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16 October 2014
Wales Surfing - Conditions

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wave buoy data - CEFAS

Oh Bouy

Local Gower surfer, Kev Child explains what the strangely numbered wave buoys out in the Atlantic ocean do for you.

So you're a surfer and have got a rough idea of what a weather chart looks like and does i.e. low pressure is good, high pressure is bad (for us!) and you think you know which wind direction is good for your local break.

You've reached the point where you want to know more and are fed up with wasting time and fuel driving to the beach and finding nothing worth surfing.

You want to be able to predict where and when the waves are going to hit and what size and quality they are likely to be.

You've seen and heard people talking about the wave buoys and their usefulness and you've even checked them out on the internet but all the numbers and letters don't mean much.

One of the more interesting and entertaining aspects of surfing, apart from the obvious is trying to predict waves. You'll hear experienced surfers discussing it ad infinitum.

The reason it is such a topic of conversation/discussion/argument is that there are so many variables to consider...

Pressure systems in the Atlantic, local weather systems, tide times, swell size, swell direction, wave period, wind direction and strength not to mention the physical conditions of the local break (sand bars or reef).

The wave buoys are just another tool that go in the bag with experience and knowledge of the breaks you surf, and understanding them, without question helps to more accurately predict what's happening and where.

 chart data courtesy of National Buoy Data Center

The table on the left is a simple explanation of the information they provide. It'll help you decide whether or not to load up the car and where you should go.

This is all based on my experience of surfing for a number of years in Wales and I'm not a scientist or expert in any way, shape or form!

Most Important Terms for Prediction

AVP = Average wave period which is a measurement given in time (seconds) of the distance between waves passing the wave buoy. The longer the period between the waves the better e.g. 3 seconds is poor, 10 seconds is really good and will provide a proper groundswell and defined lines of waves at the beach.

WVHT = Wave Height which is a measurement of the size of the passing swell at the buoy's location. This is taken from the rise and fall of the buoy above and below mean sea level and measured in feet or meters. The bigger the measurement, the better the surf.

WDIR = Wind direction which is the direction that the wind is blowing from at a particular wave buoy site.

WSPD = Wind speed which indicates how fast the wind is blowing. This is measured in knots, meters per second, miles per hour and kilometres per hour. The lower the measurement the better - no matter what direction the wind is.

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