West Coast Holiday Surf Forecast

Happy Holiday's Everyone! Hope you guys are having a good one…fortunately, if you are close to West Coast surf and time permits, I have a little forecast news that should make your holiday break a little bit better. We have some more waves on the way! For a detailed worldwide surf forecast and report go to www.magicseaweed.com.forecast12

We have a couple of fun looking swells that will push into the West Coast over the next couple of days and what looks like a pretty big one arriving as we head into this upcoming weekend.

For Christmas we can expect a mix of new WNW swell (280-300) and some smaller, but still rideable sized, S swell (175-190) that hits primarily in Southern California. The new WNW'er will actually hit up in Northern California late on the 24th and be peaking through the 25th…Socal will see the energy coming up early on the 25th but peaking more in the afternoon. Expect this swell mix to drop slightly, but still be rideable and fun, into early Saturday.

There is a solid WNW swell (280-300) heading into Northern and Central California late on the 26-27th…setting up some well-overhead to double-overhead+ surf for many spots and triple overhead+ at the really exposed deepwater spots. This same swell will move in and peak through Socal on the 27th and while it is smaller than up north it still looks good for consistent shoulder-head high surf at most spots and sets going a couple of feet overhead at the best winter standout breaks.

Weather nerd warning: Here is a little video that I put together showing the storm on the NOAA/GOES satellites…since I have some new screen capture software you can see the mouse moving around.

The most important things that I was looking for in that animation was the position, movement track, and the overall size of this system…as you watch the video you can see me engage the lat/long overlay that helps me estimate all three. Further in the video I pick the HDW-Low winds (which are the High-Density Satellite Derived winds from 0-10,000 feet) and see what they have been estimating. Lastly I pull in the image through the zoom feature, which is nice to get a closer look at the circulation of the storm. In particular I am looking at the clouds behind the front of the storm…these are pretty shredded and almost look like a bunch of fast moving cotton balls or popcorn…these are a good thing to see because it means that the wind throughout that part of the storm is blowing from the upper atmosphere all the way down to the surface, which is where it produces our surf. The more shredded the warmer, lower level clouds (the dark grey, which equals warmer stuff in the IR), the more the wind is getting time over the water.

In comparing these satellite images against the WINDSAT data, the GFS wind/weather model, as well as the wavewatchIII model it looks like everything is in pretty good agreement with this storm. forecast23

From a surf perspective, I am seeing decent circulation and size for that storm but it stopped tracking East and is now sort holding position just on the edge of the Gulf of Alaska. This isn't a totally horrible thing but it does mean that the really intense part of the storm won't get much closer to the West Coast, which means more swell decay as the energy moves toward us, which eventually means smaller surf.

Still based on what I am seeing both in the visible energy and the recorded data I think that the wind/swell models are pretty accurate for this swell (so far), and we can expect a pretty solid shot of W-WNW swell for Northern and Central California, and a playful/decent WNW shot for Southern California.

About the only thing that sort of sucks about this next swell is that by Monday the 28th it looks like some funky weather might move in, setting up some rain and possibly onshore winds.


This is still a few days from forming, and the area as well as the type of storm that may develop both have some fairly dynamic tendencies, so we may see at least semi-surfable conditions despite the weather, possibly even clean conditions in some areas. I would definitely keep an eye on the most up to date information as we get closer.

Further Out there are still a couple of storms showing in the long-range charts (though not as intense as the storm we currently have running through the NPAC). If these pull together the way the forecast thinks they will we should see more WNW energy around the 31st and possibly through the first few days of 2010.

South Pacific
Most of the South Pacific is still pretty boring…mostly just the summer laziness that sets up down there while it is out of storm season…but there was one area of decent looking fetch that spun up straight south of Socal about a week ago.forecast5

Anyway this fetch hung around in a decent position for a couple of days and it looks like we are going to see some playful chest-shoulder high S swell (175-190) that arrives on the 25-26th. I am not sure how consistent it will be, since the storm wasn't that intense and it was sort of moving at a weird angle (not directly towards us which would have been the best). Still it looks like some fun surf at the better s-facing spots…and maybe even some fun combo peaks as it mixes with the steady WNW-NW energy.

Here are the details for the next few days

Northern California
For Christmas look for more overhead+ surf at most areas while the standouts start to see surf hit the double-overhead mark thanks to another shot of decent WNW swell (275-300). By Dec 26th the new, much bigger WNW swell (280-300) starts to arrive, likely peaking in the afternoon and then overnight into the 27th. This one looks solid for double-triple overhead surf at the top breaks and some bigger sets at the deepwater standouts…not sure how weather will hold up for this one…but at this point it looks like S-SW winds and rain on tap as the swell peaks Saturday afternoon. Sunday looks cleaner, mostly variable winds by then, but still some rain hanging around. Look for the swell activity to back off on Monday but continue to send in overhead surf for the first part of next week.

Southern California
New mix of WNW swell (280-300) and S swell (175-190) move in on Christmas and mix with decent local winds. Most spots will be in the waist-chest high range with some inconsistent shoulder high sets. The standout NW spots see some shoulder-head high+ surf sneaking through on the better parts of the tides. These waves will hold into early Saturday and then take a slow dip through the day. Look for the new larger WNW swell (280-300) to begin moving in late on Saturday night and eventually start to peak by Sunday afternoon before holding overnight into Monday. This bigger WNW'er looks good for an easy shoulder-head high+ surf at the average WNW facing breaks and some sets going a couple of feet+ overhead at the NW standout breaks. Top spots in San Diego and Ventura may have some bigger sets at times. Look for the WNW'er to trail off by Tuesday of next week but expect rideable surf to continue almost through the end of the week as more WNW energy arrives.

Happy Holidays, have fun and stay safe!
Adam Wright
Surf Forecaster