Three Things to Check Before Going Surfing

In this country whatever your level of surfing you always need to be able to predict when to go surfing or you will spend a lot of time sitting at the beach waiting for the surf.  Now that is not the worst way to spend a day, but we don’t always have the luxury of doing that.

What is good surf to some might not be to others, whether you’re a beginner or a pro you potentially need different conditions.
Although surf forecasting can be quite tricky and confusing websites like Magic Seaweed make this part a lot easier than it used to. There are however three simple things that anyone can check to make sure they don’t have a wasted trip to the beach.

Swell direction, size and period can be quite confusing when you first look at it, but surf forecasting websites like MagicSeaweed make it a lot easier than in years gone by. The first thing you want to do is look at your local beach and note which direction the beach faces, this will make looking at a forecast a lot easier to determine. Widemouth Bay, for example, faces almost directly West.
Swell is the name for the movement in the open ocean which as it nears land and shallow water the tops tumble over and it is these waves we surf.
Looking at a forecast, the bigger the period of the swell then generally it is a groundswell from far out in the ocean and better for surfing. The smaller the period then it is usually a wind swell which means a short gap between the waves.

Widemouth Bay, found near our centre for residential school trips

We need to look at the wind at the beach, and less wind is better for surfing than stronger winds.  The wind blowing from the land to the sea is called an ‘offshore wind’, and this usually is very good for surfing. It produces cleaner surf, and the wind holds up the wave for longer, however too strong an offshore breeze can hinder you catching the wave so you need to look for winds less than 20mph. The other thing to bear in mind is that strong offshore winds can blow you out to sea very quickly, it’s always worth noting how far out you are sitting.  A strong onshore wind produces larger waves, but it can also ruin a surf, again lighter winds are ideal.  Easterly winds are offshore at Widemouth, and anything with west in it is onshore.

Tides can make a massive difference to any beach, and it takes a bit of local knowledge to work out the best one for your beach. You can always ask a lifeguard on which tides to avoid.  Gentle waves can turn into a hideous shore break at high tide or can turn heavy and rippy at low tide. Widemouth Bay is usually better at mid tide, but you do need to remember that the sand changes daily, so it is always worth keeping an eye on it.  There are roughly 6 hours between high and low tide which gives you enough info to schedule your surf.

All of these topics can be looked at in great detail, but at least this quick guide can help you to get in the water and not left sitting around in a car park waiting for waves…

For those of you who are interested in learning or having improver sessions contact us for surf lessons Bude