A Guide to Forecasting Surf Conditions

For successful wave-catching and gas savings, reading a surf forecast is indispensable. It gives you the most relevant swell data and helps you understand present and upcoming conditions. Although live beach cams can give you a real-time glance, delving into the forecast will give you enhanced comprehension. There are numerous surf forecasts available, but to keep it straightforward, I prefer to consult Surfline for their surf reports and Stormsurf for their swell models and buoy readings.

It is essential to be familiar with the following terms:

Swell - The energy from wind, usually from storms occurring in the ocean, is transferred into the body of water. Intense storms create more power, resulting in larger swells.

Swell Size - The magnitude of a swell can be determined by measuring from the lowest trough to the highest peak. It's usually calculated by taking an average of the height of one third of all waves being measured. However, this alone does not necessarily dictate the size of the waves suitable for surfing, and other factors need to be taken into consideration.

Swell Period - The span of seconds for one full wave cycle (from crest to crest) is known as the swell period. This is typically somewhere between 4-22 seconds, with longer swell periods signifying higher energy and thus larger waves.

Direction of Swell - This is a key factor in surfing which indicates where the swell is originating from. When there is minimal interference, the waves will be of higher quality and greater size. Swell direction is of utmost importance in the sport of surfing.

Wind - Generally the speed and direction of the wind is measured in knots. Ideal conditions occur in the absence of wind, however, offshore winds, which blow from the land out to the ocean, can make waves become taller. This happens because the wind is pushing against the wave, which slows down the breaking process. Onshore winds are the exact opposite, and make the waves close in.

The Changing Tide - The rise and fall of the water level twice a day is caused by the gravitational pull between the Earth and the Moon. Certain locations experience more extreme tidal movements due to the special set-up of the ocean floor at the wave break.

In order to determine how surf-able the waves will be, one must take into account the various elements from the surf forecast. If the wave height is 4ft with a swell period of 10 seconds, then the breaking waves will be 6ft. But if the swell period is 20 seconds, the breaking waves will be 9ft. Provided the wind is minimal or blowing offshore, and the tide is right, then the waves will be in prime condition for surfing.

If you want to be a successful surfer, it's important to be familiar with the spot you're surfing and the type of break it provides. Knowing which swells work best and what the ideal tide is, can give you a better idea of what the waves will be like. Additionally, I find that using swell and weather models can be useful in order to figure out what the conditions might be in the upcoming days and weeks.

If you have any queries about interpreting the surf report, do not hesitate to contact us! Our experienced team of surfers is always ready to aid fellow surfers. Make sure to visit us at our warehouse location 12752 Monarch St Garden Grove, CA 92841 or DM us on socials. Always willing to help. 

See ya out in the water!