Surf Height Unit Preference

  • Updated

Surfers measure waves differently. Some undercall, others might exaggerate. Surfers indulge in a range of different measuring systems depending on the context and location. 

Face Height

One way to measure surf height is the face (front) of a wave, from top to bottom. This is what we’d call Face Height. The Surfline Face Height Scale is below, and 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


The “Traditional” system is a well-established alternative to measuring the wave's face, and consistently equates to roughly half the face height. You might have heard someone make a call like “4ft Hawaiian”, this is a reference to the Traditional system.

How to set your preference

In your Surfline Account settings, you can choose between the following surf height preferences: 

  • Meters 
  • Feet (Face Height) 
  • Feet (Traditional) 
      • We have set this as a default preference for Australian and New Zealand users, while the rest of the world defaults to Face Height. 

Still not clear?

Example: a "4ft Traditional" wave is the same as: 

  • Face Height: 8ft 
  • Body Height Reference: 2-3 feet “overhead” (above the head of a riding surfer with bent knees) 

It is important to bear in mind that as the size of the wave increases, so too does the gap between the Traditional and Face values. For example, a two to three times overhead wave would have a 12-15’+ wave face) would be 6 to 8 feet traditional. 

To check or change the surf height displayed on your account, please head to or click on the Account tab in the Surfline app. 




If you have any further questions about surf height, please submit a request or email Customer Support at Please include some screenshots of your current surf height settings and the name of the surf spot you are viewing.  


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