How to read surf reports to make your day better
How to read surf reports to make your day better and why its a good idea. For some people a day out surfing may be more focused on blue skies, a nice surf lodge for the night splash around, and a day off of work. For others a day surf trip can be the opposite, a serious drive, maybe dodging work, full commitment and a burning desire to surf hard and improve. There are a few simple basics to understand on a surf forecast before you go.
You should plan your trip and knowing the condition’s is everything. Have a look at a spot guide, find out what size, direction and period this spot needs. If the wind is in the good direction and you time the drive for the correct tide , you are going to have a good day. Lets break that down and find out how to do all of that
Two Surf Reports to Understand
We are going to work with Magicseaweed and Windguru to keep the process easy. Between them you can get a pretty accurate idea of whats going to happen for at least the next few days. After that things can change . They look different at first glance but we will explain them both.
Here are the important things to know :
Wind : Direction / Speed /
Swell : Size / Swell period / Direction
What is a Spot Guide and how useful are they ?
So this is where you start to sharpen up your surf life by making the right choice, so we wanted to mention this as a starting point. Decide where you are going to surf. There may be only a few spots near you or lots, but they will each have their own story to tell when the surf arrives and its important that you know the beach. You can check out Magicseaweed , they have a comprehensive spot guide. Find out what the beach you are going to needs in order to be good for that day. The keys factors will be the swell period, swell size, the wind direction and speed.
WINDGURU : WIND
How to read surf reports for wind Speed:
The highlighted ” Wind Speed” row at the top show the speed of the wind on each day. Its important to mention that one click of the wind speed button changes from MPH to KHP or Knots. You can clearly see that the wind speed comes in colours as well. The lighter the color the lighter the wind. So Monday and Tues have lightest winds for the week , as low as 5 on Mon and Tues. Then Tues night the wind picks up. By Wednesday at 9am its blowing hard at 24 knots.
How to read a surf reports for wind direction:
In the Spot of Hossegor W (Westerly) is ONSHORE & E (Easterly) is OFFSHORE
The above “wind direction” row , shows clearly a row with simply arrows pointing. If you hover the cursor over an arrow it will tell you the exact wind direction. Example, Monday at 12pm is showing almost directly facing west W arrow ( Onshore) . By Tues at 7am its turned the other way and is showing SSE, cross-offshore. Its wsings back to all the arrows being mostly facing west for the rest of the week, meaning its onshore.
MAGICSEAWEED : WIND
How to read surf reports for wind Speed:
Magic have a very simple chart to look at. On the right you have vertical row with WIND as a heading. The speed can also be changes from MPH to KPH easily. In general for this part of France Windguru tends to be more acurate for wind than Magicseaweed.
How to read surf reports for wind direction :
As mentioned , very simple to see whats going on. The arrows face the direction of the wind arriving on that beach. From the report above you can see that in the morning the wind is coming from the north west. It straightens out to direct Westerly by 12 noon ,then has a little bit of SE (south easterly) in it by 3 pm. This chart shows a day of onshore all day with the lightest ( best ) winds around 12 noon.
WINDGURU Swell: Size /Period / Direction
How to read surf reports for swell ( wave) direction:
Most importantly , dont forget to check which way your bay or beach faces. You need to make sure that the swell is arriving at the correct direction for that beach. Hover the curor over the arrow and its will five you an accurate wind direction. Most of the swell above is coming from the North West. This is a normal swell direction for France, as all of the big storms are in the N.Atlantic.
How to read surf reports for swell ( wave) period
The swell period needs to be understood.
Watch a wave break on the shore then count the seconds until the next wave breaks, this is your wave period.
Find out the best period for your spot.
In short , the longer the period the more serious the swell is and the bigger the waves are. The lesser the period the more friendly and less powerful the waves are. Typically here in France the summer has small powerful waves with a period of between 6 -9 seconds. The winter we have back to back powerful swells with periods from 15 seconds up to 25 seconds. If you think about a wave of 1 meter at 8 seconds, this will be good fun for all with nothing too dangerous. On the other end of the scale , a wave of 1 meter at 25 seconds is going to contain a lot more water and be travelling a lot faster. This will knock anyone up and down the beach. The facts are these, small swells come from more localized storms and haven’t traveled far. Bigger period come from almighty storms out in the mid Atlantic that have been generated by strong winds. These travel a long way and arrive with a punch.
The above report shows Monday at 12 seconds and Tuesday dropping down to 10 seconds. Thats ideal for Hossegor. You can then see Tuesday at 15hrs a new swell arrives at 14 seconds.
How to read surf reports for swell ( wave) height.
As mentioned above the swell period will always determine the actual size of the waves your going to surf. Its very important to understand this. A good example is is the above pic , the swell height is 1.9m at 7am on Tues. This has a period of 10 seconds , so will probably be as it sounds, surf-able. As the week goes on to Wednesday you can see that the wave height picks up to 5.6 m at 15 seconds. This height at 15 seconds will be exactly that or a bit more. A good way to imagine it is this: A 10 foot wave is going to have a lot more water within it than a 3 foot wave. The higher the period , the more water within the wave, therefore the more powerful.
MAGICSEAWEED : Period / Size / Direction
How to read surf reports for swell ( wave) direction :
As mentioned Magic is very easily read. Hover the curor over the direction arrow and it will tell you excatly the direction wsell is coming from. Verify that the bat or beach you are checking is good for that direction.
How to read surf reports for swell ( wave) period :
The swell period, is probably the biggest deal breaker when it comes to getting it right. You need to understand that the higher the swell period to more the ocean is agitated.
Watch a wave break on the shore then count the seconds until the next wave breaks, this is your wave period
You can clearly see on Magic the “primary swell” , as they call it , is the period. One thing thats a bit annoying with this report is the whole “primary & secondary” swell content. This was put on about 5 years ago. It was claimed that surfers need to understand that there may be more than 1 swell running at a time. I strongly disagreed with this at the time. Surfers want to surf , not necessarily be ocean analysts. In my opinion the secondary swell chart is annoying and misleading for the beginners into understand surf charts and it very rarely holds ANY usefull information.
Again make sure youve done your homework and that you know what period is best for the beach your going to surf.
How to read surf reports for swell ( wave) size.
Again i feel that magic have let themselves down a bit by having 2 rows of numbers for “surf” & “primary swell” . They both appear relatively similar. The fact is that the left hand row named “surf” is where youll find the predicted size of the waves for that area. NEVER forget that the actual size of the waves your going to surf will depend exclusively on the swell period.
Understand the period of the swell to determine the actual size of waves your going to expect. if the wind is good , then get down there and see if your understanding the charts or not. The other fantastic cheat these days are “surf cams”. Check the cams before you drive. Keep things well within your limits. If you just did a hell drive and the swell is too big, turn around and stay safe. Learn how to read the surf reports and you will greatly improve your surfing.
Check both charts.
Check the period/size/ & wind direction
Check the surf cams
Get your mates and go have some fun !
I hope this is of some help in how to read a surf report. So do your homework on the spot, match the correct conditions and go score some good waves .