UPDATE: Hyper-Active North Atlantic Is Firing Swell into Europe Right Now

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 93d ago

  • Right now, the whole North Atlantic is alive. Check the swell chart here.
  • Low pressure system expected to deepen and expand over the next 48 hours.
  • Pumping surf expected for western Europe tomorrow and into the weekend with particular focus on France, Morocco, Portugal.
  • Long run of swell on the way for UK and Ireland too.
  • Full details below.
  • FINAL UPDATE Friday Feb 12: The first pulse of swell is in full swing, with wave heights at westerly exposures in Galicia hitting 15 feet and exceeding ten feet in southwest Ireland and down into Portugal. France was also pumping yesterday as this swell rifled in. And today, the UK is going bananas, though coupled with strong offshore wind.

    Yesterday, Hossegor!

    Areas further afield or less exposed to the west swell, such as northwest Ireland, southwest France and Morocco are hitting six feet or so. The swell is expected to continue throughout the weekend and beyond, with a slight increase in many spots tomorrow before gradually tailing off over the next few days.

    Places with the cleanest conditions will be southwest France and Portugal, with winds ranging from light and variable to moderate offshore. Further north, expect strong to gale-force offshores in many places, and in the far south expect moderate to fresh northeast trades.

    Earlier, Thursday Feb 11: First signs of the first swell pulse in the North Atlantic have started to show across some parts of Europe including Galicia, Ireland and the south west of the UK. And this is just the start because wave heights are expected to ramp up later this afternoon and overnight.

    Our North Atlantic Chart as of this morning. The forerunners are already here for the UK.

    Our North Atlantic Chart as of this morning. The forerunners are already here for the UK.

    As you'll see from the chart above, there's more on the way too. "The second low developing on the periphery of the first is not as strong as originally expected, but will still keep the swell pumping almost seamlessly from Saturday onwards," says MSW forecaster Tony Butt. "After that, at least two more peripheral lows are forecast to swing around the south of the mother system, meaning several days of surf in most places until well after the weekend.

    "In northerly and mid areas, and including extreme westerly exposures further south such as Galicia, expect strong winds from a south or southeast direction, with the west-southwest swell struggling to reach north-facing coasts.

    This was from the weekend and imagine, today, it's looking be heavier, bigger and thicker.

    "In southwest France, there is already some epic surf today, [more on that soon] Thursday, with wave heights expected to pick up to ten feet or so by tomorrow. Winds over the next few days will be mostly light southeast, but a frontal system will bring strong westerlies for a time tomorrow.

    "The best conditions will be found in Portugal, with the latest forecasts showing light variable winds or light south-easterlies from tomorrow onwards. The swell will hit square-on from the west, with wave heights hitting 15 feet at exposed spots tomorrow and ramping down very gradually over the next few days.

    "Way down in Morocco, wave heights reach ten feet or so at exposed spots tomorrow, and keep pumping over the weekend and beyond. Expect moderate to fresh northeast trades, perhaps becoming lighter from Sunday onwards."

    Earlier: Tuesday Feb 9: Here we go. Last weekend the North Atlantic jacked to realms beyond that of mere mortals and now, we're in for another incredible run of swell, delivering days of pumping surf for the entirety of Western Europe. Yes, the colossal XXL spots could go off, but the good news is, there's more than enough for the everyday surfer to enjoy as well. This might just be the most lively we've seen the Atlantic this winter.

    This pulse of swell will fill in to some locales across Europe from tomorrow, with the UK's south west seeing a long period swell and favourable wind. But there's so much more on the horizon because, right now, the whole North Atlantic is alive. And what does that mean for waves? Well, you're going to score, it just depends where. Put it this way, from Iceland, right the way down to Morocco, the whole of the Old Continent's western realm should be kissed by at least one of these pulses over the next few days.

    The chart for France on Thursday and then Saturday looks as heavy as we've seen it this winter. There's potentially a Nazare session on the cards but the real meat of this ripper is into the weekend, and some spots are even going to see five days plus of pure solid surf. But the weekend is a little way out yet so keep in mind that things could change over the next few days. Best thing to do is bookmark this page and keep checking back as we'll be updating frequently in the run up to these sessions.

    Stuck at home? Watch our live Nazare cam here

    Our North Atlantic swell chart as of Tuesday am (Feb 9) showing a hyper-active sea state.

    Our North Atlantic swell chart as of Tuesday am (Feb 9) showing a hyper-active sea state.

    For now, we'll let MSW forecaster Tony Butt break it down: “The North Atlantic is currently showing a developing low just off Newfoundland. Yet again, this system is forecast to deepen rapidly during the first half of its trajectory across the Atlantic, helped in part by a strong upper airstream exiting the North American continent. Over the next 48 hours the low will deepen and expand, and a strong westerly fetch on its southern flank will generate a large, long-period west swell.

    “A second system is then expected to form on the southern periphery of the first, and swing rapidly eastwards, generating another pulse of swell in quick succession and very similar to the first. Meanwhile, a small area of high pressure pushes up from the southwest and positions itself over the Iberian Peninsula by Friday.

    “The first pulse of swell arrives at westerly exposures in southwest Ireland and Galicia on Thursday, with periods up to 20 secs at first. Wave heights ramp up to over 10 feet at exposed spots by Friday morning, with strong southeast winds in Ireland and strong southerlies in Galicia.

    We could see similar conditions to 2018 in Nazare, where the swell was a bit west for it.

    “In northwest Ireland, the swell hits west and southwest exposures with wave heights around six or eight feet, but struggles to get into northwest-facing spots. In Cornwall, expect wave heights to hit six feet or so, with strong southeast winds and perhaps some epic surf if you know where to go.

    Check how this swell is going to play out by scrolling through our North Atlantic chart here

    “Further south, especially in the southern half of Portugal, that high will mean that conditions will probably be much better, with light variable winds and wave heights hitting ten feet or more. The swell will probably be too west for Nazaré, however.

    Thursday, Hossegor. Solid surf, decent wind. Perhaps even too much to paddle but time will tell. This is before the meat of the swell hits on the weekend, which could send France into warp drive.

    Thursday, Hossegor. Solid surf, decent wind. Perhaps even too much to paddle but time will tell. This is before the meat of the swell hits on the weekend, which could send France into warp drive.

    “The swell takes a slight dip on Saturday then picks up again quickly, as that second pulse arrives, also from the west. This could last several more days with good conditions in quite a few places. Stay tuned for more updates.

    “Even further south into Morocco, the swell arrives during the day on Thursday and continues to ramp up during Friday, peaking at around ten feet or so at the most exposed spots by late Friday. Winds are northeast trades, on the southwest flank of that high, and lighter in the north of the area.

    "In southwest France, expect some good surf on Thursday, with swell-magnets such as Hossegor getting a solid six to eight feet with light winds from an easterly quarter. In the afternoon, the existing swell combines with the super long period forerunners of the new one, which might mean some close-outs. On Friday when the new swell really kicks in, winds pick up from the west, but then go light again on Saturday."