There are many different components that make up a surf report. Though they can seem intimidating at first glance, surf reports are full of important information that tell you everything you need to know about the conditions of the water. 

Whether you want to head out for a swim, a surf or a snorkel session, checking out the surf report of the beach you’ll be heading to will give you insight into how you can expect to experience the water.

We are here to decode the components of a surf report for you, so that you can feel empowered each time you head down to the ocean!

Swell Size

The size of the swell is often measured in metres and refers to the height of the wave. Generally, swell that is around the 1m mark is perfect for beginner surfers, while more experienced surfers can take on greater swell sizes (3m, and even more).

Swell Period

The period of the swell refers to the time between waves, and is measured in seconds. In general, a period of eight seconds or more yields the most satisfying and powerful swell, as there is sufficient time for each wave to build momentum. A swell period that is too short (for example, six seconds between waves) will lend itself to weak waves with little power.

Swell Direction

The direction of the swell lets you know from where the waves are coming. The shoreline of the beach you are wanting to visit will highly impact the waves you experience there. 

If the shoreline of the beach is facing into the direction of the swell, it means that you will see mostly uninterrupted sets. If you are protected from the swell by a groyne or reef, you can know that the water will be far calmer in this bay, making it a more suitable candidate for swimming or snorkelling. 

Wind Direction

The direction of the wind will really impact your experience down at the beach. Ideally, wind-free conditions are ideal, however days like these are often few and far between. 

There are two main ways of classifying wind: off-shore winds (which blow in from the water) and on-shore winds (which blow in from the land). 

Off-shore winds will be better for those wanting to surf, as this wind pushes the waves into the shore. On-shore winds are most enjoyable for those wanting to swim or snorkel, as these winds cause calmer conditions. 

Wind Speed

The wind speed refers to the strength of the wind, and is measured in kilometres/hour. As a general rule, the lower the speed of the wind, the more enjoyable the ocean is. The early mornings are often the best time to head to the beach in order to catch it at its best!


Tides impact each beach differently, and so it’s important that you learn how the tides affect your local spots before heading out. High tides can submerge obstacles such as rocks and reefs which would be otherwise exposed at low tide. 

September 28, 2022 — Eliza Greene