Surf’s up? Sizing waves is more an art than a science

Excellent wave conditions expected over the next 10 days

Well, folks it has been a busy couple of weeks since our last Nicaragua Dispatch report. We are happy to report there has been no shortage of waves during that period. True to seasonal form, the south pacific “storm machine” has been churning out swell after swell in the lower latitudes, producing good-quality surf that averaged in the shoulder high to slightly overhead range here in Nicaragua. Standout days were even larger.

The beaches of Tola have enjoyed good-to-epic conditions over the last few days, much to the joy of local and international surfers alike. Both waves and fish were on the menu on Tuesday, as the crew and guests of Surfari Charter’s Va Pue showed us how to catch a monster Dorado. Click out the link here to see the pictures. Perhaps the best waves of 2012 so far were last weekend, with size in the head-and-a-half to double-overhead range, and with near-perfect shape at the Tola region’s standout beach breaks and reefs. Click here to see photos and commentary of the action from this Saturday.

The forecast is looking excellent over the next 10 days. We expect to have waves in the head-high +/- range until the middle of the month. The period will be in the 11-to-15 second range. This will likely produce the good quality surf especially at the sand-bottom beach breaks throughout the country. Though it is still a little too early say with confidence, it looks like towards the middle of the month both size and period will be bumping up. Look for the reefs and points to the go to spots.

In last week’s report, we talked about the basics of surf forecasting in the hopes this would provide the uninitiated with an understanding of where best waves come from and how we predict when they will arrive to our shores. When waves do get to our beaches, the question is always “how big” are they. The correct method for measuring waves is one of the most contentious topics in the surfing culture. Most people around the world measure a wave height in feet or meters, generally giving the height from the trough of the wave to its peak before it breaks. However, different locales have bread widely differing perspectives on what a 6-foot wave is; some surfers even measure them from the back of the wave, which is usually half the size of the front – go figure.

This difference in measuring waves is usually regional, with spots that often receive big waves downplaying the height and areas that rarely receive large waves exaggerating the size. Therefore, a 6-foot wave can mean something completely different to two different people. We prefer a system that compares the height of the front of a wave to a six-foot person and give the waves height accordingly. “Head high,” therefore, means the wave face was 6-feet from trough to peak, and “double-overhead” means it was 12-feet high.

One just needs a rider on a wave to give the size with a degree of accuracy and in a way that is universally understandable.

Carl Segerstrale is a reporter for Nicaragua Surf Report (NSR), the premier resource for surfing-related information and services in Nicaragua. NSR has two surf shops, one in the San Juan behind the gas station and the other in the heart of the Tola surf zone at playa Colorado (Hacienda Iguana). The shops carry board rentals, surf wax, sunscreen and much more. NSR also provides assistance for all surf trip and vacation needs, including surfing lessons. NSR can be contacted and information for all our services as well as a daily photo report of the surf can be found at

Comments are closed.