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Conditions in the Channel: What to Expect

The Channel Islands of California encompass a 160-mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean, from San Clemente Island in the southeast, to San Miguel Island in the northwest. The variety of ocean conditions one might encounter during a swim in this region is vast.

Channel Islands

That being said, there are a few rules of thumb to consider:

Current wind conditions in the Channel can be viewed on our Live Conditions page.

Water temperatures in the Santa Barbara Channel tend to peak in the high 60s F (~20C), mid-to-late September. They tend to bottom out in the low-mid 50s F (~12C) in March-April. Here is a chart showing water temperatures for NOAA Buoy 46217, located about halfway between the east end of Anacapa Island and Oxnard. The chart represents a summary of 11 years of data (2002-2012), to give you a sense of the range of possibilities for given seasons.

Anacapa Passage water temperature

Current water temps in the Channel can be viewed on our Live Conditions page.

Surface currents in the Santa Barbara Channel are difficult to predict, but in our observation they tend to be strongest near an island, and further northwest in the Channel (e.g., swims from San Miguel or Santa Rosa).

Current surface currents in the Channel can be viewed on our Live Conditions page.