As you can probably guess, weather can greatly influence your surfing adventures. Unfortunately, most of the time it isn’t the right kind of influence. In other words: checking the forecast is something surfers constantly do. Also, it doesn’t have a lot to do with temperature. There’s a more significant part of the weather forecast surfing enthusiasts pay attention to.
Of course, we’ll be talking about what kind of wind is best for surfing. Did you know wave height is greatly affected by wind? Its speed, duration, and fetch (distance over the water that the wind blows in a certain direction) form a not-to-be-messed-around-with team of protagonists.
Offshore winds are the best for surfing. They give waves a visually pleasing shape and they cause them to break evenly, which is every surfer’s delight. You’ll recognize them by the white spray on the top of each wave. Also, you might want to avoid surfing when there’s strong offshore wind hitting the beach. Always check the surf forecast.
For a more detailed explanation, read the text below. Also, we’ll give you some additional insight into the world of this wonderful sport! Stay tuned!
Table of Contents
Where it all began (a short history of surfing)
Here we’ll offer a glimpse into the history of surfing. If you’re wondering what shaped this sport during the past (almost) 1000 years – here’s the info you need. Yup, it’s been almost a thousand years since Polynesian cave paintings portrayed history’s first surfers. To be precise, we can date those pictures back to the 12th century. Anyway, it didn’t take long before surfing spread to Hawaii. That’s where it became something more than just a sport.
In Hawaii, surfing was considered an integral part of the local religion. It was also incorporated into certain religious rituals. Also, everybody surfed: there were no class boundaries in that sense, anyone could’ve stepped on a surfboard. Although there were strict limitations on where a certain social group can surf.
We can thank James Cook for the first written account of surfing in Hawaii. But, Cook’s visit became a landmark for something else. Since then, the local religion started losing influence over the native people of Hawaii thanks to the colonist policies and Christian missionaries operating on the islands. Still, surfing remained. Although, to a certain degree, it lost its sacred value.
The popularization (late 19th century)
Besides writing marvelous works of fiction, Mark Twain and Jack London were also known as travel book authors. Both reported seeing surfers in action. That’s how the broader public got to know this amazing sport. Soon enough, tourists from the US started flocking in and the first surf clubs appeared.
In those days, the most famous surfer of them all was Duke Kahanamoku (born in 1890). He was also a very talented swimmer and competed in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. He won the 100-meter freestyle contest, thanks to the crawl technique he pretty much copied from surfing. After that, he traveled across the globe and introduced the sport wherever the conditions made it possible (Australia, for example).
After WWII, a lot has changed in the surfing world. Adhesives that were developed after the great turmoil found a totally fresh purpose. The famous Joe Quigg invented the so-called round nose and laminated fins which were covered with fiberglass. Because of these novelties, many maneuvers thought to be impossible became possible.
In the first half of the 1950s, Jack O’Neill came up with the first wetsuit. It gave surfers protection against the sometimes cold Californian weather. Surfing mania peaked in the 60s when it became a mass sport, thanks to the aforementioned wetsuits and the production of smaller boards. The surfboard became an iconic pop-culture product. Also, movies like The Endless Summer (1966 cult documentary) inspired many folks to try this amazing watersport.
About 40 years ago, an Australian called Simon Anderson introduces the 3-fin-system on the shortboard. We consider this as the last step which led to the shortboards we know and use today. Also, if you’re wondering where skimboarding fits into this story, visit this page.
Alright, so that’s that about the history of surfing. Are you ready to tackle the main topic for today: what wind is best for surfing?
What wind is best for surfing?
Okay, so here we are! First, we might want to check out the relationship between the wind and waves without which surfing would be downright impossible. In other words: waves are the most commonly caused by the blowing in the wind. As the folk legend named Bob Dylan once said: The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. And that’s what you call putting something totally out of context. Anyway, about the relationship between…
The wind and the waves
As we’ve said earlier, wave height is greatly influenced by wind speed, duration, and fetch. For example, if the wind speed is slow, only the small waves will appear, independent of the wind duration or fetch. Also, if the wind speed’s fantastic, but the wind blows only for a few minutes, large waves won’t appear. Even if the two elements are present in a proper manner, large waves only occur when all three are combined.
Strong winds can make surfing harder
Surfing enthusiasts might know that the sea’s surface becomes quite choppy after a strong wind blows. This means the waves break less predictably causing your rides to become slower and bumpier. Some say that riding a surfboard on choppy waters is very similar to riding over speed bumps in a vehicle: it slows you down and is capable of taking it out on your board if you don’t handle it properly!
Also, strong winds make it hard for surfers to choose their waves. The thing is: you can’t really tell which ones will break immediately or which ones will let you ride them like a pro.
Offshore winds are every surfer’s delight
So, here’s your answer: offshore winds are the best for surfing. Let’s elaborate on that. They’re the winners since they give waves a good shape and cause the wave to break evenly. Also, they blow directly from the beach out into the sea, making the waves break in the best possible way. Additionally, this gives waves a visually pleasing, aesthetic look.
Still, strong offshore winds can stir up some problems. It might be harder to get into the wave a surfer’s trying to catch. A surfer would need to use more energy while paddling against the wind trying to get into the wave. You’ll recognize strong offshore winds by giant white sprays coming off of each wave’s top and blowing out to sea. Now, there’s no need to worry about this type of wave because they’re pretty unusual.
How to recognize good offshore winds?
We’ve shown you how to notice strong offshore winds, which are not very hospitable to surfboarders all around the world. It’s the same thing, basically. As the waves break, you’ll notice the white spray going up and over the back of the wave out to the sea.
Reading the surf forecast
Before you head to the beach, it’s important you always check your surf forecast. How does one do it? Well, if you notice the wind arrow’s pointed from the land towards the sea and in the direction of the part of the beach you want to surf, that’s your sign. Although it’s good you always remain open for surprises since the wind tends to change direction.
Bonus round: Which waves are the worst for surfing?
Last but not least, we’ll talk about the subject of the worst possible wind conditions for surfing. If there was a list of worst winds for surfing, we’re sure cross-shore winds would top it off. They blow out to the sea or toward the shore at an angle diagonal for the shoreline. This causes the waves to break pretty strangely. Cross-shore winds also cause bumps in the waves but they cannot hold up waves as strong offshore winds do.
Something of a disclaimer: Surfers trying airs might enjoy a cross-onshore wind, as it enables them to use bumps for launching off. However, this should only concern advanced and experienced surfers already in tune with everything we’ve mentioned above and much more.
What wind is best for surfing? – a conclusion
Let’s do a quick summary of what we’ve learned today about the relationship between winds and waves, waves and surfing, and everything else. Now we know that:
- Waves are commonly caused by the blowing in the wind. The height of the wave relies on the wind’s duration, speed, and fetch. When all three factors are at their best, one can expect large waves.
- Strong winds make life harder for surfers. The rides are bound to be slower and bumpier.
- Offshore winds are the best for surfing. This type of wind gives waves a good shape. Also, they cause the waves to break evenly.
- Don’t forget to read your surf forecast before you head to the beach. Still, you should be open to surprises.
- Cross-shore winds are the worst for surfing. However, experienced surfers can benefit from them.
That’s about it, folks. Click right here for more tips on how not to lose your surfboard.