In order to fully enjoy a swell it is important to understand what the direction of the swell is and more importantly how that swell direction will affect the surf at the spots that you frequent. If you are using the wave journal to log your spots and sessions you will notice one of the elements that is automatically determined for you is the angle of the swell. The Wave Journal uses this data to better provide recommendations as to where you should be surfing based on the current conditions. So how does being aware of swell direction help you get more out of your sessions?
Become a “Wave Magnet”
We have all been in the lineup with the guy or gal that seems to be on every set that rolls through. You see them paddling out for a set and then scan the horizon and see no set. Then all of the sudden you see the set and are scratching to pick off a shoulder while the wave magnet is catching the peak. So how does knowing the swell direction help you pick off more sets? Let’s say that you are surfing at a break that is facing due west and a swell is coming out of the southwest, the swell, which includes the sets, will be traveling from south to north. So a simple trick is just to watch to the south for sets, if you see a set start to fire to the south of where you are sitting, do yourself a favor and start paddling into the position where the sets have been breaking as it will not be too long before that set travels north to the spot your surfing. By knowing two things, the direction the beach is facing and the direction the swell is coming from, you will be able to find yourself on more sets and feel more confident catching some insiders between sets.
I thought this was supposed to be a big swell, stupid surf reports
We have all showed up at the beach for the hyped up swell. Everyone has been talking about it, all the sites have been forecasting it and then there it is shoulder high on the best sets. Sometimes they get it wrong and sometimes you just go to the wrong spot. In many instances the swell direction may just be wrong for the spot. Lets take Southern Californa for example and view the swell image provided by CDIP.
Looking at the image you can see areas that are better situated to pick up the full effect of the swell, ones that are not being blocked by outer islands or facing the wrong direction. Given this image you would be more likely to get the most out of the swell by heading down in San Diego or possibly Ventura.
Understanding your surf spots
So even with all this information it is important to know how your break handles swells from different directions. An example is Swamis in Encinitas, which may look to pick up more swell during a large south when viewing charts, but the reef is shaped in a way that makes it really work on W to NW swells. At The Wave Journal we account for all these elements when generating your personal surf report. If you have rated 4 foot sessions lower when the swell direction is from the south in comparison to 4 foot swells from the north your personal surf report will reflect this