The Next Swell

Unlike Football, running, or swimming, or tennis in which anyone can engage in the sport whenever they feel like, surfing is one those activities that relies on nature itself.  Surfing is spontaneous because it always relies on good conditions, but these conditions are always changing. To name a few: swells, wind directions, and tides affect the surf everyday, therefore affecting my decision whether or not to paddle out.

Throughout this past month, I have been in and out of the water like a fish. This includes surfing on my free time for pleasure, and teaching classes with the recreation department here at UCSD.  I have mostly been surfing Blacks and Scripps Pier because of the convenience factor.  Lately, I have been continually monitoring the surf forecasts on I have been looking at buoy swells, swell periods, and forecasts to see when the next swell is going to hit.  Swells are just lines of energy formed from a storm that move across the ocean.  Swell periods are the distance, or how far a swell traveled from in relation to where it is breaking; they are measured in seconds.  This is important for surfers to know because it gives them a reference to how far a swell traveled to get to its’ coastline which ultimately defines the type swell it is.  Basically, a longer period means the swell will have more energy because it traveled from a farther distance, and a shorter period (ground swell) has less. This may seem like a lot of work to determine whether the surf is up or not, but one of the best ways of determining what the conditions are doing on a particular day is to visually check the surf.  I sometimes get text messages through my friends telling me the waves are good, and other times I will just wake up early, and head down to check it out.  Waking up early is the best time to surf because it is when there is the least amount of wind hitting the surface of the ocean. No wind is the ideal conditions for surfing.  Checking the surf is a common act in the surf culture; it doesn’t necessarily matter whether the waves are good or not on a particular day.  A lot of older surfers find pleasure waking up early, standing around, drinking coffee, and telling stories about surfing.





The surf conditions change everyday. On smaller days, I will grab my 9’ longboard, throw it on top my car, and head down to Scripps.  Scripps is an excellent wave for beginners, long boarders and even amateurs.  There are two different styles of surfing: longboarding and short boarding.  My longboard is a custom made board designed for riding-the-nose; this is a trick where a surfer walks up and down the surface of the board. The ultimate goal is to get two feet over the end (nose) of the board.  I have been surfing for ten years now, and enjoy riding both kinds of boards because it keeps the sport more interesting. On bigger days I will grab my short board and run down to Blacks beach. The shortboard is designed for a more aggressive style of surfing. This means more turns, and quicker movements on the wave. I will usually ride my shortboard most of the time because it is easier to carry around. Lately it has been small, so I have been riding my longboard only. I have been eagerly awaiting the next swell.




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1 Response to The Next Swell

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    The reliance of surfing on the changing conditions of nature is one of the things that fascinates me about the activity. Since my first lesson, I’ve been wondering how surfers develop the knowledge you describe and the ability to see the waves and decipher what they will be like to surf. You demonstrate an immense amount of knowledge in just your short description, at least to an untrained person. I also appreciate what you shared about how surfers will often just check out the waves, and how this seems to function as a social scene of sorts. The intimacies you develop with weather and ocean movements are really interesting. I’d enjoy hearing more about how you have been tracking the weather lately, and how it has affected your surfing.

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