When do you know when the waves are going to be great? It is always hard to know. So here is a guide to what to look for to guarantee a good session in the waves!
I use windguru, this is the best fit for where I live. I can see the wind, the wind direction, the wave height and the wave periods. I can also see the pattern of weather that will come, so I can plan ahead. But MSW can be better for you (see bottom on the page).
Waves: The green box signifies the wave data. Look out for the height, Personally something over 1.2m is fun all the way to 2m. But this is dependent on the spot. For example when La Torche and La Palue (2 spots in Bretagne (Brittany) France) state it its 2m it really is 2m and possibly 2.5m in a set, and heavy. Then my normal spot Goulien in Crozon when it says it is 1.5m, it will be 1.2m, highest wave in the set is 1.5m. This is a function of the beach profile, and orientation of the beach to the swell.
The Wave period is important. You want to look for something along the lines of 10 / 11 seconds between each wave. Those of us in the Atlantic coast, in the UK, or in France, we get our swell from the Atlantic, so it has a long way to travel to get to us (called fetch), so we are used to numbers around 10 or 11. Those who surf in the East coast of the UK, or on the other side of the North sea, Denmark, the swell is generally from wind so the numbers are 8 or 9, still good. So it is all dependent on where you are for the numbers. 2 or 3 seconds between each wave is just messy, choppy and no point getting the suit on.
Wind Speed: The black box signifies the wind speed and gusts in knots, I use knots (knots= Kph x 1.85 or 2 if you want to keep it simple). But in windguru they help us by colour mapping what is good and bad for your sport. Green and light blue for surfing and SUP surfing is great. Purple for windsurfing. Downwind SUP yellow / orange and even purple.
Wind Direction: This is in the red box. This is important to us in the water. I sup surf so I m constantly looking at the wind, I can be out in up to 20 kph but after that it becomes technically difficult to paddle, and sometimes tiring if I am out on a smaller volume board. SO what do you look for?
On shore wind is ok, but if it blowing 25kph the wind will suppresse or push the wave down, so it may be difficult to take off on it, the wave won’t be steep.
Off shore wind is good, this will jack up the wave and make it steeper, so easy to take off on.
Side shore / cross shore, this lies somewhere in the middle for quality of wave, again it depends on what spot you are in.
Example from my normal spot in Crozon, France.
I normally surf on the red star, this can take onshore and offshore wind. However when it is blowing side shore I move up to the north and then it is more sheltered. We never get southerlies so if we do I stay in the red spot. So always go where the wind is good. Prone surfing you can play more with the wind!
The world’s largest tidal range of 16.3 metres (53.5 feet) occurs in Bay of Fundy, Canada, and the United Kingdom regularly experiences tidal ranges up to 15 metres (49 feet) between England and Wales in the Severn Estuary
Unforuntely for us living here in Finistere and the UK we do have alot of difference between low and high tide, depending on the coefficient, or the phase of the mooN.
My spot Goulien works well going onto high and 1 hour after low. My really local spot, which is 2 km from my house works ONLY 1 hour before and after high tide when the coefficient is more than 70. So get geeking up on your tides!
Magic Seaweed Explained
I sometimes use magic seaweed (MSW) for spots that I don’t know (basically anything out of finistere in France)
I have put in the my local spot Boutrouilles.
Today it is bad. I only look at the black box to see the height of the surf 0.6 – 0.9m its ok. But then I look at the blue box and I see 38kph gusting to 61kph, windy and stormy, and possibly blown out. I never really look at the red box for data, but I do sometimes look at what direction the waves are coming in at. For Boutrouilles spot to work the swell needs northwest to north-north west. The tide chart also tells me when high tide is happening so I can be there for 1 hour before. However, MSW does all the work for me and gives me a colour indicator Red being bad – Green being good 5I’d say today it’s pretty accurate – not surfing weather but I’ll go for a surfski).
Now compare this too later on in the week. The black shows a good swell height, so fun waves to be had, maybe I ‘ll take my longsup out. The red box tells me the wave direction is good for this spot. The wind is low and good! The sun is out, and the tide is high at night so I can go for a sunset paddle.
Finally, the waves you get are all dependent on the beach profile of your beach, will it be a nice peeling wave or will it be a gutsy heavy wave. The only solution to that is to go out and watch other people. Remember the waves always look smaller than they are!
There are other forecast tools