The Surf Check. How to Survey the Beach

One of the most important observations you can make when you start surfing is to understand how to read the ever changing conditions of the ocean. These include the ingredients you hear or see in the daily surf report forecast; winds, tides and swell. They also include the topography of the beach, what lies under the waves and the caliber of the surfer in the water that day.

It’s best when you start surfing to choose one beach that has smaller waves and offshore wind conditions during the season of the year that you will be surfing. Get to know the beach and the waves that break on it intimately. Know the surf report for that specific beach or area each time you physically go down to check it. With the daily wind direction, wind speed, high and low tide times and heights, swell size and direction, as well as the swell interval, you can begin to visually see how the daily report’s conditions actually are in that moment.

Take time when you’re getting to know your favorite beach to see it on the very low tides. This is an ideal time to see the topography of the beach, determining if it is a sandbar, a rocky break or a reef break as well as discovering any objects to avoid, like a tree stump buried in the sandbar, large boulders, or dangerous debris.  Seeing the beach on very low tides is like seeing the skeleton of an animal without its flesh. You will begin to notice how it changes from day to day, week to week and month to month, ever changing. You will also see how the water moves back out on higher tides, by the way it wears away the sand, creating channels and riptide zones that remain wet and holding shallow water, even on low tides. On higher tides, with the water up over them, these become natural exits for the ocean’s water. Making a mental note of where they are on the beach is helpful both in paddling out using them when you are intermediate in your skills or avoiding those areas completely as a beginner practicing on the inside break, the white water.  

Lastly, pay attention during your surf check to see who is out surfing. What level of surfer is catching the waves at the peak? Are they at your skill level in surfing or much better? When conditions are good, usually more advanced and skilled surfers paddle out to the outside break. On these sessions, you may want to continue to practice catching waves on the inside break or paddle down the beach to another peak, so that you’re not in the way of more skilled surfers.  

To learn more forecast specifics about The Recipe for a Perfect Wave, join us in one of our amazing and fun filled ocean experiences at www.nwwomenssurfcamps.com.

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