How to Measure Waves in Surfing

To practice surfing, it is necessary to have several elements that make possible the realization of this sport that attracts so many fans eager to find the best waves and live that special, unique moment, full of emotion and adrenaline.

Riding a wave or surfing is only possible if you have an element provided by nature; they are the waves.

The size and characteristics of the waves are indispensable to have an excellent performance by the surfer and the enjoyment and fun of all surfers.

Internationally the height of the waves is expressed in feet; 1 foot is equivalent to 30.48 centimeters.

It is impossible to take a tape measure to measure the height of each wave in the water. To solve this inconvenience, some methods have been designed to measure the height of the waves.

From our surf school in the Canary Islands we can offer you the best knowledge about surfing , like the one mentioned above, and many more. Enter our website and see all our offers.

Famara Beach Surf School

Scientific or Bascom Method

This is the most commonly used method of wave height measurement today.

It was created in the 1960’s by engineer and oceanographer Willard Newell Bascom; hence its name.

This system to measure the height of a wave indicates that it is given by the distance between the crest of the wave and the average level of the sea; all this seen from the edge of the water.

This is the simplest and easiest way to know how much the wave rises; however, the flaw of this method is that it is somewhat complex to establish the height from a position on the water’s edge if there is no sportsman or woman surfing, since there is no way to have any reference.

The Hawaiian Wave Scale

The Hawaiian method is used throughout the Hawaiian Islands; it is also used to calculate wave heights in California and the Canary Islands.

This particular method of measurement, performs the procedure by measuring the wave from behind. It’s an easier process to use, when you’re surfing, since you take your own height as a reference to calculate the height of the wave.

When comparing the Hawaiian measurement method to calculate wave height with the Bascom scientific method, the wave ends up being considerably reduced, since when observed from behind, the base of the wave is not taken into account.

It is said to be like using Bascom’s scientific method and dividing it by two. This method is usually taught to all students attending our famara surf school.

Other Methods

Wabe Face Surfable Method: Surfable Wave Face

This method of measuring wave height is being used more and more frequently; this is thanks to the popularity it has gained from its use in some surfing competitions and festivals.

With this system the phase or surfable face of the wave is measured and the result obtained is much lower than the one obtained through the measurement made with the scientific method Bascom.

Traditional Wave Measurement Methods

The traditional method for determining wave height is by using the body as a reference; in this case the expressions “head height”, “chest height” or “waist height” are used to define wave height.

We must say that this measurement system is not very reliable, because each person has a different height, but it is useful as a reference for the waves being surfed.

When you are starting to surf, knowing exactly the height of the wave is not so important since you are starting to surf small waves.

The most important thing at the beginning is to perform the techniques of setting up properly, and then progressively go looking for bigger waves.

You can visit our website and see all the courses we offer, so you can learn, know and enjoy this great sport called surfing.

Marine Sensors to Measure Waves

Marine sensors are devices placed on buoys that float in different places in the sea; they are used to measure the height and direction of the waves.

This method is used to measure the waves far away from the coast; therefore, the waves that arrive at the shore are totally different from the ones that were measured.

Once you have read all our article it is worth mentioning that if you want to put all this knowledge into practice contact us and sign up for our surf courses in lanzarote famara. You will enjoy a unique and incredible experience that you will never forget.