I was chatting with a mate about the size of waves,he always refers to the size of the wave by the size of the face, whilst I always refer to the size by the back of the wave. So when he says a wave is ten foot, I might call it five or six foot. I came to the conclusion that going of the back of the wave is stupid, check out the link below:
If you go by the back of the wave in the photo, it would be lucky if it is .5 foot, but no way in the world I would take off on that. I reckon different breaks have different size backs on the wave, we have no consistency in wave size and describing the wave.
How do you measure a wave? Apparently Hawaiians go by the face of the wave and then half it. How many methods can we come up with?
How can you measure the back of the wave if you're standing in the carpark?
Good point MTW. I've noticed over the years that there's a big difference in people's idea of wave size, one mans 2 foot is another mans 5 foot...
If there's going to be an argument about how big it really is, the safest way to call it would be with body heights. Eg: Knee high, chest high, over head, ect... Once it gets bigger then double overhead just call it "Fucking Huge!" and stop the debate... :)
That is a valid statement Ben, but on the flip side of that, when you are standing in the same car park, how do you measure the face of a wave when it is breaking a few hundred metres off the beach, bloody difficult to call?
The point I am making is we have huge discrepancies when describing how big it is, one mans ten foot is another mans 6 foot. When you ask ten different surfers on how big waves are, you will get ten different answers.
I agree with Pete, we should stop calling in feet and call it in:
1/2 Body Height
Double Body Height
the safest way to call it would be with body heights. Eg: Knee high, chest high, over head, ect
Actually, I can't seem to find agreeance on this measurement unit either. Plenty of times I've seen overhead waves called shoulder-high, and vice versa.
mtw, I was just stirring.. I don't think that there's a great deal of people who have consciously ever measured the 'back' of the wave, hence why it can't be measured from the beach. Instead, I think it's been a rhetorical statement said by someone who disagrees with someone else's measurement (ie "He's calling it three feet when it's obviously six? He must be measuring the back of the wave!").
In my opinion, surfers have gradually developed their own scale to reflect the height of breaking waves, and 'feet' was just a convenient addendum which rolls off the tongue a lot easier than 'metres' (or any other unit of measurement). It's not indicative of the imperial equivalent (ie a 1ft surfer's wave does not equal 30.5cm from trough to crest), but more so a measure of the wave against an average surfer's height.
There's plenty of logic for calling wave heights as per body size (if we can agree on that at all!), however there will always be a need for a numerical equivalent, which takes us back to where we started.
This is quite a complex topic and I'm hoping to write an in depth article on it over the coming months... would love some more feedback though.
good topid mate..i reckon the easist way is to just compair to a surfer or yourself eg. knee, waist, shoulder head, double of head etc..theres really no point in mucking around with the back and front rubbish. you say to a mate its over head, mate goes fuck yeah ill be down soon..no point trying to get the exact size in foot or cm or something. 2 foot waist to chest high, 4 foot shoulder to head high, 6 foot over head and 8 foot its solid. this seems to be a pretty standard scale for me and everyone i know
my kid is only 3 foot tall, it's always overhead for her :)
Seriously though, I usually measure it based on if I or an average height theoretical person was riding the actual wave, just planing along. If the top of the wave would be at the eye level, it's 6 foot, anything over and it's overhead, anything under it's a rough guess of 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 foot as so many swells have varying wave heights come through in them.
More important to me is surfability of the wave, I'll go out in any size as long as it's pretty clean and rideable and not just a complete blown out mess of closeouts. I don't understand why guys turn up to 2 foot perfect surf and go home.
It is funny how we use feet for wave size and not much else... Just an easy unit to visualise I suppose...
I know that whenever I hear someone say the waves are 1.2 meters high I have to try and do a quick metric to imperial conversion in my head before I can react to the comment.
Most people i know will use the wave face then half it, so a six foot face is a 3 ft wave. I dont really care what people call it so long as you can understand them and they tell you how they measured it. I assume swellnet reports and forcasts are based on halving the estimated wave faces,.... arent they??? Isnt halving the face likely to be a more accurate indication of the actual wave size, obviously a wave with a 6 ft face is not actually six foot as the wave jacks up to a six foot face (from a smaller size)when it hits the shallow water. While halving the wave face might be more accurate is there really any point in saying that the wave is 3ft when really what you want to know is its face size. I think face size makes more sense but still always use the half face measure anyway as thats what i beleive is most currently accepted. If we were to standardise wave measurements for surfing (not oceanography) then wave face is the way to go, better than head high etc as we are all different heights.
Yeah funny we still use feet to measure, i like it better than metres though. Same as golf you always have a 6 foot putt not a 1.8m put, and fishing, caught a 5 pounder, instead of 2.5 kg :)
Fishface, yes that's generally the size I use to forecast. But there are so many variables to judging size depending on the type of beach the swell is hitting and or the type of reef.
Some waves jack up and offer a big face while others just slab over and throw out real wide with not much face but a hell of a lot of water in the lip.
Everyone has their own scales but I think the general users of this site understand the scale I use and if not adjust it to their own idea on wave height.
I think the main thing is keeping whatever scale you use consistent, then people will be able to get a good idea on the size you're talking about.
Always wondered how people can call it 3-4 foot and you can cleary see the wave is overhead (average person in 6 foot tall). Maybe people measure the size of the white water?
I recon that you all miss the point.
Its measuring the size of the swell (unbroken). Stop squeeling like bitches and get over that fact that a 3 foot SWELL can throw a lip over your scone, but its still a 3 foot swell.
What happens to the face of the wave will change down the line and from beach to beach, point to point etc.
Now let that be the end of it!
Another measuring system came to light during the Quik Pro - Peter Mel, whilst commentating the finals, called the surf "eight to ten feet". A viewer then asked him how a wave with a 15-18ft face could be 8-10 feet, and after some deliberation he responded that surfers measure "the height of the swell, not the breaking wave" (or something along those lines).
He then inferred that shallow sand banks and reefs caused waves to jack up in different ways, so it was more appropriate to call the size of the surf relative to the size of the associated swell (I recall Hawaiian buoy data being used as a good proxy for Hawaiian surf size). Pete then justified the notion by saying something along the lines of "you just can't call these (Hossegor) waves eighteen feet, it's just not right". Pottz then backed him up saying that these same waves would probably be measured as 4-6ft in Hawaii.
Whilst I agree with his 8-10ft call for the surf during the Quik Pro Finals, I personally think this argument for size measurement is even more flawed than "measuring the back of the wave". The relationship between swell period and surf size is well documented, so there would be far too many exceptions to the rule (for example, the Sydney buoy's reading ~7ft feet today, but actual wave heights are half the size).
Anyway, just another interesting wave measurement system to add to the collection :)
I think it's an ego thing. I remember showing up to the Northern Beaches as a grommet one year and North Narra was pumping. I was wow, these are the most powerful waves I've ever surfed and the old guys reckoned it was 4-6 foot. Anyway 4-6 foot perfect Narra and they call the comp off!!? They called the comp off because it was actually 10-12 foot and the shore-break kids were out of their depth. TC was a grom then. Maybe they called it off because they didn't want TC winning the seniors. lol.
Motoring judge performance in kilowatts and torque. We already have something like that with buoys recording wave height, direction and time period. I think these values are valid and similar to judging motoring performance. The problem with this measurement is that smaller swells just don't have the torque to get onto the beaches. Also outer reefs and banks focus and dissipate swell energy.
The reality is that egos will always understate the size when fellow surfers are around and overstate the size when they get back from holidays.
We've got an interesting real-time example of wave height measurements, from the Rip Curl Pro in Puerto Rico.
Officially (as per the press release), wave heights reported by the ASP at the contest site were "punchy two-to-three foot (1 metre)".
Surfline are forecasting this event, and they offered both a size range as well as a 'human' metric:
"SUNDAY 31st: 2-3-4â€™ (thigh/waist to chest high) NE/ENE trade swell."
This says that Surfline measure wave heights on the face. The ASP's confirmation of this size range would suggest that they use a similar measurement for wave heights.
However, I watched the Womens heats and there were plenty of waves that were two or three feet overhead at the takeoff. The press photos issued by the ASP certainly indicate a lot more than 'thigh to chest high' surf - you can see them on the Rip Curl event page here.
This is a classic example of how surfers fail to agree on supposedly the easiest of measurements - "waist high" - we've all look at the waves differently.
For the record (based on years of ASP press releases and their associated wave height claims), I'm pretty sure that that the ASP usually measures wave heights as 'surfers' feet (ie 3ft = head high). Let's wait and see how Surfline comment on the conditions in their analysis notes today.
I reckon experience also has a lot to do with it maybe thats why the hawaiians call a wave 3foot that many of us might call 8ft, because they are used to the bigger swells. Also who you are talking to, I liked to ring my brother and let him know about the perfect waves I scored when he was away working in the mines. I regularly overstated the size and conditions. Ha Ha.
Size envy, nice ......... why not add on and offshore to this totally useless discussion. When are waves offshore and when are they onshore. Yes, a stupid question to everyone but the very dim witted but at least 1 local Swellnet reporter near mtw can't tell the difference 50% of the time or was that 33% of the time. Who gives a flying fuck what size it is so long as you and those in the water with you are having fun and embracing your inner kook.
Craig, how are those long range forecasts going? still chained to the desk or are you getting out more often?
floyd, it's not a 'totally useless discussion'. There's been endless debate over the years as to how big a 3ft wave is - whether it's three imperial feet (waist high), or whether it's head high (surfers feet). Some people have said that instead of measuring waves numerically, that we should use body measurements instead.
And I've just shown a real time example how no-one can seem to agree on how big a 'chest high' wave is either. At the Rip Curl Pro, they're calling the surf chest high when the waves themselves are standing up two or three feet overhead.
And re: Craig's leash - he's usually let out on the weekends (if he's been good during the week) :D
An update on today's surf in Puerto Rico - the ASP called it "two-to-three foot (1 metre)", whilst Surfline called it "4-5â€™ (chest/shoulder-head high) NE/ENE trade windswell with scattered bigger peaks possible on occasion."
The surf looked similar to yesterday in size (on camera), perhaps a fraction smaller but still well overhead on the takeoff. So, today's information tells me that the ASP measures wave heights in 'surfers feet', whilst Surfline measures wave heights on the face.
I recon it is an interesting discussion point... I have always wondered about the "oh they measure from the back of the wave" thing
Why would you do that??
Its pretty simple really we should just be honest with each other..A wave, a tree or a mountain has a true measurement (top to bottom)whether you are in Hawaii or Australia.
Beginners seem to understand this "wow that must be 10 ft out there" !! (four ft over the blokes head)...oh no its only 4 ft.... and in Hawaii its only two. ! (Look of total confusion)
If the face height is 10 ft it should be a 10ft wave. How it breaks is a totally separate thing. Wave height is measurable or at least gauged within +- 1 Mtr
Its a lot of bullshit...
Perhaps some surf reports are using a different scale this morning too??
In what way Don?
Looks pretty consistent to me.
Surf reports this morning were coming in anywhere from 2ft to 3-4ft. I have numerous independent reports (and pics) of 5ft bombs from the SC to the Tweed this morning, and looking at the Byron buoy, one would think it would be similar also. This (5ft) is based on the scale that I normally use, so I was interested in what scale the surf reports from this morning were using, particularly the SC report??
Its about you and the wave whatever the size. Everything else doesn't matter. Keep it simple.
I checked and surfed a wide range of spots this morning.
Pretty stock standard 3-4ft with the very occassional bigger one.
Excellent quality though.....the left I surfed was like Indo.
I surfed two different places (pretty close to eachother) this morning on the sunny coast and I would have called it 2-4 foot (I'd say waist high to head high). It had settled down from yesterday too so there were clearer sets and inside waves. I wonder if I saw that left you surfed freeride. I could kinda see a nearby left that looked bloody good during my second surf.
As for the difference in sizes I heard a story once (and I can't remember where I heard it) that calling waves from the back started at the north shore by surf reporters because they could give a report to the radio (it's only 3 feet) and the hordes wouldn't drive in from out of town, leaving fun sized surf for the locals. So it was apparently used to reduce crowds. Don't know if it's true or not though.
That story's almost true Benski - but they didn't measure the surf from the back (how can you if you're standing on the beach?). Instead, they halved the face of the wave and fed this info through to the radio stations on the other side of the island. That meant plenty of uncrowded waves for the locals (until everyone figured out what was going on).
Plenty of interesting reading here: http://www.surfresearch.com.au/awaveheight.html
I'm on the North Coast Benski.
Same again today at the Rip Curl Pro.
Surfline: "3-4â€™ (waist-chest high) short period E/ENE trade windswell and N/NNE background swell mix.â€¨"
Rip Curl Pro report (via ASP): "3-4 feet, light offshore winds."
The live webcast shows well overhead waves (with some insane barrels) - far bigger than 'waist to chest high'.
While its hard to believe but I am 6 foot 10 inches tall and I surf with mates that are well under 5 feet tall. Knackers, well he is only 4 foot 3 inches and Knobby is only an inch taller. While I bitch about the average waist high shit they always want to surf they are all giggling like a bus full of school girls hooting about the double over head conditions. Short arses, ya got to love them.
Hoping this post adds to the quality of this inane discussion.
Craig, you off the leash this weekend?
Haha, yeah I am floyd, like I was on Tuesday when here was pumping and no one was around....
Can't argue with going country midweek and I bet me nuts you weren't worrying about the size of that beautiful wave either.
Here's another one for the mantlepiece - Slim from Baliwaves wrote the following on his site on Wednesday:
"Some nice waves hitting PP (Padang Padang) this morning with the odd set wave hitting a solid 6ft or tripple head high".
6ft = triple overhead? I think we have a new record.
Wasnt there a lost tribe of midget people discovered up in Indonesia a few years ago? They were only a few feet tall. Maybe slim is a member of that tribe! This would explain the triple overhead call. Im glad we have that all sorted out....
Ah yes, as forum topics go this was a cracker. A true classic from the archives.
I'm probably most interested in this because it's my line of business Floyd, but I can't help but wonder how useful (or useless) a surf report is someone calls 6ft when the waves are triple overhead. It kinda shifts the value of a surf report (or forecast), doncha think?
Dear themalben, please don't try to introduce logic and common sense into this forum topic; you will spoil the fun for people like me that get simple pleasure from observing such oddities.
Duly noted, floyd :)