Beat Bogus Surf Forecasts With Buoys

After last weekend’s debacle of a surf forecast from every major player in the market, I feel like it’s high time everyone took off their training wheels and learn how to make your own call. The great thing about being your own Sean Collins is that all the information is free and easy to find, you’ll impress your friends (or depress depending on the situation) with this new found knowledge, and most importantly, you’ll know when the waves are good, not when a Web site says the waves are good…
Surf Forecasting Reports

Offshore buoys dot the Pacific Ocean and are a source of crucial information when making surf forecasts and reports. Screen shot from

Offshore Buoys

They have no vested interest in creating hype and selling ads, they don’t track page views, time spent on site or any of that other bullshit. Nope, buoys stationed out in the middle of the sea are pretty cut and dry with minimal room for human error. Here’s how it works:

A) Do not go to Surfline, Wetsand, or Wavewatch! These sites will simply tease you with claims of “XXL Swell Headed To (Fill In The Blank)”. The swell is not here yet, remain calm and head to and click “weather” on the top navigation bar. On the left side of the page, click “buoys”.

B) A map of the West Coast will appear, click your region of interest.

C) A ton of buoys stationed from Alaska to the Mexican border will appear. Do not panic from the information, simply click on the buoy that is closest to the spot you want to surf. For someone who likes say, Oceanside, go to the Oceanside Buoy. Right now it reads 2.6 feet 13.3 seconds. That tells us that the swell is coming at 2.6 feet every 13 seconds. As well, there are neat little arrows that show the predominant wind and swell direction. Obviously, when the arrows show a swell coming out of the north, don’t go to a south swell spot.

D) The foot measurement (3.6 feet) isn’t as important as the interval number (13 seconds). The interval tells us a lot about the size, shape, and consistency of a swell. Longer intervals generally mean bigger sets and more power behind them. Long intervals are good. A reading of 10 feet at 10 seconds means storm surf. A reading of 10 feet at 20 seconds means wax your big board and look for a pointbreak that can handle mad swell.

E) Keep checking the buoys! Every single day, log on and counter that with a real live surf check. That means no Web cams. Go check it, maybe you’ll (gasp) meet a girl at the top of the bluff and get to bypass the “Meet Single Surfers” ad on Surfline…After time, you’ll be able to see the ebb and flow of swells, when and where they’ll hit best.

F) Now that you can read the buoys, track their movements, and interpret the data, you’ll know that when a certain buoy reads 3 feet at 12 seconds during a northwest swell, your local spot will be chest high and fun.

Catch the swell on the drop, on the rise, or when it’s maxing, again, the buoys don’t lie, they just pass along information. Don’t be a Web clone, use your own skills, and don’t get fooled again!

When was the last time you got burned because of a wack surf forecast? Tell us in the comment box below!