Learning how to read a surf report is essential if you want the best possible experience on the surf.
It could be the difference between a day to remember and a day to forget.
Surf reports are a little confusing and intimidating if you’re new to them but reading them is actually quite easy.
Table of Contents
What is a Surf Report?
A surf report is a detailed analysis of the day’s weather conditions, covering everything that could impact your enjoyment of the surf.
A typical surf report will include factors such as the swell period, swell direction, and wave height.
Learning how to read a surf report will help you to determine whether you should grab your shortboard or your longboard, and whether you should even go to the beach today.
How to Read a Surf Report
There are several parts to a surf report, including:
Wave Height and Swell Period
As the name suggests, the wave height is simply the average wave height measured in feet during a 20-minute period.
As for the swell period, it details the length of time that it takes a wave to go beyond a certain point.
The best swell comes from a long swell period while a short swell period typically produces small waves known as wind swells.
The swell direction is often shown as N, E, S, W and gives you an idea of how good the waves are.
If the beach is facing west and the swell direction is west, the waves should be bigger and more impressive than with another swell direction.
Forget about the height—if the swell direction isn’t right, the waves won’t be ideal.
Wind Speed and Wind Direction
The wind direction and speed are very important and should be one of the main things you consider as you read a surf report.
If wind is blowing too strong or in the wrong direction, it’ll ruin your day.
A surf report will typically differentiate between onshore winds and offshore winds.
Onshore winds move from the sea to the shore, often creating choppy conditions that aren’t ideal for surfing.
Offshore winds move from the land to the ocean and can create big, clean, surfable waves.
The Tide Chart
A surf report also describes the tide, which impacts the quality of the surf.
Some areas offer the best surf conditions during low tide, others work better at high tide.
The only way to know for sure is to keep reading those surf reports, checking the tide, and then surfing your local surf spots.
Where Can I Find Surf Reports?
Now that you know how to read a surf report, one question remains: Where can you find them?
There are several sites that provide detailed surf reports and we have listed a couple of our personal favorites below.
Surfline is easily the best website for surf reports.
It attracts over 1 million visitors every single month and is the go-to source of surf reports for most US surfers.
The Huntington Beach, CA-based surf site offers accurate and detailed reports of pretty much every conceivable location in the world.
Whether you’re checking the wind speed in your favorite California surf spot or looking at the wave height off some obscure European shore, Surfline will almost certainly have what you’re looking for.
You will need to know how to read a surf report to use Surfline, but it’s very user-friendly and easy to follow.
You can even browse through a variety of surf cams to check the shore in real-time.
MagicSeaweed is based in Devon, England, and has reports on beaches and breaks all over the world.
The website hires a team of meteorologists and oceanographers to analyze and review each surf spot, considering factors such as wind speed, wind direction, and wave height in their ratings.
It helps if you know how to read a surf report, but you can also just check the ratings and let them do the work for you.