How does Surfline determine surf heights and quality ratings?

To ensure that Surfline reporters are consistently accurate, we use these guidelines for our reporting.


Surf size ratings will always rate FACE HEIGHTS. We will also try to use BODY HEIGHTS as an additional scale when possible. Saying "4-foot faces at about shoulder high", everyone would truly understand the size of the surf.

The Surfline Surf Height Scale is below, and also assumes a surfer on a wave would have slightly bent knees.

  • 1' = ankle-shin high
  • 2' = knee-thigh high
  • 3' = waist-belly high
  • 4' = chest-shoulder high
  • 5' = head high
  • 6' = 1 foot overhead
  • 8' = 3'overhead
  • 10' = 5' overhead or Double Overhead faces
  • 12' = Double Overhead+ faces
  • 15' = Triple Overhead faces
  • 20' = It's just really big


Ratings will be a mix from all of the variable conditions contributing to the overall surf quality and surfability of the surf for surfers of average ability. These contributing conditions will include wind and ocean surface smoothness quality; the overall wave shape of most of the waves; how the tide is affecting the surf with bumps, rips, and/or currents; and any other factors that might affect the surfability of the waves. 

The Surfline Surf Quality Scale
© Copyright 2000-2010 Surfline/Wavetrak, Inc.

  • 1 = FLAT: Unsurfable or flat conditions. No surf.
  • 2 = VERY POOR: Due to lack of surf, very poor wave shape for surfing, bad surf due to other conditions like wind, tides, or very stormy surf.
  • 3 = POOR: Poor surf with some (30%) FAIR waves to ride.
  • 4 = POOR to FAIR: Generally poor surf many (50%) FAIR waves to ride.
  • 5 = FAIR: Very average surf with most (70%) waves rideable.
  • 6 = FAIR to GOOD: Fair surf with some (30%) GOOD waves.
  • 7 = GOOD: Generally fair surf with many (50%) GOOD waves.
  • 8 = VERY GOOD: Generally good surf with most (70%) GOOD waves.
  • 9 = GOOD to EPIC: Very good surf with many (50%) EPIC waves.
  • 10 = EPIC: Incredible surf with most (70%) waves being EPIC to ride and generally some of the best surf all year.

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