To ensure that our Surfline reporters are consistently accurate, we wrote a Surf Reporter’s Manual and developed detailed surf report forms that needed to be filled out for each spot. We also agreed on a few fundamental rules.
SURF HEIGHTS ~ Surf size ratings will always rate face heights. We will also try to use body heights as an additional scale because something as simple “4 feet” could still mean different things to different people. To some it would be shoulder high, to others 1-foot overhead, and to the Hawaiians more than 8 feet on the face. But if we say the surf is “4-foot faces at about shoulder high”, everyone would truly understand the size of the surf whether they agreed with our terminology or not.
Surfline also provides the option to render surf heights in meters or choose what we call the “Traditional” scale, which is often referred to as “Hawaiian Scale” and more popular in Hawaii and Australia. The Traditional scale corresponds to approximately one half the height of the wave face, i.e. a wave estimated to be 4 feet from crest to trough (or chest-shoulder high on the average surfer) would be called 2 feet. However, as the size of the wave increases in the Traditional scale, so too does the gap between the face height of a wave and the expressed height of a wave. For example, a wave nearly two to three times overhead (12-15’+ wave face) would be 6 to 8 feet. To switch to meters or the Traditional scale, visit the Settings page.
SURF QUALITY ~ 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. We never want to limit the ratings to only one variable condition – such as a very glassy and clean water surface that might be rated GOOD. But if the waves are 1-foot and crumbly, it’s really POOR for surfing no matter how clean and GOOD the water surface may be.
Advanced surfers may have higher expectations, so what might be rated GOOD by an average surfer might only be rated FAIR by an advanced surfer. And what might be GOOD to an advanced surfer might actually be POOR for a beginning surfer because the surf might be too big for their ability. But as long as a surfer understands the quality of the surf regardless of their ability we will have accomplished our goal.
We've modified our rating scale from a 10 point scale to 7, as listed below with one color for each rating.
The Surfline Surf Quality Scale
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- VERY POOR
- POOR TO FAIR
- FAIR TO GOOD