How to read a surf report 101: Finding the right waves!

If you’re new to surfing, one of the first things you need to learn is how to read a surf report.

Surf reports are created by weather experts and give you an idea of what the waves will be like at different beaches around the world. They include information on swell size, wind direction and speed, tide height and water temperature.

With this information, you can choose a beach that has good waves for your skill level and plan your trip accordingly.

Read our blog post on how to read a surf report so you can start catching waves like a pro!

What is surf forecast?

Surf forecasting is a prediction of what surfers can expect on different beaches around the world or indicate if it may not be suitable to go surfing that day.

Surf forecasts are usually based on an extensive data record, accumulated over many years.

Factors such as wind direction and speed; swell size; expected directions of waves; tidal heights and times; sea surface temperature and air temperature tend to come into play in predicting the quality (or lack thereof )of surfing conditions at any particular point on a coastline.

How to read a surf report

Surf forecasting is the attempt to predict wave conditions at a certain spot or along a certain coastline. Surfers use surf forecasts to determine when and where to go surfing, both for pleasure and competitive purposes.

Surf forecasting began in the early 1900s, when pioneers like Duke Kahanamoku started to study waves scientifically.

Nowadays, there are many websites that offer surf forecasts. These sites get their data from a variety of sources, including weather satellites, wind gauges, and coastal buoy readings.

The quality of a surf forecast depends on the site’s ability to interpret this data and create an accurate model of the waves.

Most surf forecasting sites list three main pieces of information: swell direction and height, wind speed and direction, and tide. Surfers use all of these different factors to determine when and where there are good waves.

Swell direction

Swell direction refers to the direction from which a swell is coming. This direction determines how the waves will interact with the coast, so it affects how ridable they are along with their height, period, and power relative to the size of the swell.

Swell height

Swell height measures how high a wave is, relative to its base. The average surfer can paddle out on waves taller than three feet, so if a surf forecast lists the swell as “3-4 feet,” it means that most surfers will be able to easily catch those waves.

If a surf forecast lists swell as “6-8 feet,” it means that the waves will be too high and powerful for most surfers.

Swell period

Swell period is the length of time between waves. It is measured in seconds and usually ranges from 6-10 seconds. The longer the swell period, the more powerful the wave will be.

This makes it important to consider when planning a surf session, as you want to make sure there is enough time between waves for you to ride one successfully back to shore.

It is also important to note that a long swell period can create dangerous conditions if you are caught outside of the break zone when a wave comes crashing down.

Wind speed and direction

Wind speed and direction affect a wave’s size because they determine how choppy and bumpy the water gets.

Waves break more easily in choppy conditions, which is why large swells that arrive when the wind is calm are much better for surfing.


Tide affects the water, which determines its depth and what kind of waves will form.

A low tide exposes more rocks and obstacles along the beach that can get caught in the wave’s path, so high tides create cleaner breaks that are easier to surf.

That being said, tides aren’t as important to surfers because they don’t change very quickly. If a high tide is coming in one hour and low tides is going out the next, it’s not a big deal.

Wave height

Wave height is a measurement of the wave from peak to trough, and it is measured in feet. In surfing, this measurement can vary depending on what time it is during the day or which region you are surfing.

For example, outside waves are bigger near high tide because there is more water available for them to grow – see also Wave Height Predictors Table for more info on predicting waves based on size and other factors.

In order to use this data to formulate a comprehensive surf forecast, you must consider all of these factors together.

A swell that arrives during big wave conditions is much better than one with the same height, period, and power if it’s coming in on a calm day with light wind.

Additionally, swells come in sets, so you have to look at how many are heading your way before making a decision about whether or not to go to the beach.

Fortunately, most surf forecasting sites group each swell in a set with others of the same period and direction, so you generally only need to look at one or two sets before making a decision about whether or not to go surfing.

That being said, it’s still essential that you study all the information they give you about each swell.

Surf forecasting sites are useful for telling you what kind of waves to expect, but if you have any questions about whether or not it’s worth going surfing, it’s always best to contact your local surf shop.

If they know you, they can tell you exactly what kind of conditions are good for surfing in your area, which is always best information to have. Be sure to check out your local surf report for the best waves near you!

Where do forecasting sites get their data from?

There are many sources for surf forecasting data, but the most accurate and up-to-date information comes from weather satellites.

NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) operates a network of satellites that provide imagery and other data about the Earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans.

This information is used to create weather forecasts, including surf forecasts. Some other sources of data include wave buoys, coastal radar, and weather stations.

How to read Magicseaweed’s surf forecast

One of the most popular surf forecasting websites is On this website, you can find detailed forecasts for over 3000 beaches worldwide.

The forecasts include information on swells, offshore winds, tides, and weather conditions.

To read a Magicseaweed forecast, you first need to know what the different terms mean. Swell direction is the direction that the swell is coming from.

Swell height is how high the waves are expected to be. Wind speed is how strong the wind blows are expected to be.

The larger the number, the stronger the wind speed is. Wave height will tell you how high the waves are expected to be.

There are three numbers that represent wave height; the first two digits indicate significant wave height, while the third digit indicates how many tenths of a foot it is above or below the two digits before it.

The larger the number is, the higher (and more dangerous) the waves are. Wave direction is how wide the waves are; there are 360 directions, with 0 degrees being north and moving clockwise until you reach 359 degrees which will be south.

Surf forecasting sites:


Hotswell is a website that has personalized, curated content to help you discover the best waves when surfing. Hotswell provides real-time surf reports in the form of wave height, swell size and wind direction/speed.
It also includes future surf forecasts where applicable to show how likely it will be stormy or sunny days at your favorite beach.


Magicseaweed is an online, user-generated surf map for Australia. It allows you to search waves by location, ground swell direction and height, wind speed and direction; even hydrology parameters like tide data.

There are also reviews of each piece of surfing equipment listed on the website, making it easier than ever to find out which board or wetsuit might be right for your individual needs.

Surfers can log the waves they catch in order to contribute wave measurement data that will allow researchers to better understand coastal environments throughout Australia.

This service is available completely free of charge with no restrictions on how long or how often users can use it.


Swellnet is the most comprehensive surf report website on the internet. It includes detailed information about every surf break in the world, including swell direction and height, wind speed and direction, and tide.

Swellnet also includes user submitted photos and videos so that you can see what the surf conditions are like at each point break. This information is invaluable when trying to figure out where to go surfing.


Windfinder is a website that provides surfers with dependable data on current conditions, allowing you to plan your time surfing.

Windfinder monitors break sizes, breaking direction, wind speeds, and swell size for thousands of reef breaks around the world.

It also offers historical measurements to take the guesswork out of predicting what shape the waves will be in before heading out surfing.

Wind Finder’s easy-to-use setup eliminates dependence on outdated printed forecasts while enabling personalization for individual needs including factors like weather preferences or geographic location.

Using Windfinder’s data, surfers can track detailed information on any break to see when it will be the best conditions for surfing.

The site’s technology is constantly updating itself with a forecast accuracy of 90%, making it a reliable source to use for planning out your time in the water.

Since Windfinder provides users with up-to-date information, it is the most efficient way to go surfing and know that you will have swells arriving at your desired break.