Ideal Surfing Conditions: Understanding Wind, Tides, and Swells

Surf Forecast – Are the Waves Good For Surfing Today?

When learning to surf you want gentle breaking waves. This will help you build your confidence and skills.

Ideally you would like no wind, this is called glassy conditions. It makes it easier to maneuver your board.

You also want a ground swell vs wind swell as groundswells travel much further and pack more power and don’t die quickly.

On Shore Winds

The wind is a big factor when surfing. It can chop the waves up and make them unsurfable. Onshore winds blow from the sea to the land and are not really good for surfing as they create wind chop that interferes with incoming waves creating bumpy conditions. Steeper beach breaks and reefs may be ok with moderate onshore winds but generally you want a offshore wind.

Offshore winds blow away from the surfers face when standing on their board facing towards the ocean and are the favored wind direction by surfers. They tend to thin the crowds at surf spots by creating more peaks and allowing for more practice time for aerial tricks. It is important for surfers to understand the difference between onshore and offshore winds because they are an essential factor in wave formation.

Off Shore Winds

You’ve probably heard surfers talking about offshore winds and onshore winds, but you may not understand what they mean or why one is better than the other. In fact, the direction of the wind has a huge impact on the quality of the waves you’ll be surfing.

Offshore winds, which blow from land towards the ocean, are ideal for surfing. This is because they smooth out the waves and hold them up, which makes it easier to ride. They also allow the wave to barrel, which is a fun way to surf.

Onshore winds, on the other hand, can make a wave unrideable. This is because the wind pushes against the surface of the water, which chops it up and makes it difficult to catch a wave. This type of wind is not recommended for beginners as it can be very frustrating and can lead to many accidents. The best time to surf is in the morning or in the evening, when the offshore wind is blowing.


The tides play a huge role in the quality of surf. As the moon pulls on the Earth, it creates a cycle of high and low tides that impact the ocean. Surfing at the beginning of a tidal shift toward high tide usually results in bigger waves and better conditions than surfing at the end of a tidal shift away from high tide.

As a general rule, most surf spots are best surfed on an incoming tide because the wave power is assisted by the pushing force of the water from behind. This also helps to reduce the chances of dangerous rip currents traveling out to sea.

However, it’s important to remember that not all high tides are created equal and the best time for surfing may vary on a day-to-day basis. It’s also important to know how to read the tide charts for your particular beach area to ensure safe surfing conditions. You can find them online or at most surf shops for any given coastal area.


One of the most important things to look at in a surf forecast is what type of swells are coming in and when. The best time to surf each day is when the swell, wind and tide come together for a short window of good surf conditions. Really great waves rarely last long so if you can get out there during the best window you will have more fun and score better than you would otherwise.

The swell information in the surf report will also tell you how big the waves are going to be. The size of a wave is affected by its swell period, which is the number of seconds it takes for a wave to pass a given point. Longer swell periods produce bigger waves, and shorter swell periods produce smaller waves.

The swell direction is also important, as a beach that faces the west will only receive waves from the west if the swell is coming from the right direction.

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