Although computer forecasts have made us pretty familiar with tracking the ‘height’ and ‘period’ of incoming swell they’ve often blinded us to the problems of describing the ocean state at any one time in just two or three numbers. The Magicseaweed system actually tracks a much more complex set of forecast information for your local spot, but to date we’ve only displayed this complete breakdown in the forecast if you’ve selected the ‘multiswell view’.
The ‘swell’ you used to see reported on your MSW forecast was something like an average of all swells present at that time. If you paddled your board five miles from the coast the larger waves would, on average, almost always be very close to the size we forecast, however on the beach some problems can occur:
- The dominant swell might be a reasonable wind swell, but hiding behind it might be a small but really punchy long range ground swell. As surfers we really want to see the best ‘surfable’ swell at all times.
- The dominant swell might not be heading towards the beach and again there might be another swell which, although smaller is heading in the right direction. As surfers we want to know about the swells that will make waves!
- The dominant swell might be a bumpy few feet but at such short period as to be unsurfable. If you’re reasonably experienced with our forecast you’ll know that a 3ft@4seconds swell will NEVER make a surfable wave. We love to surf, we even like to grovel if that’s what we have to do but we can promise even the most desperate surfer on the biggest SUP board isn’t getting waves from conditions like this. With the new forecast we simply don’t show these swells. Again if hiding in the mix there IS a tiny more powerful swell we’ll show that instead.
- A really strong offshore or cross shore wind will create waves and even a potentially surfable swell, but of course it’ll be heading out to sea. These swells will never make a wave on your beach, but they might hide a swell that will so we now don’t show them at all.
There’s detailed information about our new rating here, but simply we’re (as before) carefully analysing each component of a swell for conditions that look likely to make decent surf. We’ve always prioritised punchy, lined up conditions over simply ‘big’ surf and we now take this further with priority given to conditions likely to create barrelling waves where possible. You won’t find the ratings changed radically but the algorithms that power them have improved, it’ll just be a little more right and a little more useful.
As ever MSW aims to be the most comprehensive source of forecast information on the web. With this change we want to ensure that everyone gets a more accurate and useful forecast, but that nothing is removed from surfers confident with their own analysis. To that end the ‘multiswell’ view we had available before has now been clearly labelled ‘full swell breakdown’. This gives you, in the left hand column, the original dominant conditions from our previous forecast AND every component swell making up the conditions for each hour. From this you have everything you were used to using before and more, if you feel you need it.
If you’re using MSW but you’re not a surfer the key question is ‘are you most interested in the waves on the beach, or the swell offshore’. If you’re, let’s say, a bass fisherman you’ll enjoy the new forecast and find it more accurate for surf casting than the old one, if however you’re often sailing coastal cruises and using MSW for that you’ll want to check the ‘full swell breakdown’, some of the swells that won’t be making waves on the beach WILL be affecting your passage. You’ll find the left hand column of this page will give you exactly the same information you had before.
If you don’t like it, want the old one back, need more information or you just want to compare don’t panic the old data is still 100% intact:
If none of this makes sense, or you’ve skipped the details the summary is that we’re now doing for you what experienced forecasters were already using our data to achieve and that the ‘height’ and ‘star rating’ you see on the forecast should more regularly reflect the conditions you see on the beach.
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