WHAT IS SURF FORECASTING, AND HOW TO READ A SURF FORECAST.
Surf forecasting is a collection of meteorological data combined with complex algorithms and swell models to predict local surf conditions in advance.
All designed to assist surfers in understanding what surf conditions can be expected at their local surf spot, displayed in a way that is easily digestible and quick to understand.
WHAT IS SWELL?
Swell is energy that has been transferred into the sea by wind.
The longer and stronger the wind blows (like a hurricane) the more energy that is transferred and so larger the swell.
This energy then propagates from where it is created out into the ocean, much like ripples in a pond. It is crucial to know how to read a surf forecast.
WHY IS IT USEFUL TO KNOW HOW TO READ A SURF FORECAST?
As any surfer will tell you – having advanced information at your fingertips can play a big role in the planning of surf opportunities and allows the modern surfer to manage their time efficiently.
With surfing conditions in constant change from one day to the next, the insights provided through surf forecasting proves invaluable to the surfer whose days in the water are limited.
How to read a Surf Report for beginners
KEEP IT SIMPLE
If you are about to take your first surfing lesson, only concentrate on the three main areas which will provide you with the most valuable and important snippets of information.
These bits of information only become valuable to you when you can relate what you see on the screen to what you see on the beach.
Once you understand these three basics you can start digging deeper, which we cover later in this article.
Wave height (not swell height)
Wind direction & strength
1) WAVE HEIGHT
Not to be confused with swell height. Wave height represents the average size of the waves you may expect to see at the beach.
Wave height is typically measured in feet although most forecasting sites will allow you to switch between feet and meters.
In a separate guide, we discuss referring wave height to body parts for easier and often more accurate wave height assessment. Knowing how to read a surf forecast will assist surfers in recognizing big waves.
2) WIND DIRECTION AND STRENGTH
Wind direction is shown by an arrow icon.
The direction of the arrow represents the direction the wind has travelled from. (direction the wind is originating from)
Learning the difference between what a favourable wind direction is and what isn’t, plays a massive role in the quality of the surf.
Wind strength can be just as important as wind direction.
Each surf spot will handle various wind strengths differently. This makes it crucial for surfers to know how to read a surf forecast to differentiate the waves where they will surf.
Some areas may be better suited to strong off-shores, others may be protected or sheltered at certain stages of the tide.
Generally speaking, most surfers will prefer little or no wind.
The important point to remember is you need to relate what you see on the beach to what the forecast predicted.
3) TIDAL MOVEMENT
For each 24 hour period, there are two high tides and two low tides.
Understanding which tidal state suits the beach best or favours the shape of waves you like to ride should be a factor in where and when you surf.
Some surfers may prefer waves, which are steeper, faster and break quicker. For surfing in Newquay, these surfers will often wait for the lower stages of the tide for these waves.
If you can remember surf sessions where you found the waves hard to catch, too fat and lumpy or the waves were not pealing that well, the tide may be an influence in this and knowing what tides suit the beach best should affect your decision of when and where you surf.
Learn which state of the tide suits your beach and your surfing the best. Being aware of the tides, how they work and affect the waves is important to your surfing decisions and a key part in leaning how to read a surf forecast.
Understanding these three basics when reading a surf report and relating your online understanding to what you see on the beach is key to managing your expectations and to really getting to grips with reading a surf report accurately.
If you are looking to surf in distinct locations, check out this article that talks about surfing in Jacksonville, FL!