How To Read A Surf Report

All the things you need to know explained

How to read a surf forecast and improve your surfing.

How to read a surf forecast and surf better. All the things you didnt really understand will be simply explained. Understand what surf is heading your way. The sooner you stop hoping and guessing the faster you start improving. The only way to actually improve your surfing is to surf good waves, so this is a good point to start.

We are going to look at WinguruMagicseaweed.

How To Read A Surf Forecast
How To Read A Surf Forecast

Between the two you can get a really accurate idea of whats going on.


These are the most important things you need to know :

  1. The Spot you going to surf
  2.  The Wind – Direction / Speed
  3.  The Swell – Direction / Size /Period

We will explain each in detail now. There are other factors to consider, ie ease of access, sand or reef bottom , localism and more. Howe-ever with the basics you will start to have more fun in the ocean.



how to read a surf report

How to read a surf forecast starts here.   Heres a map from our surf school “Surf Lessons Hossegor” showing every spot in the area. Magicseaweed have a great spot guide for most spots telling you all of the info below that you need to know. Info includes a google map, an “about ” section , a list of stats and pro & cons. You can pretty much get a full knowledge of the conditions needed for the spot chosen. Also some other useful pointers ie local vibe, crowd factor , water quality etc.

How To Read A Surf Forecast

Get to know your spot. If you are travelling a long way and you have never surfed there before you need to know the following:

  • Reef or sand bottom : Can make difference to currents a regularity of the shape of the waves.
  • The type of wave : learner or advanced
  • The wind direction needed : Some place will be good for certain winds only.
  • The direction the beach or bay faces : So that you know if the swell can enter.
  • Which tide is the best to surf : Every beach is different
  • Ease of access : Is there an hours walk to get to the surf ?
  • Localism : Is it a friendly place

Its important to stay within your limits. Choose a wave appropriate to your level. When you are sure of the above details you can start looking and learning how to read a surf forecast correctly. As mentioned , getting to know your spot is the starting point, and most important.


How To Read A Surf Forecast for WIND

How to read a surf report for speed & direction. Magicseaweed and Windguru look totally different, lets have a look at them.

WINDGURU can look a bit intimidating at first sight.

Speed : To start its worth mentioning that the area circled “wind speed (knots)” , at a click you can change between knots/ MPH or KPH. All you need to do is look in the left hand column and follow the readings along to the right for the days corresponding.The chart beside shows that the wind is lightest Monday lunch time and Tuesday morning.These are marked in Blue colour. As the week goes on , so does the storm. You can see that Wednesday the colors are more red and the speed has picked up to 30 or 40 knots. As mentioned earlier the least wind the better is the general rule of thumb.

Direction: The direction the wind is blowing is very important. Again , like the “wind speed” section the wind dirction is clickable and can be changed to degrees, id you not sure. This point will reflcet on the homework youve done on your spot. The storm above is worse case scenario , its 30 knots or more and is blowing direct onshore ( the direction of the arrows) . You can clearly see that Tuesday morning the arrows are in the othre direction and the wind speed id light.

Conclusion for Windguru:

Tues morning is light winds that are almost offshore SE, hover the cursor over the arrow and it will show you exact direction. By Wednedsay morning arrows are pointing the other direction W , onshore. Dont forget that the speed and direction will co-ordinate with what you found out from your spot guide info.




Magic wind speed and direction are a lot visually easier to get straight away. Just hover the cursor over the arrow and it will tell you ,for example, at 6am its strong onshore NW.

They also have a really handy summary at the top of the page. This tells you in an instant , almost ALL of the essentials you need to know :

They have a clickable wind chart that gets you really into the current weather system if you want to check it for yourself :how to read a surf forecast




Conclusion for Magic.

Very easy to see the wind speed and direction. Very handy to have ALL info at a visual glance in one small space. Some countries seem to have slightly more accurate surf reports. In the UK this site is know as being very accurate. In France some people believe its slighlty less accurate than Windguru.

How to read a surf forecast for SWELL

how to read a surf report


The swell direction will be important to know, as from your spot guide research , you will know which DIRECTION is needed for the beach or bay your heading to. Also what period is best for that spot. After you’ve confirmed that the swell is the correct direction, you need to know the PERIOD and SIZE. This is where you need to understand the difference between the two :

PERIOD : Watch a wave break on the shore and count the seconds until the next wave breaks, this is the period . The longer the period the further away the swell has travelled from and the bigger the storm, out in the ocean, that generated it. Basically the higher the period the more powerful the waves and currents will be. This directly affects the size or the waves.

SIZE OF SWELL : A 1 meter swell at 22 seconds will be very heavy and the waves will appear bigger than a meter with a lot of ocean movement. A 1 meter swell at 6 or 7 seconds will appear as meter high waves and not very powerful. This area of France produces its best waves at about 9 or 10 seconds. They are friendly, and have a good shape, meaning you have a longer ride.


WINDGURU how to read a surf forecast

The first thing to look at the is PERIOD. You can see that for Tues the period drops down to about 10 seconds with a lighter colour. This combined with the light winds is a good sign for Hossegor area. Tues afternoon and Wednesday a new swell arrives. Its a winter swell and very strong with a 15 or 16 second period. From this we know straight away that its no good on these beaches.

The WAVE height moves up and down with the period. Its IMPORTANT to know that its not just the height of the waves. If a 5.7 meter wave is forecast on Wednesday its a very thick wave with a lot of water behind in and in front of it, as well as the height of it.



Again magic is a very user friendly site. You can see directly that the area marked ” Primary swell”, is where they give the period of swell. On the right you have the predicted size of the actually waves to surf. They also have a nive summary of wave height for the week at the top of the page :






The size and power of the waves you are going to surf need to be within your limits. To improve your surfing you need to push slowly but surely with bigger waves. The ocean is always the boss, so stay within your limits and stay safe. The best way to surf the waves most suited to you is by translating the data on the forecasts to your ability, then going and having some fun.


I hope this is of some help in how to read a surf report. So do your homework on the spot, match the correct conditions and go score some good waves .

If you need anymore clarification please feel free to contact us directly here.