West Coast Surf Forecast

"Hey guess what?"

"There is a big storm in the North Pacific."

"Yeah no shit Sherlock thanks for the tip."

I feel like this forecast update may sort of be like beating the proverbial dead horse…the surf forecast hype machine is in full effect…the charts have had this ugly (so ugly it has gone back into the beautiful category) red/purple/black/magenta blob sitting right in the middle of the North Pacific for what seems like eternity…and everyone and their sister is already calling it the "Swell of the Decade" or something. I guess it might be possible to have not heard about it if you just came out of a year long coma…but it was probably the talk of the swell that brought you back.


Anywhoo…you guys aren't paying me to sit around and yap like some sort of ninny…lets get elbow deep and see if we can find you guys a place to surf since all these waves are going to be thrown around over the next few days.

Ok let's go over the facts that we have so far:

1.    A ridiculously intense area of low pressure formed in the North Pacific over the last couple of days.

2.    The swell models really, really, liked this storm and originally predicted some equally ridiculously sized-swell for areas with direct exposure.

picture-213.    The satellites, in particular the JASON-1, recorded some 40-foot plus seas near the core of the storm. A big thanks to Mark @ www.stormsurf.com for letting me borrow his sweet JASON/Altimetry images.

picture-314.    The swell started to hit Hawaii on Monday and according to the readings on the buoys will continue to peak into Tuesday.


5.    Based on the charts, satellite data, and various swell models, a good chunk of WNW swell is heading to California and the West Coast and will hit this week.

picture-5Now that we have that out of the way…lets talk about how this will all help us find waves…breaking it down by regions.

Hawaiian Islands

Since the storm was parked almost on top of Hawaii the islands were in a prime position to get blasted by this swell. As you could see on that image from the Buoy 51001, the swell is already hitting…what is sort of funny is that the main thrust of the storm's energy is actually passing to the NE (still coming out of the WNW) of the islands, heading down to South America (and decaying to a much smaller size), so Hawaii is actually only getting a partial shot of this swell. Still even a partial shot is going to equal nearly 18-20 feet of deepwater energy around the 16-18 sec swell-period range, which is still a big-ass swell. Looks like size wise, once it hits the reef, this will be a legit 15-20' Hawaiian sized swell. If the weather can improve they might even run the Eddie on Tuesday. The swell drops fast after that but expect scary sized surf to hold at the WNW facing breaks through midweek and then tapering off slowly as we head to next weekend.

Northern California

Tuesday will start off with overhead surf at the top NW facing spots but it will be mostly from short-period windswell set up by the nasty weather pushing over the West Coast. The new bigger WNW swell (275-300) moves in later in the afternoon with periods hitting 22+ seconds at first but then slowing down as the wave-heights go up. The swell will peak on Wednesday (Dec 9) and will hold throughout the day, with surf running around well-overhead to double-overhead at most exposed spots and sets hitting double-triple overhead at the better breaks. The best deepwater spots could jack up to something close to 20-foot+ faces on the really big sets. This swell will hold into early Thursday and then start a slow fade through Friday and the weekend.

Weather wise…Tuesday looks a little breezy with N winds around 10-20 knots for many areas but with a few protected spots along the usual suspects of the Central Coast. Wednesday winds stay pretty nice with mostly light offshore/onshore flow. By Thursday the winds shift E in the morning and then go SE to SW as a new cold front approaches and sets up more wind/rain by the afternoon.

Southern California

Will have mostly wind/storm W-WNW swell on tap for Tuesday, and plenty more NW winds to hack it up. Wednesday the conditions will clean up and the local windswell mix will start to back down…at the same time the new WNW swell (280-300 with most of the energy around 290-300) begins to move in. Look for some new waves coming in early as you get into the Santa Barbara/Ventura county areas…but the spots further south won't see a ton of new swell during the dawn patrol. The swell fills in more by the afternoon and the best WNW-NW facing breaks can expect some overhead+ sets mixing in by sundown…with some bigger sets mixing in as well. The swell peaks throughout Socal on Thursday, right as another cold front moves in…looks like winds will be semi-decent through the morning but then crap out as S-SW flow cranks up by the afternoon…the onshore flow will hold into Friday…stupid wind. Conditions aside it looks like the WNW swell will peak with average spots running consistently shoulder-high to overhead on the sets. The better WNW facing breaks in the "winter" swell areas will be consistently overhead to a few feet overhead on the sets. Top NW facing spots, mostly through San Diego, Ventura, and a few areas in the South Bay, will be seeing consistently well-overhead surf with sets hitting the double-overhead mark at times. Look for these size waves to hold into early Friday and then start to lose both size and consistency by the evening and into the weekend.

Some final thoughts on the California surf

Obviously this will be a good-sized WNW swell…with wave heights getting out of the "comfort zone" for a lot of people. It is easily bigger than almost any swell we had in the 2008-2009 winter, which is pretty cool. Do I think that it is really the "swell of the decade"? No not really. While the storm is intense and the swell pretty large, I think, that if you were going to compare it to past super-swells that you need to take conditions and "rideablity" factors into account…and our weather and now water quality look pretty crappy this week. Yes there will be some pockets of surfiness, and a few of you guys are going to score, but I think that most California surfers are going to be a bit frustrated by the conditions and lack of options when it comes to finding large clean surf. Anyway that is my 2 cents…lets cross our fingers that the weather can break a bit more in our favor, I will be just as stoked as you guys will be.

Adam Wright