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Become A Master Surf Forecaster

Become A Master Surf Forecaster

Getting really great waves requires you to either:

A. Get Lucky

B. Know when and where the conditions are lining up.

How many times have you been promised waves, sacrificed precious sleep to wake up before the sun, only to get to the beach for it to be very small?

I sure have. Too many times that I’d like to admit.

If most of the surfing community is only checking one source for their wave forecasting, then everybody is going to be eyeing the same hyped swells. If you really want to outsmart the pack, you need to look beyond the live camera feed to find waves.

Surfline, to their credit, is an incredible first indicator. I use their long-range forecast to put swells on my radar 14-17 days out. Now, predicting swells that far in advance isn't a perfect science, but it will show activity in the water.

My next step is to go to windy.com. This application is an interactive weather forecasting service that shows what is happening world wide. It’s always fun looking at what’s happening in Tahiti, Chile and Europe all in a quick glance. Use the Forecast Model ECMWF at the bottom of the screen. This is a great “global model” – much more advanced and accurate than the GFS option.



For a closer more local region in my area of Orange County, I use the Forecast Model NAM on the bottom right hand on Windy. The North American Mesoscale is a great forecast system for sooner and closer windows (two to three days out). I will check Windy for wind and swell in the region I want to surf.

Lastly, I go to 17ft.com which is a buoy reading system that shows what is happening in real time. This will give accurate and up to date info on the swell in the water. It gives feet, seconds and direction of each swell. For example, an 18 second period swell is mostly produced from a storm very far away and has groomed into longer and stronger swells. 18 seconds or more is a big swell with most likely very long waits in between. And anything with west in it, 260°-285° be weary of island blockage from the Channel Islands for all you OC and LA folk. But I can devote a whole article covering feet, seconds and direction of a swell in the future.



In the meantime, I will cross reference all this info with Surfline and see what they are saying. I typically check the surf forecast every 3 days or so in the morning on my computer with a cup of coffee. It shouldn’t take longer than 15-20 minutes to understand what the ocean is doing.

After that, it’s all up to the surfer to decide where he or she will go! Don’t get caught up going to the marque spots. Remember, you did your homework! It’s time to reap its benefits of uncrowded, good surf with just your friends!

What's Next?