northern california wave
Big NorCal Wave. photo:

Orange Alert! This is the kind of forecast you wait for if you are a surfer in California. A big Antarctic storm has generated a massive south swell and it’s about to light up the whole California coast! The large swell is already hitting So Cal and is due to impact the upper reaches of California through the Labor Day weekend.

A system like this for us mountain people is akin to the storms we live for in the Sierra where you go to bed one night with snow on the ground, nothing too special, and wake up to a few feet of new and several days of nonstop faceshots.

South swells with compatible winds is about as good as it gets for many parts of the California coast. It all depends on the break, and Santa Cruz is fully one of those spots to score. There’s a bunch of breaks in So Cal that turn on with south swells as well. The famous “Wedge” in Newport (seen in this photo) is forecasted for 20+foot waves with this swell forecast.

Santa Cruz is almost always a shit show for surf on the weekends, kind of like skiing inbounds. Of course it’s still fun, a powder day is a powder day, right? With this being the “last” weekend of summer coupled with the chance for some big perfect surf, it sounds like the Labor Day holiday is going to be popping in the Cruz, and just about everywhere else south swells work in California.

It may be a shit show, but do you really care? If you woke up on a Saturday to bluebird skies and 3 feet of new, what would you do?


Looks like the new juice is going to be building for the next few days, but at least from Surfline’s point of view, Friday and Saturday will be prime, and conditions should remain solid through Monday.

Here’s a few highlight notes from the Surf Alert forecast linked here:

“This same swell passed through Tahiti on Saturday during a world tour surfing competition, and generated waves near 40-feet that also damaged coastline structures in Tahiti.”

“[T]his swell event will be one of the largest surf episodes during the Summer of 2011. Fortunately life guarding staffing over the Labor Day weekend will be typically be on full staffing anyway, but extra caution is urged to keep the public aware and safe from these large waves and associated rip currents.”

You can read Surfline’s three day forecast for Santa Cruz here.

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