Hi there, glad you are here for a little intro about making sense of surf forecasts.
It will definitely look a bit confusing if you see a surf forecast for the first time but let me give you a quick break down on what to look out for. Let’s go and have a look at a site I use a lot called WINDGURU (www.windguru.cz).
Apart from the obvious – wave size, there are a couple of important indicators that determine the quality of the waves on a certain day. Probably the most important being the wind direction and strength. The best wind direction for nice, clean and smooth waves would be offshore. Since basically every beach on the Northcoast is more or less facing the same direction, offshore for us here means any wind with some degree of South in it. If you look at the chart again, there is only a small window for offshore wind direction until Tuesday and it is predicted for Sunday afternoon.
Next to the wind direction is the wind strength. Anything indicated in red makes for rough surfing conditions, especially if the wind is onshore (coming from the North, Northeast or Northwest). Again, Sunday is showing the best conditions in that respect until Tuesday (which will bring severely wild conditions).
While the wind determines the quality of waves, the direction of the swell will have a significant impact on what to expect from the swell. Because the Causeway Coast is located Southeast of Malin Head, any swell direction that is not coming in from the Northwest will see varying degrees of decreases in size the further the swell is coming in from the West or, worse, Southwest. So, if the forecast predicts 3m from a Westerly direction, we will only get about 1/3 of the size if it or less from that same swell because Malin Head is blocking the brunt of it.
There is another indicator that can tell us a bit about the quality and strength of the swell, called the wave period. This basically means the time passing between one wave and the next. The higher the number, the more power is in the wave and the easier it will be to catch waves, the lower the number the closer the waves will be together, making it a bit harder to get on your board in time and catch the next wave.
There is quite a lot more to tell you and if you are interested in learning more about any of the above, for example why the wave period differs and what other effects that has, let us know and I can cover that in some of the next blogs.
Just a quick note: a brilliant book that explains everything in absolute easy to understand language is Surf Science by Tony Butt (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Surf-Science-Introduction-Waves-Surfing/dp/0906720362).
Another website you can use is Magicseaweed: https://magicseaweed.com/Portrush-Surf-Report/56/
You can also check out our daily surf reports on our Facebook page here and compare how they relate to the forecast: https://www.facebook.com/alivesurf/
Have a great day,