The Worst Summer on Record


As some of you may have noticed, Buoy Alarm experienced some spotty Twitter service this summer, with the stations going offline for a period of nearly two months. This was completely our fault. We were unprepared for a Twitter API deprecation that left our publishing script unable to properly authenticate. The fix was trivial, but finding time to debug, code, and deploy a solution took months.

Buoy Alarm is maintained on a part-time basis by myself and @aaronvb. It’s a free service, which means we’re not bound to service level agreements, or overwhelmed by a flood of support tickets when an issue occurs. It also means we generate zero revenue. The app is fueled by our own passion for the ocean and software development, a strange mixture of salt water and code, and continued commitment to this service we’ve built.

Ten months ago I accepted a full-time position at Marinexplore, and while I naively expected to continue working on Buoy Alarm during my free time, I quickly learned that doing so was unrealistic. Long hours at a startup leaves little room for much of anything else, and spending those precious few hours writing more software left me feeling unbalanced. I have no regrets for choosing friends, surfing, and sleep instead.

Fortunately, Buoy Alarm is rather autonomous, and required little to no effort on our behalf for much of the year. Then in June the Twitter API crapped out. More recently, the NOAA forecast data that we parse began to report inconsistent column values, causing wave heights that were obviously wrong. Both issues lingered for quite some time before we could even investigate them. Twitter feeds were eventually fixed, but forecasts have been disabled until we can clarify the source file issue with NOAA.

Issues are bound to happen, I’m actually surprised something didn’t break sooner, but our inability to respond to them in a timely fashion is something that concerns me. I think our users deserve better, but it’s the best we can currently do, and unfortunately the situation is unlikely to change any time soon. Thanks for hanging in there.



New Kaneohe Bay Station Deployed

I just watched the movie Battleship the other night. Aside from some awesome braddah-braddah cameos and a sprinkling of pidgeon, it’s mainly explosions. But there is a scene where the Japanese captain uses a buoy grid off of Oahu to track an alien ship’s movement.

Now my suspension of disbelief is okay with weird-handed extraterrestrial invaders leap-frogging their way across the ocean, but immediate wave height data from a buoy and a grid that seems to contain a station every 20 miles? Yeah, right.

The good news is that a new Kaneohe Bay station has recently been deployed and is reporting detailed swell data. You can also find it on Twitter at @buoy51207.

Hawaii Updates/

Hurricane Sandy’s Unprecedented Storm Surge

Rockaway Beach, New York - October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane in diameter on record. The official report from NOAA puts landfall at approximately 8 p.m. EDT 5 miles southwest of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Storm surge from the hurricane was devastating, reaching an unprecedented 13 feet, swamping subway tunnels and leaving over 7 million homes and businesses without power up and down the coast.

Primary swell power at Station 44025 (33 NM South of Islip, NY) reached 322 kW/m on October 29th, 2012, which represents a tremendous amount of energy in the water. To put that into perspective, the Pauwela, Maui buoy reported a maximum primary swell power of 169 kW/m on October 9th, 2012, opening day at Peahi. That’s roughly half the power recorded off of Long Island yesterday.

Buoy 44025 - Wind and Primary Swell conditions on October 29, 2012

Our thoughts go out to all those affected by the storm. We wish you a speedy recovery!

Rockaway Beach photo via Tubes & Boobs

Atlantic Northeast/

What the Sea Gives Me

Only 9 days remain to become a part of Misfit Pictures’ What the Sea Gives Me, an awe-inspiring documentary film highlighting those with a life-long connection to the sea.

What the Sea Gives Me is a feature length documentary comprised of intimate and candid interviews with some of the ocean’s most extraordinary ambassadors. We will give you an honest and personal look through the eyes of those who thrive under the most extreme water conditions, those ensuring the proper care of the oceans for future generations and those who simply derive a sense of pure joy from the sea.

With proposed interviews from Great White shark researcher Brett McBride, artist Matt Beard, photographer Chris Burkard, bodysurfer Angie Oschmann, conservationist Jean-Michelle Cousteau, and free-diver Herbert Nitsch and spectacular locations around the world (South Africa, Greece, Fiji, Australia, Ireland, New England, California, and Hawaii), the goal of What the Sea Gives Me is to raise ocean awareness on a global level while reminding the viewer how closely we are all connected to the sea.

Check out the What the Sea Give Me Kickstarter campaign for more information and to contribute.


Opening Day at Jaws

Shane Dorian claims an XXL barrel yesterday at Peahi. Primary swell conditions at the Pauwela station for October 9, 2012 show a building NW swell, which actually peaked overnight at 15 feet at 17 seconds and a maximum wave power of 169 kW/m.

Here’s another highlight reel of both days.

The swell is expected to drop through the remainder of the week, reaching more mortal-level wave heights by Friday.

Hawaii Surfing/

Miriam’s Tropical Sensations

Hurricane Miriam – NHC Advisory 11 (September 24, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. PDT)

The latest expected track for Hurricane Miriam is very favorable for Southern California. As of 8:00 a.m. PDT Miriam has become a major hurricane of category 3 strength, with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, and is currently moving NW at 12 mph. The official forecast expects Miriam to gradually turn northward and decrease in speed over the next few days, with possible further intensification over the next 12-24 hours.

While the storm is already located in the Southern California swell window, the northward (possibly northeast) turn would focus more swell energy towards Southern California, which is good news for spots that favor moderate-period, south to southeast swell. Keep an eye on the Point Loma forecast and real-time reports, particularly mid-week, which is when the swell’s initial impact is expected to arrive.

Hurricane Miriam – NHC Advisory 13 (September 24, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. PDT)

Update – NHC Advisory 13 as of 8:00 p.m. September 24, 2012:

Hurricane Miriam has started to weaken, with maximum sustained winds now in the 105 mph range (category 2). Additional, slow weakening is expected over the next 48 hours, with hurricane force winds extending outward up to 35 miles from the center. Microwave images indicate that the inner eyewall has collapsed, and the storm has taken on an asymmetric structure, likely due to southwesterly shear. Miriam is still expected to slow and turn north within 48-72 hours, at which time it should weaken below hurricane strength.

As a result of the latest observations, the official forecast has been slightly downgraded. Unfortunately, this means the surf forecast should be downgraded as well. It would have been nice to have major hurricane strength persist as the storm slowed and turned towards California, but it’s looking like Miriam will only make a modest, moderate-period SSE impact later this week.

Hurricane Miriam – NHC Advisory 15 (September 25, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. PDT)

Update – NHC Advisory 15 as of 8:00 p.m. September 25, 2012:

Hurricane Miriam remains a category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds near 100 mph. The forward speed of the hurricane has been slowing over the last 12-24 hours, and Miriam is currently moving west-northwest at 5 mph. A turn toward the northwest is expected later today, followed by a turn to the north-northwest on Wednesday. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 35 miles, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles.

The decrease is tracking speed is favorable news in terms of swell production, as is the forecast path, however gradual weakening is expected to continue during the next 48 hours. A mixture of swell periods and directions are clearly visible in Wednesday’s San Clemente Basin forecast, with moderate WNW swell (4-5 feet at 12-13 seconds, 293°), moderate SSW swell (2 feet at 13 seconds, 203°), and moderate SSE swell from Miriam (2-3 feet at 12 seconds, 161°) all concurrently in the water.

Two things to note: (1) Buoy 46086 is located well offshore, and is exposed to much more swell energy than nearshore stations, so observations will be greater than those located closer to land. (2) Real-time primary swell reports over the next few days will likely be dominated by the longer-period WNW and SSW groundswells, but don’t be fooled, the SSE energy is still in the mix, it just isn’t expected to be dominant.

With all that energy in the ocean, expect some fun-sized combo-swell conditions on Wednesday and Thursday, but don’t expect to be sharing epic tales of Miriam with the kids twenty years from now. To truly make the most of the combo-swell conditions, you’ll need to find a spot with exposure to the WNW and SSE angles at moderate swell periods (think Dana Point and Oxnard), otherwise go with the SSE/SSW breaks.

Forecast Southern California/

Hawaii – First Significant NNW Swell This Sunday

The first significant NNW swell of the 2012-2013 Hawaii winter season is en route, with swell conditions at the Waimea Bay station expected to reach 8 feet at 15 seconds (332°) on Sunday, September 23. With moderate ENE trade winds forecast, conditions could be a touch windy, but the angle is favorable side/off-shore (there’s also a slight possibility of thunderstorms on both Sunday and Monday).

Looking at the charts for Sunday, September 23 (above), you can see that the brunt of the swell is focused more towards the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, with Hawaii receiving mainly sideband energy. Still, it should be enough to produce double-overhead surf along north facing shores and begin to push some of that summer sand around.

A second pulse is lining up behind Sunday’s and is expected to arrive in Hawaii on Thursday, September 27. A South Pacific pulse will also be arriving on Thursday, so there should be plenty of surf to choose from! This animation of the September 21, 2012 swell period forecast clearly shows both swells pushing across the Pacific.

Keep an eye on real-time reports from the Northwest Hawaii station for those long-period forerunners, or better yet, set an alarm to be automatically notified when they arrive!

Forecast Hawaii/