A new model is provided for estimating maritime near-surface wind speeds (U10) from satellite altimeter backscatter data during high wind conditions. The model is built using coincident satellite scatterometer and altimeter observations obtained from QuikSCAT and Jason satellite orbit crossovers in 2008 and 2009. The new wind measurements are linear with inverse radar backscatter levels, a result close to the earlier altimeter high wind speed model of Young (1993) . By design, the model only applies for wind speeds above 18 m s−1. Above this level, standard altimeter wind speed algorithms are not reliable and typically underestimate the true value. Simple rules for applying the new model to the present-day suite of satellite altimeters (Jason-1, Jason-2, and Envisat RA-2) are provided, with a key objective being provision of enhanced data for near-real-time forecast and warning applications surrounding gale to hurricane force wind events. Model limitations and strengths are discussed and highlight the valuable 5-km spatial resolution sea state and wind speed altimeter information that can complement other data sources included in forecast guidance and air–sea interaction studies.