Good Surf? Bad Surf? How do you tell?

Generally speaking there are three scenarios which effect surf quality.

  1. Low pressure systems far out at sea create groundswell which arrives on our beaches in calm conditions. If the wind also blows offshore (from the land to the sea..for us, that's Easterly) this will give lined up surf with smooth faces, a perfect wave for surfing.
  2. Waves created by onshore wind (from the sea to the land.. for us, that's Westerly). This is called Wind Swell. Whilst not as good as the scenario above it does allow people to get in the water and surf. The trick here is to find somewhere where these waves come in out of the wind. The stronger the wind, the longer it blows and the greater stretch of water it blows over will determine the size of the Wind Swell. In storm conditions the beaches can become unsafe especially for the inexperienced. If in doubt don't go out!
  3. Lastly there is the worst scenario of all.. No long distance groundswell, no local wind swell. Result? no waves! No surfing! Time to try Skimboarding or Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) perhaps?

If Wind and Swell combinations aren't tricky enough to understand, we also have a very large tidal range to factor in. The tide itself does have some effect on the size of the swell but more importantly each beach has it's own tidal characteristics which effect the shape and power of the waves. It is a fallacy that tides create waves, wind creates waves, either local or far out to sea. Visit the Beach Guide section for information specifically about our local beaches.

Don't forget.. We are happy to advise our customers where their best option will be according to their ability and the swell/wind/tide conditions on the day,

The Surf Forecast

We ourselves provide a Daily Photographic Surf Report

For many years Forecasting Surf was a slightly hit and miss affair involving studying Atlantic weather systems and their predicted movements. These days it's all done for you and available on the Internet, There are many Surf Forecasts online and regular surfers will all have their favorite. The fact is though that there is one site that everybody looks at..

How to read the Magic-Seaweed Forecast and what it means for us in North Devon..

Scroll down past the weather charts to the daily forecast, the first column gives the size of wave expected on the beach, the stars indicate the quality of surf expected.. the more the better! The next column marked Prob is the probability as to how accurate the forecast is, this will usually increase as the forecasted day draws closer. The next column gives wave height at sea and can largely be ignored. Next is Period which is the distance between the waves.. longer indicates lined-up swells (good) shorter indicates confused or choppy swell (bad!) Next is wind. For us in North Devon.. Wind with East in it is best (as long as there is swell) as everwhere will be offshore with good surf. South is second best (Good for Putsborough) Southwest is third best (O.K. for Putsborough especially at high tide). West is onshore so not great but at least all beaches will at least have some choppy windswell. Northwest is the worst wind locally as it is cold and blows in everwhere making it choppy and there is no escaping it! Finally North Winds.. some shelter from these at Saunton and Woolacombe high tide.

Surf Cams

Indespensable North Devon Surf Cam site..

There are many other Surf Forecasts on the Web, TV and Radio but the above 3 websites are all you ever need.

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