Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Surf for Thursday – Morning offshores

Thursday is looking good condition-wise…but the surf is going to be a bit on the soft/small side, which may prevent from becoming a real surf day.

In the water we are going to see a mix of S-SW swells (190-210) and WNW windswell…neither of which are going to be very big. I was calling for a little more size in the long-range forecast that I posted on Monday…but the NW’er that was expected to show earlier this week was not able to wrap much energy into Socal, which means that I am cutting wave heights for tomorrow. Still with the mix that will show we should be able to find a few rideable ones.

So for Thursday look for the average spots to pull in fairly consistent knee-waist high waves. The standout S-SW facing breaks, particularly those that like to combo in the windswell, will be a more consistent waist-chest high on the sets, with a few bigger shoulder high sets mixing in on the lower tides. Look for the biggest waves showing through San Diego, a few select areas in Orange County, and Southern Ventura.

Winds for Thursday look good…this funk that has been bothering us the last couple of days is expected to move on out tonight and in the process it will pull winds around to the NE. So for tomorrow morning we can expect E-NE winds around 10 knots at most spots but with some 10-15+ knot gusts coming through the passes and canyons near the beach. Overall it will be sort of a mild Santa Ana (Santana) wind in the morning…but it won’t really be able to establish itself along the coast so we will have a definite onshore switch that will arrive around midday. Expect the afternoon winds to blow out of the NW around 10-15+ knots.

I think that we will be able to have some fun tomorrow, particularly since the morning offshore flow will make our small surf seem a bit more playful. I think that the combo beach breaks will be the best call tomorrow…mostly because the windswell will help to fill in the inconsistency of the S-SW swell. I would plan on bringing your fishy shapes or small-wave gear so that you can squeeze a little more fun out of the swell mix. While the tides aren’t ideal for the morning you will want to surf early rather than wait…if you stall out too long the winds will shift onshore and you will have missed the window.

Here are the tides

02:15AM LDT 0.5 L
08:22AM LDT 4.8 H
02:24PM LDT 1.2 L
08:14PM LDT 5.0 H

Update: The Tsunami Advisory for California and Oregon has been cancelled

Good news...the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (the WCATWC for a shorter more confusing anronym)…has cancelled the Tsunami Advisory for California and Oregon.

According to the various news services this morning…lifeguards and harbor-patrols saw no noticeable difference in swell surge last night as the peak of the tsunami was expected to hit.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tsunami Advisory Issued for California and Oregon

As a result of a 8.0 magnitude earthquake that hit the Samoan Islands around 10:48 (Pacific time) this morning NOAA and the USGS issued a Tsunami Warning for the US West Coast…in particular the Coastlines of California and Oregon, with the highest elevated sea-level estimates focused on Port San Luis (CA) and Crescent City (CA).

Southern California is included in the warning areas as well, but the expected raise in sea-level is estimated to much lower.

At this point NOAA is calling for the following (in expected amplitude above sea-level):

San Diego, CA - 15cm
San Pedro, CA - 30cm
Port San Luis, CA - 60cm
San Francisco, CA - 20cm
Cresent City, CA - 65cm
Newport, OR - 15cm
Seaside, OR - 25cm

The initial arrival time is set for about 9:20pm (pacific time) tonight and should continue to push in some energy for several hours afterward…likely into Wednesday morning.

Tsunami Propagation Map - shows the estimated energy pushed out by the earthquake and the subsequent rise in sea-level.

At this point NOAA has issued a Tsunami “advisory” which is below the “warning” level…basically it means that they expect the tsunami wave to be between 0.3 meters and 1 meter…(so 1 to 3-feet). (Hawaii had a “warning” issued earlier but that has been lowered back to the advisory level.)

It is however important to realize that certain topographic features, like bays and harbors can focus and amplify the energy into larger wave crests, which is like why Cresent City and Port San Luis are forecasted to receive larger amounts of energy.

I have had a couple of people email asking me about how this will affect the surf…and in general Tsunamis don’t have any positive effects on the surf. They are not surfable waves…the swell period is much too long, and the actual wave-form when it shoals is more like a series of fast moving tidal swings. Having the tide drain away and then rush back in a relatively short period is definitely not good for surf.

Likely, except in a few cases, we won’t see much actual effects along our coastline…but just to be on the safe side you should avoid low-lying costal areas that are already prone to flooding as well as bays/harbors…at least until they drop the advisory. Hopefully any activity we do see here will be minimal.

Here are some helpful links that you can check out for the latest updates.

Waves for Wednesday – mid-week mess

Wednesday is not looking like a surf day.

We will actually have a mix of new swell hitting on Wednesday but coastal winds are going to be pretty unstable (aka…bad) thanks to a passing cold front. In the water we are going to have a mix of early weak leftovers, new S-SW swell (190-210), and building WNW-NW energy (285-300) in the form of medium period swell along with increasing local windswell.

Wave heights are going hold in the waist-chest high range for many of the avereage exposed spots. Standout S-SW facing breaks, good NW windswell spots, and the top combo spots, will be in the chest-shoulder high range…and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some bigger sets mixing in on the lower tides.

Unfortunately shape doesn’t look great…onshore winds are expected to continue blowing overnight and will likely set up a funky eddy in the morning. At this point it looks like onshore W winds around 5-10 knots blowing through most of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. Orange County and San Diego will be more SW’erly…and a touch lighter…more 5-8 knots through the early mornign. Onshore flow is expected to increase out of the W around 12-18 knots by the afternoon. I am posting the early morning COAMPS model below…but I think that it is being a bit optimistic on the slight side/offshore flow that it is showing along the coast…chances are that even if winds switch around for an hour+ in the mornign it won’t be enough to groom out the bump set up by tonights winds.

I don’t think that it will be worth investing much time in the surf tomorrow…mostly because of the wind. I definitely wouldn’t plan on driving very far to check it. I would however give it a quick look (if you live close) or a quick cam-check (if you don’t live close)…just to see how the winds unroll tonight…we might see some small pockets of surfyness at the more protected spots.

Here are the tides…

01:51AM LDT 0.5 L
08:05AM LDT 4.5 H
01:53PM LDT 1.7 L
07:39PM LDT 5.0 H

Monday, September 28, 2009

Surf for Tuesday – A touch of fugliness

Tuesday will be sort of surfable…but onshore winds will keep it from being much fun most of the day.

In the water we will have a mix of NW swell (290-300), some S-SW swell (190-210), and some building W-WNW windswell…which, unfortunately, will likely be set up by our increasing onshore local winds.

Surfwise we can expect the average exposed breaks…both SW and NW spots…will be in the waist high range with some chest high sets. The standout combo spots, mostly in San Diego, OC, and Ventura will be in the chest-shoulder high range on the sets.

Winds aren’t looking great…the various wind models are calling for a light-variable onshore flow through the morning, which is basically the leftovers from the nightly sea-breeze (enhanced by a weak cold front)…so the winds are going to blow onshore most of the night…slow down a bit for the morning, and then come right back up by midmorning. Onshore flow by the afternoon is expected to be in the 14-16 knot range…maybe even stronger.

So for tomorrow…I think that your best bet is to try and stick to spots that have some wind protection…but since the wind is mostly westerly there won’t be many clean areas. Having some kelp, structures, or high-cliffs may help out, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Personally I am going to get up and give it a look but I am not going to drive very far…if you are more than 10 min from the beach I would probably just check the buoys/winds/cams in the morning just on the chance that the winds lay down more this evening.

Here are the tides…

01:24AM LDT 0.5 L
07:49AM LDT 4.2 H
01:21PM LDT 2.2 L
07:02PM LDT 4.9 H

Southern California Long-range Surf Forecast – 9/28/2009

Forecast Overview

We are going to see a mix of moderate S-SW swells mixing with WNW-NW energy over the next couple of days. Winds don’t look that great for Tues-Wed as a weak cold front pushes over the area…but we will likely see some form of a cleanup by Thursday. Rideable sizes will continue through the week..and a stronger S-SW swell will push in through the upcoming weekend.

Short Range (next 3 days)

NW energy (290-300) and S-SW swell (190-210) will both start backing down while the local W-WNW windswell starts to strengthen. Waves will hold in the waist-chest high range for most areas while the standout SW/NW combo spots see some chest-shoulder high sets. Shape will continue to be a bit suspect as onshore winds spin up early and hold steady through most of the day. Winds/Weather: Looks like variable onshore winds in the morning...mostly light but with a chance for some moderate texture in the more open exposed beaches. Look for building WNW winds 10-20 knots as a weak cold front pushes through the area later in the day.

We will have a mix of leftovers from earlier in the week, as well as a new S-SW swell (190-220), and steady NW windswell. Wave heights don’t change much…still mostly waist-chest high at the average exposed areas. Top spots, mostly NW/SW combo spots, continue to see surf in the chest-shoulder high range…with a couple of bigger sets at the standout windswell-combo spots. Winds/Weather: Still a bit funky…sort of variable directions in the morning, with a couple of models showing almost an eddy type circulation developing as the cold front pushes in W-NW winds. Don’t expect clean conditions for most areas…but if the eddy does start up…we could see some slightly cleaner shape at spots protected from the S winds.

Size and consistency come up a notch as more S-SW swell (190-210) and a weak WNW swell blends with the local WNW windswell. Conditions also look like the will improve dramatically with some potentially offshore winds developing as the cold front moves out. Average spots will continue to see surf in the waist-chest high range but with more consistency on the bigger waves. Standout spots see mostly chest-shoulder high surf but with a few near head high sets mixing in on the lower tides. Winds/Weather: So far it looks like we might have some mild Santana conditions develop by Thursday, which would mean light-moderate offshore winds though the morning and midmorning. This isn’t set in stone yet (still a couple of days before it develops)…but it worth keeping in mind as you plan your surf week.


North Pacific
NW swell has been pushing into a few of the best NW facing spots over the last few days but hasn’t made that much of an impact on the more “average” spots. This should slowly change over the next couple of days as the last part of the swell, that had a more westerly fetch, pushes in some WNW-NW swell (285-300) that mixes in with steady short-period windswell coming in from a similar direction. Look for chest-shoulder high sizes at the better expose winter spots through the middle of the week and then fading sizes as we head towards the next weekend.

Further Out things don’t look good for the NPAC…high-pressure has built up across the Gulf of Alaska and is now shutting down the storm track. Check it out on the chart…you can see the high-pressures starting to bridge across most of the mid-latitudes. Basically these ridges are blocking the sweet spot in our swell-window…so from a long-range perspective it looks like swell production is going to be very minimal in this region for the time being.

South Pacific
The SPAC has been pushing out some playful sized S-SW swells (190-210) for the last few days…and a new chest-shoulder high sized pulse will hit on Wednesday and hold waves through Thursday before dropping later in the week. Like most Southern Hemi swells…sets will be inconsistent, but fun when they do show.

Further out we will see a stronger, more consistent, S-SW swell (180-210) that starts to move in with long-period energy on Saturday Oct 3rd…and then likely peaks Sunday/Monday Oct 4-5th. At this point it looks like this new swell will push most the average exposed spots into the chest-shoulder high range while the standout breaks will be shoulder-head high, possibly with some bigger sets mixing in at the best S facing breaks. I expect this swell to stick around for a couple of days after the “peak” hits…likely we will continue to see fun/rideable surf through the 6th before it significantly drops.

Northeast Pacific Tropics
This region is looking pretty quiet right now (though it seems like every time I type that a new storm forms…maybe I will just keep writing it). At this point the hurricane models aren’t calling for any development for the next couple of days…but I have noticed some activity showing on the larger-scale GFS models later in the week. Keep an eye on the tropics this week, we might see something new spin up by Friday.

Next Long-range forecast will be posted on Thursday, October 1, 2009

Adam Wright
Surf Forecaster

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Waves for Monday – More foggy surf

Monday will be surfable, but between the fog, and the lame fog winds, I think that it won’t quite be a surf day.

Swellwise we are going to have a mix of still peaking NW swell (290-300) and some S-SW swell (190-220). The NW’er has been running more 295-300-degrees for most of the day on Sunday…but looking at some of the latest buoy readings it appears that some of the more westerly elements of the swell are starting to fill in…so the spread will be a truer 290-300, maybe even some energy as low as 285. Overall it will feel like more energy showing at the top NW spots, while a few of the breaks that need the more WNW swell angles will finally start to see some waves, not big ones mind you, but at least something to ride.

Wave heights are going to continue to average in the waist high range for most spots…the better NW breaks and the ok combo spots will be more in the waist-chest high+ range. Top NW facing spots (breaks that like the 295+ swell angles) as well as the best combo spots will have more consistent chest-shoulder high surf with a few bigger sets mixing in at times.

Weather still looks a bit lame…we will continue to see the periods of patchy-but-thick fog, and variable onshore flow that has crept in with it. Look for light onshore flow around 3-5 knots with some areas seeing some occasionally stronger winds. Afternoon winds pick up out of the WNW 10-15 knots.

So for tomorrow I do think there will be surf…it just won’t be all that great…winds and fog will continue to hamper conditions. I think your best bet will be just to stick to your local spots…the onshore bump is going to be mostly out of the west, which screws pretty much everyone. If you don’t mind the bump…I would concentrate on the good combo spots if you are in North LA and Orange County…and the top NW facing breaks in San Diego (mostly South San Diego) and Ventura.

Here are the tides…lets cross our fingers that conditions will improve in the next day or two. (Looks much cleaner later this week).

12:51AM LDT 0.6 L
07:34AM LDT 4.0 H
12:46PM LDT 2.6 L
06:19PM LDT 4.7 H

Friday, September 25, 2009

Waves for the weekend – Fun but foggy

Saturday and Sunday both look like surf days…but you might have to push through some fog to get waves.

We are going to have a mix of fun surf over the weekend as we see a combination of overlapping S-SW swells blending with more NW swell. It won’t be huge or anything but the well exposed areas can expect some shoulder-head high sets as the swells mix together.

On Saturday we are going to see a mix of building S-SW swell (190-210), holding NW leftovers, and a new long-period NW swell (290-300) fill in later in the afternoon/evening.

Saturday’s wave heights will average in the waist-chest high range at most of the “sort-of” exposed breaks. The top S-SW facing spots and the good southerly orientated combo spots will be in the chest-shoulder high range on most of the sets…but with a few head high waves sneaking through on the biggest ones.

By Sunday the NW swell (290-300) will peak and mix with some holding S-SW swells (190-210) and a touch of local windswell.

Sunday’s surf will hit slightly different from Saturday…look for the new NW swell (290-300) to fill in and peak…pushing the NW facing spots into the waist-chest high+ range and the NW standouts (mostly in Ventura and San Diego) into the chest-shoulder high+ sizes. The top NW facing combo spots will be a touch bigger…with more consistent big sets in the shoulder-head high range. The S facing breaks will lose a little bit of size…but overall will continue to see playful waist-chest high waves at the better exposed areas.

Winds look good for the weekend…mostly light and variable to light offshore for most spots. Looks like offshore mostly in the Santa Barbara/Ventura/North LA areas…and then mostly variable as you move down into OC/San Diego. Afternoon winds will stay on the light side…holding out of the W-WNW around 10-12 knots.

Saturday Morning

Sunday Morning

Fog will be an issue throughout the weekend…so expect limited visibility through the mornings.

So like I said…plenty of playful sized fall surf on tap for the weekend. Nothing outstanding, but enough to get out and ride. The fog is a bit of a bummer…but if you don’t mind using some of your Surf-Jedi powers it shouldn’t be too bad. It is sort of a hard call for the best-bet spots this weekend…a lot depends on how your local spots pull in the various swells…I think that Saturday will see the best shape at the points/reefs, with fun, but slightly sectiony shape at the beach breaks. Sunday will have a chance at more crossed up surf with the building NW swell, which could groom out a few more shoulders at the beach breaks.

Here are the tides…have a great weekend!

07:07AM LDT 3.6 H
10:21AM LDT 3.4 L
04:02PM LDT 4.3 H

12:06AM LDT 0.8 L
07:19AM LDT 3.7 H
11:58AM LDT 3.1 L
05:24PM LDT 4.4 H

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Surf for Friday – let me check…yep it’s still freaking hot

Friday will be a surf day.

On Friday we are going to continue to see a mix of S-SW swell (180-220), NW swell (290-300), and some background S energy from TS Nora. The Southern Hemi energy looks like it will pulse up a touch as new swells move in and overlap the existing energy throughout the day.

Wave heights for tomorrow will continue to be in the waist-chest high range for most of the average S-SW breaks and the ok combo spots. Top S-SW facing breaks, and the good combo breaks, will be in the waist-shoulder high range with a few head high sets mixing in at times.

Winds will be good again tomorrow…light offshore for most areas and a few spots with moderate offshore conditions. Again it won’t be a full blown Santana but it will have enough oomph to cancel out the onshore bump that usually starts up midmorning…so we can expect cleaner conditions to hold on longer than normal. It will be stupid hot inland again…beach temps will be around the low 80’s.

Overall Friday looks pretty fun...winds will be good, there will be enough swell to ride most places, and if you stay on land you will likely melt. I think that the S-SW facing points and reefs will be the best call shapewise tomorrow…beach breaks are going to be a bit walled, particularly on the bigger sets but they should be an ok fallback if you don’t feel like surfing with tons of people. I think you should be able to ride most of your small-medium wave gear at the average spots…maybe a faster board at the top breaks. The tides are still a little funky, but I have noticed that they haven’t been a total surf-killer like they could be…hopefully you have dialed in your favorite spots over the last couple of days and can plan accordingly. (Mine have actually be working a bit better as the tide has been topping out…)

Anyways…here are the tides…hope you guys get a few pre-weekend ones tomorrow. (only 2 tide changes on Friday)

02:14PM LDT 4.4 H
11:01PM LDT 1.0 L

Southern California Long-range Surf Forecast – 9/24/2009

Forecast Overview

Fall fun-time continues as we see a mix of overlapping NW and S-SW swells as we head into the weekend. A bigger NW swell (as well as more S-SSW swell) move in mostly on Sunday and help hold more fun-sized surf into early next week. Expect clean morning conditions and mostly light winds over the next few days.

Short Range (next 3 days now with a 4th day free!)

Our swell mix bumps up a bit on Friday as we see some more SSW-SW swell (190-210) pushing in from the South Pacific, NW energy holds, and we see a touch of tropical energy from TS Nora. Wave heights will be in the waist-chest high range for most S-exposed spots and the ok combo breaks. Standout S facing spots, mostly through Orange County and parts of North San Diego (and North LA), will be in the chest-shoulder high+ range. Best waves push through in the morning with the lower tides. Winds/Weather: Conditions look clean for the morning with mostly light/variable to light offshore flow. Look for W-WNW winds around 10-12 knots for the afternoon.

Our surf will be more consistent as we see the blend of S-SW swells (190-210) start to peak, NW windswell continues to hold, and new longer-period NW swell (290-300) starts to slowly fill in through the afternoon. Look for most breaks to continue to hold around waist-chest high but with more consistent sets showing throughout the day. Standout S-SW facing breaks, as well as the excellent combo spots, will be in the chest-shoulder high range with some head high sets. Winds/Weather: Clean conditions continue…mostly light and variable/light-offshore for the morning. WNW winds around 10-12 knots move in through the afternoon.

The NW swell (290-300) peaks while the S-SW swell (180-210) mix starts to drop off. Not a ton of difference in overall wave heights…but we will have slightly different top breaks. Look for average S-facing spots to hold around knee-chest high. Standout NW facing spots and good NW/SW combo breaks will be in the chest-shoulder high range on sets…with a couple of bigger waves mixing in at times. Winds/Weather: Winds continue to look good…mostly light and variable to even light offshore for the morning…and just moderate NW winds (10-12 knots) by the afternoon.

The trailing parts of the NW swell (290-300) will continue to push through while we see some leftover, but still fun S-SW swell (190-210) mixing in as well. Look for more knee-chest high typy surf at the average exposed spots with some chest-shoulder high sets at the top NW facing breaks and the best NW/SW combo spots. Winds/Weather: Conditions continue to look nice…light and variable to even light offshore for the morning…and just moderate NW winds (10-12 knots) by the afternoon.


North Pacific
We have had a decent run of storm activity pushing across the NPAC over the last few days. A couple of fast moving, higher-latitude low-pressures that came through early in the week managed to send out some playful, but mostly steeply angled NW energy (290-300) that started to hit on Thursday. Fortunately a following storm moved in and set up some more fetch after that initial pulse…so it looks like the waist-chest high+ NW’er will hold into Friday and Saturday.

As we move through the weekend a new, stronger, NW swell (290-300) will start to push some in some long-period energy in late on 26th...fill in more on the 27th, eventually peaking the afternoon of the 27th into the morning of the 28th. At this point it looks like we are going to get waist-chest high sized surf at the average NW facing NW breaks, mostly in San Diego and Ventura, will see chest-shoulder high+ sets. The angle on this energy looks pretty steep…so there will probably be a fair amount of shadowing…so don’t expect a ton of size or consistency outside of the better NW/Winter regions.

Further out it looks like the later elements of the storm that will send us the NW’er for Sunday managed to keep some fetch aimed our way…and even managed to position it a little better than the first shot of swell…so I am expecting the NW’er to hold through the middle of next week and continue to send in fun sized surf. The swell angle looks like it will shift a bit more westerly…more (285-300)…which means more spots will be able to pull in waves from this portion of the swell. Look for more waist-chest high+ surf showing at the top WNW-NW spots through the 30th before it starts to fade out.

South Pacific
Fun pulses of S-SW swell will continue to push into SoCal over the next few days…with a couple of them mixing together nicely over the weekend setting up chest-shoulder high surf at the better exposed spots.

Further out a new storm is pulling together SE of New Zealand that will be sending out new S-SSW (180-205) for the beginning of October. At this point it looks like we will start to see new long-period energy from this one showing around October 3rd…likely peaking on the 4-5th. It looks good for waist-shoulder high surf at most spots, and has the potential for some head high sets at the standout breaks as it peaks. This storm still has a couple of days to we should have a better grasp on wave-heights/arrival times by early next week.

Northeast Pacific Tropics
Tropical Storm Nora is still holding together down in the tropics…she isn’t super impressive but she will managed to send in some background tropical swell through Friday and Saturday. It won’t be much, but it will likely help to fill in the more dominant S-SW swell coming in from the SPAC.

It looks like TS Nora will fall apart over the next day or so…looks like she will have dropped back to a remnant low by the weekend.

Further East there are a few large sections of thunderstorms near Central America that are worth keeping an eye on…but at this point it looks likes any development will be slow.

Next Long-range forecast will be posted on Monday, September 28, 2009

Adam Wright
Surf Forecaster

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Surf for Thursday – A little more combo to the mix

Thursday is looking surfable...winds and the swell looks ok...but the higher morning tide may keep plenty of spots from reaching their full potential.

In the water we are going to see a mix of new SW swell (190-220) and some new NW energy (290-300) from a little storm that jammed through the NPAC swell window a couple of days ago. Neither swell will be very big, but they will be mixing with some leftovers from earlier in the week that may help them fill out the surf a touch better.

Since the NW’er is starting to hit NorCal and the buoys around Point Conception, namely the CDIP Harvest Buoy, the energy is being fed into the model’s graphics...and we can see (sort of) how it will filter into Socal tonight and into tomorrow. Check out the regional charts.

Wave heights aren’t going to change much in overall size tomorrow...but the swell is going to hit a bit differently as the swell directions change. So for Thursday look for the average SW and NW facing spots to stay in the knee-waist high range with a few waist high+ sets through the lower morning tides. The top spots, particularly the best NW/SW facing combo spots, will be in the waist-chest high+ range with a few bigger shoulder high sets mixing in at times. I think that the better SSW-SW facing combo spots will be a bit more consistent than the predominantly winter breaks

Winds...hmmm...I have been hearing the Santana (Santa Ana’s) term getting bandied about today...and we are definitely getting into that season...but I don’t think we are going to quite get to a full-fledged one quite yet. At this point it looks like light/moderate offshore flow for the morning, N-NE mostly around 5-8 knots but with some areas of stronger gusts, particularly at areas with passes and canyons along the beach. The winds will help conditions stay clean through the morning but moderate W winds around 10-14 knots will move in through the afternoon.

Thursday Morning Winds

Look for more fog along the beach in the morning, but expect it to try and push off and burn off through midmorning/lunch. The inland areas are going to be bummed since the air temps are going to get pretty toasty (100-degree+ in a few areas), but along the beach it will a bit cooler (particualrly through the morning).

Thursday afternoon baking

So for tomorrow...I am looking for rideable, slightly fun, conditions as the swell mix combos won’t be epic or anything, but just an average Socal Fall day. The tides are going to be a bit of a bummer...the low in the morning isn’t much of a low (still 2.9-feet at the lowest), so you are going to want to stick with spots that can handle a little more water. Trying to find a spot that can pull in as much swell as possible and still be able to handle some extra tide will be your best bet...South SD, the better S facing spots in OC, and Southern Ventura will have the best wave potential tomorrow...but it won’t be worth driving very far to check those regions.

Here are the tides...

02:49AM LDT 3.1 H
06:03AM LDT 2.9 L
12:57PM LDT 4.8 H
09:29PM LDT 1.0 L

Tropical Update – Tropical Storm Nora

A tropical disturbance that had been drifting about 600 miles SW of the tip of Baja began to organize late last night and has now strengthened into Tropical Storm Nora.

Currently TS Nora is weak-to-moderate tropical storm with core winds in the 35-40 knot range and gusts getting up around 45-50 knots. She is positioned about 900 miles due south of SoCal...and is moving slowly to the WNW (tracking at 300-degrees) at a slow speed of about 8-knots.

Forecast models are calling for Nora to intensify over the next 24 hours, reaching the “strong” tropical storm level and possibly becoming a hurricane. While this intensification is good news it sounds like it won’t last that long...while the models agree on the intensification they also agree that she will hit cooler water and some upper level wind shear shortly afterwards, which gives her a very short swell-making period. You can see her track taking her into cooler water on the chart below.

The good news is that NORA is already in our swell window and is positioned so that any swell she sends out will be a more “democratic” S swell rather than a shadowed SE swell. It also helps that she is moving slowly and has a slightly more WNW track.

The bad news is that overall she is still a pretty small storm right now...with her Tropical Storm strength winds only reaching out about 40-50 miles...and while that may increase as she strengthens it doesn’t look like it will get all that much bigger.

So after looking at today’s forecasts...I do think that we will get a few waves from Tropical Storm Nora but that they are going to be on the small side. I am looking for the new S swell (170-185) to start moving in with some tropical knee-waist high sets by late Thursday and holding into Friday. There is a chance that it will come in bigger if, and it is a big if, the storm strengthens significantly and holds together longer than the forecast models indicate...but personally I am not holding my breath.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Waves for Wednesday – Still a few corners

Wednesday will be a surf day.

The surf will drop a bit on Wednesday as our mix of SSW swell (190-205) and weak NW windswell/short-period swell begin to back off. There will still be a few decent sets at the well exposed breaks but overall it will be smaller and less consistent than the last couple of days.

Look for surf in the knee-waist high+ range for the average S facing breaks (and ok combo spots). Top S-SW facing breaks, mostly through Orange County and San Diego, will have more consistent waist-chest high surf…and a couple of inconsistent shoulder high sets on the morning tide push. The NW facing spots will have a few waves but it will be almost entirely local windswell…expect mostly knee-knee high+ at the average breaks and knee-waist high at the top spots.

Winds look good for the morning. Most areas will see light and variable conditions with a few of spots with passes and canyons ending at the beach seeing light offshore flow. Look for light winds through the first part of the day with building W wind around 10-knots moving in through the afternoon.

While it doesn’t look epic tomorrow, it does look like the combination of leftover swell, clean morning conditions, and an early morning low tide will throw together a few playful/rideable waves at the exposed areas. I expect the sets to be a little inconsistent even at the top breaks so expect a bit of wait between the bigger waves. I think you might want to consider taking boards that work better in smaller waves tomorrow…as the tide fills in and the swell continues to drop off you are going to want something that can squeeze a little more zing out of the leftovers.

Here are the tides…

01:05AM LDT 3.5 H
05:43AM LDT 2.4 L
12:09PM LDT 5.2 H
08:00PM LDT 0.8 L

Ocean Science 101: Effects of El Nino on the Winter 2009-2010 Surf Season

Hey gang…I have a couple of people ask me about the how the current El Nino conditions are going to affect our surf this winter…so I thought I would put a little post together.

I think that it is important to start with the understanding that just having “El Nino” conditions does not guarantee that Southern California will get good surf.

Weather is so ridiculously dynamic, and there are just too many factors that feed into storm generation (not to mention swell production), for us to really get a “for sure” long-range outlook that goes further out than a few days. Forecasting for a winter season that is still a couple of months away is more about comparing the developing atmospheric and oceanic conditions against previous seasons…and then applying statistical probability to the season ahead. In short it is basically educated guesswork, backed by historical data…we can analyze until we are blue in the face but we won’t know how things will turn out until after the fact.

Ok enough buzz-kill talk…the good news is that why El Nino doesn’t “guarantee” good surf, it does significantly increase the likelihood of storms forming lower in latitude and closer to the West Coast, both of which are “good things” for sending swell into Southern California…and, in general, the stronger the El Nino the higher the probability of these types of storms forming.

As of the last update from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center we are currently experiencing a moderate El Nino so far this fall…and that these conditions are likely to continue into the winter…possibly strengthening if some of the pieces can hold in place over the next month. You can actually check out the latest update here…

“Moderate” in this case actually means that the current conditions are weighing in on the strong side of the bell curve…basically this year’s El Nino will be stronger than most of the recorded El Ninos that we have experienced over the past 30+ years…with only a few of the really intense ones (1982-83, 1987-88, 1997-98) coming in stronger.

Here is a shot of the current Sea-Surface-Temps (SST) and the SST anomaly, which is the difference in sea temps against the historical “seasonal mean” temps. In the anomaly map the more yellowish-red that shows over by Central America the stronger the El Nino.

Why this matters for Southern California…

With El Nino there are two important air/ocean changes that occur that have a significant effect on the winter surf for Southern California. (Bear with me…it takes a little bit of explaining to get there.)

1. The shift of the jet streams (both the Polar and Pacific Jet stream).

2. The amount of warm water (and corresponding warm air-mass) that is available to fuel storm intensification.

During El Nino the jet streams that push eastward over the pacific shift slightly…we see the colder polar-jet move further northward, over Alaska and Canada, rather than flowing over the Gulf of Alaska. We also see the Pacific jet stream, which is a warmer and usually less stable in its position, strengthen and flatten out across the mid-latitudes. The combination of these two shifts effectively opens up the storm track and allows swell-producing storms to form in more southerly positions, which puts them more firmly in SoCal’s W-WNW swell window.

In point #2…The warmer water piling up on the eastern half of the Pacific…which is usually pushed along the equator off to the west…is basically a giant power-battery storing sunlight as “latent-heat energy”. All of this energy is usually over past Hawaii, towards the Philippines, helping fuel WPAC Typhoons/Cyclones and bleeding extra-tropical goodness into those hyper-intense storms that make the Kamchatka Peninsula such a nice place to visit.

By repositioning that energy in the EPAC, storms that would have generally been starting to lose strength as they hit the cooler waters off of California and the Pacific NW, now have much more energy (in the form of warm/wet air-mass) to continue intensification. As most of you know…stronger storms, closer to your position, mean bigger swell.

A shot of the 97-98 El Nino and how crazy hot the water in the EPAC got

What this means for our surf…

With the moderate El Nino conditions expected to either continue (or strengthen) as we head into this winter season, we can expect to see stronger and better positioned storms forming in the Southern California swell window. With more intensity and more time in the swell window the incoming swells should be both bigger and last longer as they push into our region. Overall we should have a much better “surf” winter than we have had over the last couple of years.

One other thing that we do have to keep in mind is that with the lower latitude/more intense storm track combining with a lot of warm/unstable air-mass filtering up from the tropics this winter is liable to be a lot “wetter” than the previous couple of winters. So while we get increased swell action, we also get the potential for crappy conditions as the storms push over top our region.

I don’t know about you guys…I am willing to sacrifice a few days to junky weather in order to get some more consistent surf.

Anyways…If you guys are into diving in a much more detailed analysis of this winter’s El Nino and all of the factors that go into measuring estimating it…I would go and check Mark Sponsor’s winter/El Nino outlook over at is the link (make sure to visit a few of Mark’s advertisers in appreciation of his extremely thorough work.)

Bonus Section: What is an El Nino?

I realize that I wrote most of this post with the assumption that you guys understand the general concept of El Nino conditions…but just in case that part of science class was a little fuzzy…here is a fairly simple explanation of what occurs during an “El Nino” year.

The term El Nino refers to a particular portion of a 3- to 10-year circulation pattern of ocean/atmospheric conditions that cycle primarily through the Pacific Ocean (but are believed to affect weather conditions throughout the world). The scientific community generally refers to this pattern as El Nino-Southern Oscillation (or ENSO) and it has two distinct phases on either ends of its intensity…El Nino (the warm part) and La Nina (the cold part).

When El Nino occurs it is because the usual pattern of trade winds in the Pacific Ocean along the equator are disrupted, and the winds that normally push warm water to the west away from Central America stop, and sometimes even blow the opposite direction.

Without the trade winds, warm water stays in position near Central America and begins to spread along the coasts of North and South America. Since warm water is basically the Sun’s energy stored as heat, it means that a significant amount of energy has been allowed to shift to a completely new position in the ocean. This shift has an incredible effect on the Pacific Storm Track…and has been linked to changes in weather all over the Earth.

The strength of an El Nino is generally measured by the increase in the water temperatures in the East Pacific as compared to the seasonal average. If water temps raise above the average it is considered El Nino (and if they drop below the average it is considered a La Nina).

Generally…for Southern California…El Nino has a positive effect on swell producing storms for our region…while La Nina has a negative effect. This isn’t 100% on either side…(it is possible to have a bad winter even with an El Nino)...but the trends do tend to follow those patterns.

Like I said…this is a very simple explanation of what occurs in the ENSO circulation…if you want more details, the Wikipedia entry is a pretty good place to start…


Anyways…I hope this answers a few questions on El Nino and how it will hopefully lead to a better winter surf season. Personally I am ready to have a quality winter…no more one-hit wonders.'s to a good winter!


Adam Wright

Monday, September 21, 2009

Surf for Tuesday – A little more SSW swell

Tuesday is looking like a surf day...nothing big or all that special...but with clean morning conditions and enough swell for us to go out and have some fun.

Swellwise we are going to have a new SSW swell (190-205) that will blend in with fading S-SW swell (180-200) from the weekend as well as some NW leftovers and background local windswell. You can see the older S-SW’er showing on this afternoon’s CDIP analysis...expect this to shift a little more to the southwest as the new swell fills in tomorrow.

Wave height for Tuesday will be in the waist-chest high range at the average S facing breaks. The better exposed combo breaks will be a bit more consistently chest high. Standout SSW facing breaks, mostly through Orange County and parts of San Diego, will be a touch bigger with inconsistent sets showing in the chest-shoulder high range.

Winds look good with most spots seeing light and variable conditions through the morning and a few select areas seeing some slightly offshore flow. WNW winds move in through the afternoon and should top out in the 10-12 knot range, which may let a few of the more protected spots see somewhat manageable bump...there is enough of a chance that it will be worth keeping an eye on those protected areas.

Like I said it looks fun tomorrow, not great, but at least surfable in most areas and playful at the top breaks. I think that all types of spots (points/reefs/beach-breaks) will all have their attractions tomorrow...but nothing that looks like it will stand out all that much. The building tide will end up being pretty brutal to shape as it peaks around lunchtime...expect most spots to get swampy to almost shut down by the time the tide peaks...I would try and avoid it as best you can.

Here are the tides...

12:00AM LDT 3.9 H
05:18AM LDT 1.8 L
11:32AM LDT 5.6 H
06:52PM LDT 0.5 L

Southern California Long-range Surf Forecast – 9/21/2009

Forecast Overview
Look for the small/playful sized combo swell mix to continue for the next few days as new SW and NW swells move in to blend with the fading energy from the weekend. Clean conditions and better tides will help to keep shape fun for the next few mornings.

Short Range (next 3 days)

We have a new SSW (190-205) moving and mixing with the fading NW/SSW energy from the weekend. Local NW windswell will be on the rise...but will be a bit too NW’erly for many spots. Look for surf in the waist-chest high range for most of the average breaks. Top SSW facing breaks and the excellent combo breaks, will be in the chest-shoulder high range on the lower tides. Winds/Weather: Conditions look clean for the morning with mostly light/variable to light offshore flow. Look for W-WNW winds around 10-12 knots for the afternoon.

The mix of swells will back down as the SSW’er (190-205) drops slowly and the NW energy starts to fade out as well. Still plenty of knee-waist high+ waves showing at the average exposed spots. Standout breaks will be more in the waist-chest high range but can expect some inconsistent shoulder high sets slipping through at the top SSW facing breaks. Winds/Weather: Clean conditions continue…mostly light and variable for the morning. WNW winds around 10-12 knots move in through the afternoon.

Wave heights will hold as we see some more minor SW swell (190-220) pulses up over the leftovers of the earlier SSW’er and we see a slight increase in NW swell activity. Look for the average spots to be back in the knee-waist high range with some less consistent chest high sets. Best spots hold more in the waist-chest high range with some inconsistent chest-shoulder high waves. Looks like the best waves will show at the SW facing standouts...which will be slightly different than the more southerly swell that hit earlier in the week...try and pick your spots accordingly. Winds/Weather: Winds continue to look good…mostly light and variable to even light offshore for the morning…and just moderate NW winds (10-12 knots) by the afternoon.


North Pacific
We have seen sort of spotty storm action in the North Pacific over the last few days...nothing particular interesting or significant in terms of swell production. There have been a couple of high latitude systems that have pushed underneath the Aleutians on the way to the Gulf of Alaska...but not much of their fetch was inside the SoCal swell window. As a result we are going to see some weak, but steady, NW energy (290-300) coming in over the next few days in the form of both windswell and slightly longer-period (9-13 period) stuff. Look for knee-waist high waves at the top NW spots for Tues-Wed of this week...and then a slight increase to waist-chest high surf by Thursday as the next pulse fills in. Similar sized energy will hold through Friday and into early Saturday.

Further Out the former super-typhoon Choi-Wan is finally going extra-tropical over in the West Pacific and is really starting to energize a colder low-pressure in the higher-latitudes. Check out the shot of wind speeds from the QuikSCAT satellite...

That big black streak is winds breaking the 50-knot mark...this is a pretty typical pattern for a storm going extra-tropical. These typhoon/hurricane/cyclone systems, while they can be very intense and deadly, are generally pretty small in size while they are in their tropical forms. As they start to push out of their tropical regions and into the colder mid- and high-latitudes they undergo a rapid cooling which, though a couple of different processes, forces the storm to expel excess heat energy in the form of wind/rain (basically the usual nastiness expected with a storm). It also starts to take on the characteristics of the more common cold front, basically becoming larger in size but less intense and destructive (these being relative terms) at the core of the storm. If the tropical storm happens to run into an already strong cold front the results can be pretty spectacular. It sucks to be in the vicinity of a storm going through this process, but it can be pretty awesome from a swell production standpoint if things pull together properly.

In this case with looks like the storm is “popping” a bit too deep in the Western Pacific to send Southern California much of a swell...forecast charts are showing the storm intensifying as it makes a NE track up to the Aleutian Islands and then staying much too high in latitude to put much fetch in our swell window. It does however look like it will send a pretty solid early season NW swell to Hawaii (peaks there with well overhead waves on the 24th)...and a good sized, overhead+, WNW swell (285-320+) to Northern California that fills in on the 26th but peaks the 27th.

For Socal we will see a much smaller version of these swells. We will have new NW swell (290-300+) starting to push some small long-period energy in late on 26th...fill in more on the 27th, eventually peaking the afternoon of the 27th into the morning of the 28th. At this point it looks like we are going to get waist-chest high sized surf at the average NW facing NW breaks, mostly in San Diego and Ventura, will see chest-shoulder high sets. There will be a lot of shadowing to this swell so don’t expect much showing outside of the top winter breaks.

South Pacific
Still not a ton going on down in the SPAC...most of the storm activity has been pretty zonal...but the backsides of a few of the more intense systems have managed to push out some playful S-SW swells. This week we can expect a series of playful, but inconsistent at times, SSW-SW swells (190-220).

New S-SSW swell (180-200) peaked on Sunday the 20th and holds waves through the 21st. Another similar sized SSW swell (180-205) moves in on the 22nd and holds more waist-chest high+ waves through the middle of next week.

Further Out More playful waist-chest high SW swell (190-210) starts moving in late on the 26th and peaks on the 27-28th. Past that...forecast charts are calling for a decent looking storm to push across the SPAC in the next 3-5 days...if it lives up to the forecast we could see more chest-shoulder high S-SW swell (180-210) moving in around the 2-3rd of October.

Northeast Pacific Tropics
Not much going on in the tropics right now...we have a tropical disturbance that is hanging down SSW of the tip of Baja...but any development in the system is expected to be very slow (if it occurs at all). No swell expected from this region at this time.

Next Long-range forecast will be posted on Thursday, September 24, 2009

Adam Wright
Surf Forecaster

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Surf for Monday – a few morning waves

Monday will have a little window of surfiness in the morning but it looks like high tide and building onshore winds are going to hamper shape/conditions through most of the day.

In the water we are going to have a mix of SSW swell (180-200), some quickly backing down NW leftovers, and some building local NW windswell.

Most spots are going to continue to average around waist high. The top spots, mostly the S-SW standouts, as well as a few of the better exposed combo breaks, will be in the waist-chest high range with a few chest-shoulder high sets coming in on the morning tide push. Sets will be a bit inconsistent at times…particularly as most breaks start to get swamped out as the tide fills in.

Winds will be ok, not great, in the morning. Look for light and variable winds in most areas…but expect a few spots to see some slight onshore flow. Look for cleanest conditions at spots that offer some sort of protection from the NW winds…the usual breaks with high cliffs or a lot of kelp, will probably be a decent call. Afternoon winds are forecast to be pretty strong…WNW-NW in the 12-15+ knot range with some of the really exposed areas seeing 15-20 knot gusts.

Overall I don’t think Monday is going to be anything special. There will be a few rideable waves through the morning but by midday I think it is going to lose its attraction. I would plan on bringing gear that works in the smaller less consistent conditions…fishy boards will probably be fun…or at least something with a little extra foam. I would try to get on it early…the stronger winds and nearly 6’ high tide won’t be doing conditions any favors as we head towards midday.

Here are the tides…

04:50AM LDT 1.3 L
10:58AM LDT 5.9 H
05:58PM LDT 0.2 L