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Learn to Surf Theory – Part Three

Onshore and Offshore Winds

In this section we briefly cover the effect that wind has on the seas that we surf.

Wind is hugely important to surfers, not only does it generate the waves we eventually ride but they will also have a massive effect on how the waves break on the shore, the quality of the waves we ride and ultimately  how often we surf.

Offshore wind. Surfers will prefer a light off shore wind, this means that the wind will travel from the land out to sea. This is favourable because the effect on the breaking wave is minimal, as the wind blows up the face of the wave (smoothing the area between the trough and peak) thus holding the wave up and making the surface of the sea groomed or smooth. This action gives the surfer an extra few precious seconds to decide on his or her manoeuvre as they surf the wave.

A common phrase used by surfers when describing an offshore wind is “clean”., meaning the waves are easier to predict or read. This is due to the short distance the wind travels on the sea before it reaches the breaking waves.

Outer reef, Popoyo - Nicaragua Outer reef, Popoyo – Nicaragua

 Onshore winds.  Onshore meaning the wind is blowing from the sea onto the land.

This onshore wind can affect waves by forcing the crest of a wave to “crumble” or break before the wave would naturally. The stronger the onshore wind the quicker this action happens. Making judging or selecting a good wave harder to spot or read, as this wind affects the whole shape and quality of a wave.

Fistral Beach, Newquay Fistral Beach, Newquay

Generally this is bad news for surfers as it is now harder to predict where a wave will break or peak, and once up and riding this wind makes the wave face bumpy and uneven, giving birth to the term “messy” or “mushy”.

Learn to Surf Theory Part one

Learn to Surf Theory Part two

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