Understanding surf reports

I come from an era where the surf report was looking at the back page of the local paper where there would be a synoptic weather chart , and trying to work out from that how the surf was going to look.Understanding surf reports Firstly the weather reports in the 80,s were notoriously inaccurate and secondly as a young kid who didnt listen to much at school my synoptic weather chart comprehension was at zero when i first started checking them. To be fare it still looks like a bit of a nightmare to find out when its offshore , how big the swell will be and at what time it will peak etc.

Luckily for the surfers of all levels today we are blessed (or cursed / ill cover the curse later) with the good old tinternet. The surf report industry is massively competitive and hugely more accurate than it was 3o or 40 years ago. Today we have a choice when you open up your browser of many different sites offering every kind of report for every type of sport.

The report accuracy i have found tends to vary from site to site and country to country. Personally i use 2 or 3 site and between them end up with a pretty accurate idea of whats going on over the next 3 days. Thats really as good as it gets though and i think its fare to say that most of the authorities behind the weather reporting system will openly admit , that they have done good over the last 30 years in getting it right , but its still kind of stabbing in the dark when it comes to getting it right beyond the next 3 days.  But hey ,   … well done guys !!

For some fortunate surfers the treck down to the beach is quick , so the report thing is convenient to know exactly which spot to pick and at what stage of tide etc , but for other dedicated surfers the treck may be way more serious. As many of you know once a surfer always a surfer and a 6 hour drive to find some pumping waves is not a high price to pay if you score some good waves. It is however an expensive , time wasting , sole destroying nightmare if you get it wrong (which we all have ) and turn up to lousy conditions.

So without stating what you all know already im going to give you a few sites that i find helpfull , and more importantly what to do with them when you have the report.

So lets have a look at the principle factors :

  • Find info on the spot you are going to surf ie high or low tide break / best wind / best wave period etc
  • check tide times
  • check swell size
  • check wind direction
  • understand the correct wave period (tricky without local knowledge)

Once you decided where you fancy surfing , ie a region , not necessarily a specific beach , then you need to check the factors above.

Every surfer knows that the early is generally the best as there is less chance of wind (depending on the season).  So if i where looking at surfing somewhere around the Hossegor area in South west France , i would be looking at the tide times first to see which beach will be working in the morning , then the wind direction and speed  followed by the wave period and swell direction and size .  Have a look at this chart ;

Understanding surf reports

Most people will be stoked to see the star rating , swell size , wind and blue skies  ….. “oh yer its 4 star lets go ”  …..  BUT for me if i saw this chart i know that it looks good , but in fact a 14 second period for this particular region is way to much and consequentially the waves will be solid , but closing … nothing worse than solid glassy straight handers.

Now have a look at this chart :Understanding surf reports

Ok so for me this lets me know that despite the fact the star rating is pretty much non existent , i know that for this part of France a 9 second period is the absolute best. It may not be a solid 5 foot  , like the other chart , but it means that when the waves hit the banks they are going to peal and you will find some waves that will run properly and hopefully find a few make-able barrels.   So there you have it … a super top tip on getting it right and scoring a barrel.check it again , in the am you have offshore , blue skies , a REALISTIC 3 foot swell thats going to be a world of fun!

Many sites like Magicseaweed give useful info on the spot and the tide times. Personally i find thats about it for this site. I then gather info on wave period and swell size and direction from windguru, personally i find that way more accurate , but it will depend on where you live.

I mentioned at the begining of this article , blessed or cursed by the interent  , its a massive statement that needs to be covered in the next blog. Beat the crowds or create the crowds etc !!!

Hope this has been of help , happy surfing

Understanding surf reports