Summer seasonal surf outlook for south Florida

Every season I'd like to try a long range surf forecast for South Florida. (summer(rainy) and winter(dry)…Florida only has two seasons) The last one was pretty accurate with the winter being a below normal surf season for us. I would like to have nailed the fact that is was WAY below normal though, so I will continue to learn and grow and hopefully these seasonal surf forecasts will get better each time. I'll also work on better ways to show it graphically, and I think with our new weather system coming, that will be easier on me(I hope).  Generally the signals are much weaker in the summer to make any assessment, so forecasting is difficult and with low confidence.

In the summer, South Florida surfers usually drive north for any surf. The mean wave direction is more east, or southeast and the Bahamas block all that swell energy. Leaving South Florida flat for long periods of time June-October. South Florida gets waves generally in TWO ways in the summer. Tropical activity(longer period swells and windchop), and around the rim of High pressure(short period windchop).

1. Tropical Activity – Hurricane swells. That's our best bet to get some good quality and size swell in Florida. Unfortunately, most hurricane swells come from the east or southeast and the good ‘ol Bahamas block all that swell energy for Palm beach, and even Martin counties. Even when Hurricanes make the hook around, unless they stall, they don't really send any significant swell down here. In that rare occasion where a storms stalls off hatteras, loops around or heads south….then we will get some killer surf into the palm beaches. Remember Felix in 1995?!?! OMG I was in college and down here for the summer. We had a week straight of solid swell. The day before I had to go back to school, I recall trying to get my buddies up out of bed and to the beach to hit it again. They were too tired so I went at it alone. Paddles out at Carlin Park to some overhead, glassy perfect lefts that went FOREVER! One of the best seshes of my life. If you had the arms you could paddle WAAAY out 200+Yards to the outside and ride the wave and big shoulder all the way in. Real easy drops and perfect shoulders. Epic.
We also have the rare slot swell, or providence channel swell. That happens when a very powerful major hurricane comes very close to the northern Bahamas then turns northward. It'll send a pulse right through the Providence Channel and only to a few select spots. It's brief so there's a lot of luck and "right place, right time". It can be 10ft bombing and a mile or two up the road it'll be flat. Very fickle swell but most people know where to catch it and it's always a zoo.

The Last option is when a system actually hits us, or come close enough. Even a tropical wave can give us some fun windchop for a day or two. Tropical storms, unless they are north of here get too out of hand, and hurricanes will close everything down.
2. High Pressure – Every now and then the big Bermuda high will flex it muscle and winds will pick up out of the east of southeast. This will send a small mushy windchop wave to south Florida. Upcoast though is a different story. Central Florida has more of a southeast swell window so they will pick up more swell, usually called background swell, from these high pressure systems.

Summer rainy season outlook:

The La Nina that we had over the winter is dissipating and should be gone by June. Models are suggesting staying in a neutral phase of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Historically, the conditions we are seeing now will give us higher than normal pressures over Florida for the first part of the summer (may-July). Which means hotter than normal and dryer than normal. But by Aug-Oct, lower pressures over us will mean a wetter than normal pattern, with near normal temps.
So in general, the summer wet season will start off slow and the drought will persist through June, then it looks like more consistent rains will start up, relieving the drought situation. And temperatures will average out to be warmer than normal through the whole summer, this is also in part thanks to the warmer than normal ocean water temperatures, that are also a factor in our hurricane outlook.

Hurricane outlook: The official hurricane outlook ( is calling for another above average Hurricane season. 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which: 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including: 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). Averages are 11, 6, and 2. Now if El Nino develops, all bets are off and the hurricane season will be a bust, but if it stays neutral, or even back to La Nina, look for the season to roar.

This is due to 1. We are in a "High Activity Era" for tropical systems that began in 1995 and lasts about 20 years.


2. Warmer than normal ocean water temperatures.
3. Dynamical

model predictions from all over the world. These models are indicating a high likelihood of an above normal season.

Indications are that the early part of the season will favor well south of Florida, thanks to higher than normal pressures, then the mid-latter part of the season will crank up and possibly put Florida in the Bulls-eye. Although the Government doesn't predict seasonal landfall probability, other sources who release hurricane outlooks do. Such as Accuweather and they are predicting the increased likelihood for land falling hurricanes over Florida.

Just like any year, you should always be prepared before a hurricane threatens. Get you supplies and family plans laid out so you are ready to execute when the time calls for it.

What does this all mean for surf?

Well, obviously the more hurricanes and tropical systems we get, the more waves we will have. So going just on storm number, and that would mean an above normal summer for waves. Now, I don't know of any early telling signs that point to storms stalling out or moving erratically so like last year, most swells will require travel to central Florida. Although if the Accuweather forecast is right, the storms could be a little too close for comfort.

As for any evidence in the rainy season outlook, the signs are way too weak to make a judgment either way on that.

So in summary, you probably could've figured it out without me but above normal days of surf expected due to the increased tropical activity, especially upcoast. We need it too since the winter was so bad.

James Wieland
Surf Forecaster
News Channel 5
WFLX Fox 29
West Palm Beach/
Treasure Coast


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