach shape along with its exposure to the swell angle can set up decent sections both near the Point and Gravels.

It is important to note that while Middles isn’t the greatest wave in the area it does act as a good pressure release for the crowd throughout the Salt Creek Surf area…without the more open, and sometimes shifting sections, the pack would be stacked up rail to rail along the point and it would probably devolve into something like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome…and really nobody but me wants that to happen.

Two men enter! One man leaves!

Just a typical Saturday afternoon for Adam

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
SW and W combo swells, Bigger SW swells, and medium sized W swells (270-280) It likes short-period W windswells when they have enough power.
Best Wind: NE-E, light-moderate winds are the best.
Sea Floor: Sand with some random rocks springing up as you get closer to the Point.
Best Season: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Season
Crowds: Generally mellow but it can get a little thick when the crowd at the point is overflowing.

Surf Break Maps: The Point, Salt Creek, Dana Point, Orange, California

The Point is generally considered the “anchor” spot of Salt Creek beach. It is usually the most consistent, the most crowded, and it usually has better overall wave shape.

The Point is a left-hander that breaks off the pile of rocks along the south end of the beach. While it is called “The Point” it actually has a lot more in common with a reef break than an actual point break. The rocks that you see above the waterline and on the beach are actually just the base of a longer underwater rock shelf. Sand moving down the beach from the north has a tendency to get piled up next to those rocks and helps to extend the “point” further away from the shore and smooth off the transition from deep to shallow water.

If you have ever surfed The Point you know that the primary take-off section is pretty small…it is a section maybe about 10-15’ across…sometimes smaller or larger depending on how the tides, wind, and swell is affecting it. On most crowded days it can be a proper bitch to get set waves. There are a lot of guys that have got the Point dialed…they know how the wave is going to set up and have a good idea on how the tide is affecting the take-off, put 10 or 12 of those guys into a little box of a take-off zone and mix in an inconsistent southern hemi swell and you have a recipe for frustration. After a couple of sessions like that you will have a good idea why a lot of people head over to Middles.

On the right swell the left off The Point is a damn good wave…sometimes even worth the wait if it is crowded. The takeoff at the top of the point is fast but not hyper-critical so you have a good chance of making the drop. The wave does set up fast though and right after your bottom turn you hit a speedy section that has a tendency to barrel for a couple dozen yards. From there the wave slows down a touch but you do have to push through some racy sections on the inside. Eventually the wave does a semi-closeout as finally nears the beach…occasionally you will get a small shoulder that you can drift off and back into your paddle.

Check out this super old photo of the point…you can read a cool story about the Dana Point/Creek Surf scene that came with this photo here

Man I wish that the Coast still looked like this...

The best swell for the Point is generally a medium sized (5-7’ faces) long-period S-SW swell (180-210). It generally needs a medium-high tide to really get the wave to stand up but occasionally the sand will shift around and it can stay playful on the low-mid tide as well.

Rights off the Point
Occasionally, on large WNW-W swells, enough energy will push past the point and form a right-hander that breaks back toward Strands. It takes a lot of energy to actually make it break with any sort of shape but it is a good standby spot if other areas are having trouble with winds/weather. It is worth noting that Strands has a ton of randomly submerged rocks and can be pretty sketchy…it is one of those spots probably better left to experienced surfers.

Spot details:
Best swell direction:
Healthy S-SW swells (180-210) and large W-WNW swells (270-280)
Best Wind: NE-E, light-moderate winds are the best. But it can handle light-moderate winds out of the S-SE
Sea Floor: Mostly rock-reef with some patches of sand and sea-grass. More sand as you get closer to the beach.
Best Season: Fall, Winter, Summer and sometimes Spring
Crowds: Generally mellow but it can get a little thick when the crowd at the point is overflowing.

Happy Mother's Day!

I just wanted to say happy Mother's Day to all the surf Moms out there!

Have a great Day!

Hopefully your family buys you that new swallowtail fish you have been wanting! (or at least takes you on that trip to Costa Rica).

Now try and get a few waves off this new S swell before the wind gets to it.

With love,


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Morning Update – Short-bus surf...starting a little slow

I was just checking the surf this morning and it looks like the S swell hasn’t filled in very much yet. It is showing a few small waves but a lot of the bigger sets are mostly the windswell moving in from the NW.

Look for the S swell to fill in more through the day…eventually peaking on Sunday…so it will get better in a few hours. Just cross your fingers that the wind holds off enough so that we can ride some semi-clean ones.

Here is the CDIP coastal model for this morning…a you can see not much pushing into Socal yet.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Surf for the Weekend - I love me some South swell!

This weekend is looking pretty fun particularly for S facing breaks.

Things may start a little slow early on Saturday but a new S swell (180) will be filling in throughout the day as it mixes with some local NW windswell and leftover energy from all over the place. The swell eventually peaks on Sunday and holds into Monday.

Most exposed breaks will have surf in the waist-chest high range with some inconsistent bigger sets mixing in at times. The standout S facing spots will be more in the chest-shoulder high range with some head high sets coming through as the swell peaks. Well exposed combo breaks will have a bit of windswell crossing up the S swell and helping to set up some peaky shape.

Winds are looking decent as well with the cleanest conditions showing through the mornings. Look for light and variable winds through the dawn patrol and then NW winds hitting around 10-12 knots for the afternoon.

S-SW facing spots will be the best call over the weekend. Points and reefs will be fun with decent shape but I think the beach breaks, particularly the combo beach breaks, will be just as playful. Personally I am going to check the local sandbars and see if I can get a few empty ones rather than trying to battle it out at the big-time point or reef breaks.

Remember that Saturday will be a slow through the morning because the swell is just starting to fill in. You may want to take your time getting down to the beach...pace will still be fun but the bigger waves will be inconsistent. Sunday and Monday will have much better dawn patrols.

Have a great weekend...oh and remember to check back, I am going to be posting my new Salt Creek Break Map (if I don't surf myself into a coma or something).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Waves for Friday – Some fun peaks while we wait for our S swell

Friday will be surfable with small playful shape and cleaner conditions than the last couple of days.

Basically it will be a good day to shake the dust off before we get a few better waves over the weekend. Plus it is Friday and surfing is always better than work.

Not much change swellwise…still a mix of local windswell and some smaller S-SW energy. Most exposed breaks will hold around knee-waist high. Standout breaks, mostly in San Diego but in a few other areas as well, will have some chest high sets.

Here is today’s CDIP map…but expect tomorrow morning to look very similar to this.

Winds are looking better…there will still be a slight eddy in the morning but I think winds will be light and variable through the dawn patrol. Eventually they will pick up out of the S-SW around 5-8 knots through midday and then come onshore stronger in the late afternoon. (Saturday looks even cleaner).

I think it will be fun enough to pick off a few during the morning…you are still going to want your small wave gear but just the fact that winds are laying down will make it a lot more inviting. Personally I am having trouble getting motivated for the cool morning conditions so I may roll out with the vintage death log around mid-morning or lunchtime to catch a few.