Rob's Surf Forecasting Tips

Forecast Checklist


The most important factor for maximising your wave quality while on your trip. Make sure you check multiple forecasting sources and make sure it's offshore. This includes avoiding afternoon sea breezes and getting up early! Late Afternoon Glass Offs or LAGO's can be great as everyone has gone home due to the afternoon sea breeze, but the surf comes good in the early evening. This is known at HHTS or Huey Hit The Switch, when the surf suddenly turns on.

Wave Height

Wave height is very important. This is because some places don't work with too much swell and some with too little. Usually experience at different locations will guide you, checkout surf reports (photos on from the day before to see if it is predicted to get bigger or smaller and use this as a bearing. i.e. If it was too small the day before and it's forecast to be as small or smaller, avoid, And vice versa.


This is often confused with wave height. Swell is caused by the wind up to thousands of kilometres away. A storm that is off the map on your local charts may well be causing the most swell at your spot. Look for tight isobar lines on your broad synoptic chart pointing directly at your location. The longer the system stays in your swell window and the slower it moves the larger the swell will be. The distance the swell travels will be directly proportionate to the distance between the waves (Known as the period), i.e. the further it travels, the longer the period. This will also impact wave height. The depth of the water will also cause an impact, as the swell loses more energy in shallow water. Long period swell is the best for surfing spots with good structure such as point breaks and beach breaks with good sand banks. Short period swell can be good for locations where the bottom contours are flat and the broken up waves are easier to ride.
Another type of swell is a crossover swell, this can be two different swells from different angles or can be two different waves’ angles from the same swell refracting around an outer reef, sand bank of even a whole island. A deep ocean channel can cause part of a swell to move more slowly and also cause a crossover swell. These are the best kind of swells for beach breaks as they cause perfect forming wedges perfect for barrels.


This can also make or break an intraday surf session. Some surf breaks need a high tide to break, while some are best on the low, this is most often a problem for reef breaks that are at a fixed height, Know your reef break and find out when the tide times will suit. For beach breaks tide is just as important, too low and it will be closing out, too high and the waves will be mushy. Incoming tide is always you best bet for beach breaks as it pushes up the swell and you know that at some point soon it will reach the perfect level for the banks available. Falling tide can also be good but wave height will suffer. The tide is affected by the moon, and at some times of the year there are extreme tides, which can cause your well-known local spot to behave very differently, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. Some of my best surfs have been on super high or low tides the mid tide during this time of year will be very brief and there will be a lot of water moving around, this is a more dangerous time to be in the water. If the surf is not doing it and you have plenty of time, either wait for the tide to change, or check a different spot! That ledge around the corner might be firing while the beach in front of you is closing out.

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