Category Archives: Wave Knowledge

Dailystoke in The Azores: Surf Spot Rundown, Go Get It!

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Another Dailystoke writer and I spent a week in the island paradise of The Azores.  What blew us away on our visit to the Portuguese island chain, was how high the “waves to surfers ratio” was.  Not that there are many surfers on the island to begin with, but as you’ll see, when swell lights up the coast, there are numerous places to be alone.  Like many remote island communities whose economy is driven by fishing, and whose folklore and bedtime stories are fed by sailors that did not return, the Azorians are afraid of the ocean that surrounds them.  Even our fearless guide seemed to always be talking about how sharky our sessions felt.  Thanks Ricardo…

But one thing we did do on our trip was hunt for waves.  If I could somehow get back every dollar I’ve spent on gas driving up and down the California coast looking for waves, I would be a rich man.  Not surprisingly, surfers all over the world operate similarly.  From the minute we landed, we were frothing for waves and started putting miles (kms) on the rental car, and there was lots to see.

Like I had mentioned in the previous post, The Azores is a volcanic island chain with an amazingly varied coast.  Exposed to swell from all directions, there’s rarely a flat day if you know where to look.  The main island of Sao Miguel is about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, so you’re never farther than an hour away from any surf spot.  Our surf guide has been on the island for about a decade, and knows every nook and cranny that pulls in waves.  In the week we were there to explore, we saw about a dozen spots that can turn on with the right conditions.  We saw some flat, and we saw some firing, and we never saw a crowd.

I’m going to give a rundown of the spots that we visited, but I do so with the understanding that some will be impossible to find without the help of someone with local knowledge.  Let’s start with the most obvious, and end with the mysto.

Santa Barbara:  The main surf beach on Sao Miguel is a half mile long black sand beach on the north coast at Ribeira Grande.  It’s the only place we ever saw other surfers, and it’s easily marked on every map.  Shifty sand bars, a rock cliff and reefy wedgy on the west side, and a rocky reef on the north side, if there’s north swell, there will be a wave (or many) here.  There’s even a deep water big wave spot about 200 yards offshore that can hold 20 foot+.  We heard stories of the only time someone tried to ski to it, got stranded outside the beach break, and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard.  Are you man enough to be the second to try?

Spinach:  Directly to the east of Santa Barbara, this is another large stretch of beach with a (dirty) river mouth sandbar.  We never surfed it but we were told it can be as good or better than Santa Barbara, and since it’s tougher to find down a scary narrow alley, can be less crowded.

Milicias: This is the closest beach to Ponta Delgada, about 10 minutes west of the harbor.  The parking lot is just past the cliffside church in the photo below.  This steep beach break is south facing and we were told, can be as good as beach breaks get.  Think wintertime perfection at Blacks, but with predominantly offshore winds and board shorts in the summer.  There is a deep water canyon, lots of peaks, and no crowds.  You convinced yet?

 

The Slab at Maia: At Ponta de Maia, on the north side of the island, there is a reef slab left that was created by a landslide from the cliff above.  We never saw it break, and it’s more of a bodyboard spot, but when conditions are right, it’s the most critical wave on the island.

Ponta Formosa:  This small beach break to the east of Ribeira Grande was dead flat when we were introduced to it on the first day.  There is a small cafe called “The Mill” at the bottom of a steep hill.  Parking is tough, but we’re told theyserve the best burger on the island.  We can’t speak to the burgers, but the post-surf beers were some of the best, and most earned, we had ever had the pleasure of drinking.  Needless to say, we saw a lot of action there later in the week.  We had solid N swell, 12 feet at 15 seconds, with  SW wind at 25 knots, gusting 50.  Challenging doesn’t begin to describe it, but bombs were had.  Anyone want to volunteer to sit on the beach and shoot next time?

Monsteiros:  Pronounced moose-trrey-oosh, which took us a week to learn to say, means “The Monastaries”.  It’s named for the rock formation at the mouth of the harbor that resemble, you guessed it, rocks.  The harbor is on the Northwesternmost tip of the island.  This was the longest spot to travel to, as the coastal roads are windy and meander through the countryside.  Gorgeous, but less than direct.  The mouth of the harbor has both a left and a right reef point, about 20 yards away from each other.  The makings for a pretty epic wave park if you ask me.  We had W swell when we saw it, but also W wind and too much tide.  I want to surf this spot when it’s on!

Rabo de Peixe: Just to the West of Ribeira Grande, is a small fishing village with a harbor.  Unfortunately, the story is not all good here.  This used be the most perfect and lengthy left rock point on the island, but a new addition to the existing break wall has caused the wave to be less than perfect.  The Surfrider foundation got involved during the engineering of the addition, but the builders ignored the recommendations.  The result is the wave energy and sand now have no exit, resulting in a wicked backwash on the inside.  We saw swell here, but surfed elsewhere.  Keep meddling civil engineers out of our precious resources people!

Ribeira Quente: This is another south facing break that we saw totally flat, but with amazing potential.  Down the mountain from the volcanically active town of Furnas, this remote fishing village is far from the surfing population.  The wave is an a-frame reef that breaks off the break wall of the harbor.  The right (we were told) is a hollow and shelfy short wave that closes out into the rocks, and the left is equally hollow but is much longer, makable all the way down the length of the jetty and finishes in a channel.  Apparently, the thing to do in summer is surf until you’re noodled, then drive 20 minutes up into the crater and have a soak in the volcanic hot springs with the visiting Norwegian co-eds (which we did, sans waves, and the girls, unfortunately).  I’ve got my summer flight booked already, do you?

Santa Iria:  I culminate our wave tour with the most remote, and basically impossible to find spot on the island.  The irony is that you can very easily see this wave break from the road, at the bottom of a 1,000 foot cliff.  In fact, there is a parklike viewpoint just off the highway that teases you to try to navigate the drop below.  It might just be worth your life to try, with a hundred yard cobblestone barreling point on the left, and a shorter right barrel on the opposite side of the cove.  When we finally saw it break, we were led to the 1.5 mile goat trail, but even if I wasn’t sworn to secrecy, my directions would be worthless to you.  Over a river, through some woods, dodge electric fences, you get the idea.  Not to mention the rocks on the point (the last 300 yards) are so slippery, you have to wear shoes to navigate them. We got some great waves this day, but only saw about 10% of its potential.  This is another spot I will surf perfect and alone one day in my life.  Just me, a buddy, and the hammerhead sharks that come from thousands of miles to breed in this cove…

 

Well, that was partially more comprehensive than I had planned, but as far as I’m concerned, if you have the balls to fly over 2000 miles to an unconventional surf destination, you should have the tools to score.  There’s no doubt that this is a world class surf destination, and will be popping up on surf travel sites sooner than you might think.  But what makes it world class isn’t how amazing the surf can be but rather the combination of surf and the things to do on the island when conditions are less than perfect.  There’s no better way to take your mind off not surfing than soaking in a 100 degree hot spring in what feels like the set of Jurassic Park.  More on that, in the next post…

-PK

 

 

Surf Forecasting Resources for Regular Surfers – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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Over the coming days, we’ll be profiling the work of Adam Wright, from SoCal Surf Forecast. Adam was cool enough to answer a series of questions from our writers, all about surf forecasts. Here goes!

DailyStoke.com: It’s one thing to follow a surfing forecast site like yours, religiously, but it’s quite another to understand in great detail the information that is presented there. Do you have any suggested resources for surfers who want to figure it out for themselves, or at least better understand the services you provide? We’ve reviewed the Surf Science book and Wetsand’s Surf Forecasting Book.

Socalsurf.com: I am all for people getting into forecasting for themselves… in fact I encourage it on my sites…it is always super cool to see surfers become more connected and passionate about forecasting, and in the end I think it makes people better surfers or at least have more fun, which is what this sport is supposed to be about.

Like you mentioned there are a few books out there that sort of go over the mechanics of forecasting, but they sort of assume that you have the basic vocabulary and terminology already. I think that it is important to build a “basic weather” foundation, where you understand where and why wind blows, how atmospheric pressure works…things like that. I have a post on the blog that helps to cover some of the specific forecasting basics.

Generally, if I know that someone is interested in forecasting but is starting from scratch, I recommend that they spend some time watching the weather channel, and the nightly weather forecasts on the news. Yeah some of them are super cheesy and pretty dumbed down but they do get you familiar with the meteorology terms and basic weather patterns. Talking a basic oceanography, physical geography, or intro to meteorology college/Junior-college course is another great way to get a lot of the terminology.

Once you understand the basics then those surf forecasting books, and sites like mine, suddenly make a lot more sense…you start to see where we are coming from an information standpoint and you can make the intuitive leaps that you sometimes need to put together “weather” with “marine/surf forecasting”.

Resource-wise the internet has a grip of information about weather forecasting, understanding weather patterns, oceanography, meteorology , hydrography. You can find anything…all the way up through PHD level information (big brain stuff)…you just jump on Google and there it is. The hard part is learning what you need to look for…once you have the basic idea down it gets a lot easier to refine your search for more info.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Surf Forecasting Technology – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: How do you feel that forecasting technology will advance in the future? Or are we at the…uhh…peak now? How do you feel that forecasting technology is changing the surf culture?

Socalsurf.com: I think we are a long way from the “peak” of forecasting technology. Just like every form of technology…Forecasting technology is going to get more and more sophisticated and refined in the future. Computers are going to continue to get faster and be able to process more, we are going to get better and more specific satellites, more flexible ocean sensors, and probably even find new ways to use the older technology that we already have in place. It will allow us as forecasters to get more relevant and timely data, tighten up the predictability of the swell/wind models, and generally create more accurate long-range forecasts.

Forecasts and technology are changing surf culture…no doubt about it…at the end of the day everyone wants to get good waves…and they want to be able to plan for it. I think that forecasting tech is allowing surfers to get more strategic…An average surfer in Southern California has sooo much going on (work, family, chores, commuting, more work) that being able to get a little heads up on decent conditions and swell helps them clear the plate a little, maximize the fun-time if you will. I think that this will just become more refined as technology advances.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

I don’t even know how to spell Corilois – Misunderstandings about Surf Forecasting – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: What is the most frequently misunderstood element of surf forecasting made by regular surfers who are trying to understand the forecasts?

Socalsurf.com: That is sort of a hard one to pin down…there are a lot of confusing concepts in forecasting… How swell direction (and swell period) interact with local geography and bathometry is usually something that is hard for people to wrap their heads around. It is one of those, “wait…what do you mean that this spot breaks on a 290-degree swell…but only part of the time? I hate you Adam”, type of concepts.

Really though I think that the “swell model” is one of the most misleading aspects of surf forecasting. Most people look at NOAA’s Wavewatch-III in some form or another…usually it is in some sort of map-image or graph form. While it is mostly accurate there are some weaknesses to it. For one if it gets bad data, say a storm doesn’t produce as much wind as it is forecasting, then the whole output is corrupted…every forecast that would have been affected by that storm is now wrong…they may adjust the model on the next forecast run but if you only look at the output every 24 hours then you could completely miss or overcall a swell.

Another thing to watch is the “output point” itself…some people try to look at models that aren’t showing geographically relevant data…so for example someone in Santa Barbara looks at someone’s pretty graph, which is generated using a point just offshore of Oceanside. In the summer it would show lots of Southern Hemi swell that would never hit the beach thanks to the Channel Islands.

Lastly is that the model doesn’t really account for nearshore shoaling…it gives you a pretty decent deepwater wave height but it won’t do a great job of showing what the actual rideable size will be when it hits the beach.

Don’t get me wrong…overall it is usually a very good resource for surf forecasting but it can’t be the only tool that you use. Always try to back up the model with empirical data from satellites, buoys, and observed conditions.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Surf Science – surfing book review

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If you want to increase your surfing knowledge, it’s a natural progression to move away from surf forecasts made in some bunker in Southern California by someone else in favor of your own ability to predict when waves are on the way. There may be no better way to do that than through a book published with the University of Hawaii Press (of course), written by Tony Butt and Paul Russell entitled Surf Science. As much as wave prediction is science, there is a fair amount of chaos theory involved (or at least, that’s what it feels like when I show up at the beach, having been TOTALLY wrong with my predictions.) This book covers everything from the basics to a technical approach to surf prediction, and everything in between. It’s a quick read, with fantastic graphics to hammer home the points that you might not be able to get from a website. Check it out at Amazon here.

GO SURF: Surfing Book Review

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Did you know Captain Kook, I mean Cook (with a C), discovered surfing for the Europeans in the 1700s?  The things we learn from instructional surf books…. 

I Just finished reading GO SURF and watching the 30-minute virtual coaching DVD that comes with the book.  This is a pretty good instructional surf book for beginners and more experienced surfers looking for a review of the fundamentals: it covers everything from basic stuff (standing up, punching thru waves, takeoff, speed and control) to more advanced front/backside turns, cutbacks, re-entries all the way to big wave riding.  The book is def user friendly (simple color diagrams, me like) and comes with a DVD, which walks you thru, for example, barrel riding step-by-step with action shots that can be paused, viewed in slow-mo, and viewed from many different angles (360 degree capability).  The video footage is actually pretty good too.  

The book also has a short, but good history of surfing section (Europeans discovered surfing in 1779 when Captain Cook — spelled Cook, not Kook — reached Hawaii and Tahiti), a short section on basic exercises to keep in shape, and a 3 page section on how waves are formed and the anatomy of a wave lineup.  Overall, this book gets a stoked rating for (a) officially deeming Captain Cook as the king of European surfing, (b) for its clear layout, cool DVD, and good price — fellow dailystokers can find used copies on Amazon for just $4-5. 

“If you aren’t going to make it out of the tube, fall off the back of your board into the wave, kicking your board away in front of you.  Lie flat and relax, allowing the turbulence to take you”

The best wave making machine yet – Surf The Ring

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surfing man made waveSurfing a chest to head high, glassy and perfect wave sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well how about if that wave turned on when you want? If Dayton Beach, Florida’s Kevin Roberts has his way, we’ll be surfing 365 days of the year in perfect conditions with a new mega-contraption he has conceived, called Surf the Ring. Roberts has invented a man-made wave that appears to propagate around a ring. Picture a donut (mmm!), where the middle is a circular beach island, with a racetrack of water surrounding it. The wave is generated perpendicular to the ring itself, which allows it to create a perfect, breaking right. Or a left, if a switch is flipped.

And before you think “Oh god, another Flowrider” – this man-made wave is the real deal. I’ve seen a prototype in action – a 1:36th scale model – and I was impressed with what I saw. A video is below, and you can see the photos and judge for yourself.

Here’s how Roberts explains it: “Each wave is actually not traveling around the ring, rather towards the beach. However, the waves are continually being propagated so that each surfer is riding on a newly created wave that is perfectly synchronized with the wave he or she is already riding. In sci-fi terms the ring creates a warped sine-wave imbalance in the ring shaped pool that is reflected and focused towards the islands’ shore to produce multiple endless dynamically changing “living” waves.”

Whoa. Trippy. But real and if you close your eyes and tap you heels, you can definitely imagine Surf the Ring some 36 times bigger, and at a park near you.

The distance from the point the waves break to the shoreline is about 25 feet, and Roberts has said that the water is quite deep. Because of the nature of the wave, Roberts is confident kooks and victims of rail-catching will be swept to a safe part of the ring, and away from other surfers that are ripping the wave up.

Roberts speaks like a man who has got the cred to make Surf the Ring work. He hails from a family of inventors, and while he’s not an engineer, Roberts may as well be. So what are Robert’s plan for Surf the Ring? He is seeking investment in the project – a project that should be on President Obama‘s stimulus package list of must dos. Says Roberts, not skipping a beat: “It will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million to go from scratch to surfable wave.” Roberts is confident that there’s a huge market for his idea. And he might be right, given that his ring is not a flow rider, not typhoon Lagoon, and doesn’t need 3 minutes to reload. Still, in the economic sh!tstorm, it may be difficult to finance a project of this magnitude. But when it comes out – watch out.

Will we someday have our first ASP World Tour Champ born and raised in Kentucky? With Surf the Ring, it’s not so far fetched.

Check out a video showing a 1/36th model, and see for yourself. Despite the video quality and a dollop of cheese factor, the concept is definitely workable.

DailyStoke.com believes, and is stoked!

For more information about Surf The Ring, check out the Surf The Ring website, and contact Kevin directly if you’ve got some coin to spare for a project every surfer will love.

Leash or No Leash…My Vote

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There are two schools of thought – or two different debates – when it comes to surfing.  One: Longboarding or shortboarding? Longboarding is better. That one’s easy.  Moving on to the second: Leash or No Leash? I thought I’d cast my vote in this debate (er, school of thought), since the first one is an open-and-closed case…right?

Here’s what I say:  if you are a longboarder who does helicopters or spins on your board nonstop, then I could see where a leash would get in the way.  And props to you.  Or a shortboarder looking to be the first to do a kickflip on a wave, then again, props to you.

However, I think most surfers should use leashes. Yeah, sometimes it’s like you are trolling for seaweed – but Hell, you barely feel the leash and it could save some serious gashes.  I’ve seen more than a few surfers paddling back to shore to recover a board that rode solo on a wave. Oh, and I’d like to keep all of my teeth.

I vote for the leash – just in case.

72 hours out of the water – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: Don’t you think this whole run-off, “don’t get in the water for 72 hours” thing is just an excuse for pussies not to paddle out in an actual swell? I mean storms = swell, right? All I hear when there are waves is a bunch of dudes on the cliff goin’ “Yeah man, looks killer, but I don’t want to get sick. You know…”

Socalsurf.com: Not at all…if anything I think that water quality issues are downplayed more than they are hyped up. It is crazy how many sewage and random chemical spills crop up throughout the year…and in general Southern California has some pretty damn strict regulations on pollution.

We have an insane amount of people living in the Southern California watershed, using a lot of sewage and drainage infrastructure that is basically 40-60 years old, and most of that is not set up to handle significant runoff…then drop several inches of rain on everything. Just plain nasty.

Personally I don’t think it is a cop-out to avoid the poo-water plagues…I have all of my shots (including the Hepatitis ones) and I still feel funky surfing too soon after a heavy rain. If you get sick easy…or just don’t want to pass on some sickness to your family…I think it is worth staying out of the water enough for the crap to settle down.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Surf Forecasts, and more surfers in the water – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: A common question from all of our writers. Do you ever alter the forecasts in order to get swells to yourself? But you want to, don’t you? ☺

Socalsurf.com: Hahaha…awesome question. I get it asked in-person every once in a while too. Personally I never alter forecasts…never ever. Really there isn’t much of a point…particularly in Southern Cal. In Socal there are surfers that are going to go to the beach, look at the cams, and/or call their friends for reports no matter what I put out there. Even if I was trying to get some waves to myself there would be plenty of people in the lineup…I would just lose professional credibility without any benefit.

Of course there are days when I wish I could get Trestles or Rincon all to myself…(who doesn’t)…maybe if I could guarantee that I would have it completely empty I would be tempted to go to the dark side. In the meantime I will continue to use my powers (and I use the term very loosely) for good.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Blacks Beach and stretches of the coastline – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: How does “basically flat” at most southern California breaks play out at Blacks Beach? Other than Blacks beach, are there many other breaks in southern California where bathometrics really come into play in predicting wave heights? Are there any stretches of coast that propose significant challenges when making predictions?

Socalsurf.com: Conditions at all of the “swell magnet” spots (including Blacks) depends on the swell direction and the swell period.

Actually there are a lot of spots throughout Southern California that can amplify a swell under the right conditions. “Basically Flat” is totally dependent on location and the type of swell involved. Sometimes you can have a longer-period swell “wrap” into a spot that wouldn’t be exposed if the swell had shorter periods…and other spots can actually focus a shorter swell period so that it funnels back in on itself. Forecasting that sort of stuff requires that you have a lot of knowledge and experience with a break (and the factors that make it work).

All of Socal is pretty tricky…we have some of the narrowest and dynamic swell windows in the world as well as fairly consistent swell sources. We have shadowing from long-range sources (like the South Pacific Islands) and nearshore factors (like the islands just offshore and Point Conception .) All of those factors come into play with every forecast, it is enough that some days I wish that I just forecasted for the Pacific NW…”yep it is going to be big and stormy again today…more of the same next week.” Easy as pie.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Verifying the surf forecast with visuals at the break – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: How often do you go to the breaks to check the swell in person? It seems like it must be a mix of science, art, guesstimating, surf cams and first person insight. You can’t be everywhere, of course. One of the most common questions we hear is: “Is [Kevin on Surfline] really seeing what I’m seeing?”


Socalsurf.com: I look at the beach in person, every day that I write forecasts…and usually on the days that I don’t write forecasts.

I think that you hit it on the head when you say that a report is a mix of art/science. All of the science and observation factors are there…but it takes a live human, hopefully one that really surfs, to put it all together. I can’t tell you how many times that I have seen all of the pieces of the puzzle line up for what should be a good day of surf but for some reason shape still just sort of sucks. If you don’t have eyes on the beach you would never know.

The human side of it has its weaknesses as well. I actually think that it is important to have some sort of familiarity with your forecaster or your surf reporter…you sort of need to understand where they are coming from? What the term “good” shape means to them? What do they consider small surf? What do they consider blown out?

It is sort of like having a friend give you the report…you have to put it through your own personal filter. I have buddies that always overcall it…so when they tell me it was pumping at Newport or something I automatically hack off a couple of feet in my mind. But I also have guys that say that it is just OK when it is firing…if I hear one of them say it was good I am usually in the truck halfway to the beach before they finish telling me about it.

If you have some consistency with who is doing the reporting then you start to get a feel for what they “mean”, which I think is pretty important.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Hype, and the Surf Forecast – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: Wave forecasting sites have been taken to task most recently for the “Overhyped Swell of January 2009.” At the same time, Justin Cote at Transworld wrote to regular surfers saying, “C’mon, figure it out for yourself.” More broadly, surf forecasting anywhere, let alone in SoCal, is a lot of pressure. Do you take it personally?

Socalsurf.com: I don’t know about being “taken to task” by anyone…forecast sites always get a good shellacking when the swell doesn’t produce quality surf…and I know that people feel even more burned when they are paying for a forecast and it is wrong. The angst that people pass on isn’t anything new…though it is easier for people to voice it now days.

I personally know most of the professional surf forecasters out there working right now and I think it is safe to say that they aren’t trying to hype up the forecast to drive page views…that isn’t to say that some executives or marketing hacks aren’t trying to spin or hype it in a way to try and make more money (those guys are definitely out there) but I think that is a bad way to go…eventually you call wolf enough times and people stop listening to you.

Usually, I think that people just get excited when there is surf coming, particularly when it has been small and shitty for a while, and if a forecaster isn’t careful they can start the hype machine chugging along.

As for the swell in January I was probably one of the most conservative forecasters on that swell and even I overcalled it by a foot or two. (my forecasts are archived on the blog…you can actually read my initial forecast and my adjusted update…both of which were pretty close but a little overcalled).

Archived January Forecast

Archived January Forecast – the update

I don’t take the criticism personally…but I do get a little bent when my forecasts are off. I surf too…so I truly am looking at the forecasts I write as a way for me to get waves. If I think it is going to overhead I am down at the beach with you guys…and when the swell doesn’t produce I am bummed as well. I don’t let it get to me that much…usually I swear and throw rocks at the ocean for a while then I try and take what I learn and help to make the forecasts better.

Justin @ Transworld’s article was a bit silly…I admire the “do it yourself” angle to it, and he is right there is a grip of information out there…but JUST using the buoys isn’t that great of advice. The buoys are a good way to verify the long-range forecast as a swell moves closer to actually hitting the beach, but it doesn’t really give you much warning on incoming swells. From a long-range perspective you would only get 1-2 days worth of notice on particular North Pacific swells…you wouldn’t see local windswells, Southern Hemi swells of Hurricane swells at all before they hit. My advice would be to gather as much data as you have time too…and find a forecast site that you trust…that way you can compare the two and make informed decisions.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

Understanding the Hawaiian scale, and wave height – Ask a Surf Forecaster

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DailyStoke.com: What’s the deal with the Hawaiian scale and measuring waves from the back of the wave? Shouldn’t waves be measured from the point of view of a terrified surfer who’s late for the drop on something that’s “only 10 feet” Hawaiian? Then, when it’s measured on the face… Waist, Chest, Head –surfers wonder if it’s being measured on MiniMe. On one surf forecasting site which shall go unnamed tells me it’s offshore and chest high everyday!

Socalsurf.com: Ah good ol’ Hawaiian Scale…nobody really seems to understand how or why it came about…or even what it really translates into from a normal “face-size” perspective…it is all pretty subjective. From what I have heard the original Hawaiian-Scale sort of brewed up in the late-1950’s into the 1960’s as the NWS got more organized and started to gather wave heights from trained observers…the guys reporting the wave heights looked at surf size in a totally different way than most people, maybe it was the machismo of the surfers of the day or maybe it was an attempt to mislead people when the surf was good. Eventually people started to think that Hawaiian size meant the “back of the wave” as seen from the water because the reported heights were pretty similar…but that didn’t even match real “feet” wave heights very often.

Nowadays when I hear it is “5-foot Hawaiian” I automatically double the size and give it a pretty solid margin of error…usually Hawaiian is about half the face size…but it completely depends on exactly who is giving the wave heights and how gnarly they are feeling that day. If you surf enough in Hawaii you sort of get a feel for what they are talking about but really it has very little to do with actual measureable wave heights…sort of like a different number system (metric vs. English) or something.

When I do reports and forecasts in California I always use face-size…and how it corresponds to an average sized human…so a chest high wave should have the rideable portion of the wave line up with your chest. I can’t say how other sites do it…but that is how I do it.

Adam Wright runs www.socalsurf.com and is a professional
meteorologist. He’s been a surf forecaster since 1999, and covers SoCal and Baja for Wavewatch.com as well as the weekly snow and surf outlooks for Fuel.tv. DailyStoke happens to think there is no better resource online to understanding waves, in plain English, than
Socalsurf.com. Learn more there, now!

What could future hurricane seasons mean for the East Coast?

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I saw this video on Yahoo (but couldn’t find it again to embed it – darn, Yahoo is annoying) that said that the warming of the northern waters could allow hurricanes to develop in places where they shouldn’t – i.e. right off our east coast. Usually our swell machines develop off the west coast of Africa and send swell our way as they approach continental U.S., but if they develop right off the East Coast, not only will the damage greatly increase, but my theory is that if hurricanes move the opposite way (away from the coast) then we will only get swell when they develop, and long-period hurricane swell will be very rare. Let’s hope that the East Coast’s knight in shining armor doesn’t stab us in the back.

Surfing is funner when you ALMOST wipeout.

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Okay. First off, I know “funner” isn’t a word. Sue me. And by “almost wiping out” I mean when you take an incredibly late drop and somehow dig your fins, and get barreled. Or when you blast an air and you fall in the whitewater gargling foam and somehow make it out. Of course, you gotta make the wave – unless it’s the last move before it closes out – or it sucks. But when you pull a backside snap, free fall, phase for a second, but then regain your composure and lean in for your next bottom turn, right in rhythm with the wave… it feels so awesome. Or a barrel that you get spit out of with a wall of water in your face. If you ever watch Clay Marzo surf, he has a lot of those moments. On one video I even saw him do one of his whips, fall onto the baord sitting (!), then stand back up and continue down the line. Cre-azy.

Why Why Why?!

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So, yes it has been awhile since I’ve written, but the surf has not been treating me that well lately. I decided to subject myself to surf the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-ankle rollers that were the only things coming in last week, in order to prepare myself for the “gnarly swell” that was supposed to come last Sunday. Well, just like most swell reports, the swell came Friday (not the predicted Sunday) and by Sunday it had already died. Monday there was NOTHING. WHYYYY!!!????? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I surfed my a** off Friday and Saturday, compensating for the lack of waves we’ve had, but seriously, why the hell could it not have lasted more than 2 days? How can the waves go from a lake to head-high overnight and then become a lake just like that? I don’t get it, man……….mother nature just isn’t on my side right now.