Monday, December 06, 2010

Photographing Big Waves? Check the Surf Forecast!

Off the Charts!, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan.

We've all seen nice images of waves crashing on the coast, and it's a pretty safe bet that you can find large waves after storms pass through coastal areas. But what you may not know is that models have been constructed to predict wave height in advance! Surfers and divers often consult these predictions, and photographers can use them as well.

Waves include wind-generated "windswell" which can come from winds or storms in multiple directions. Current prediction models such as NOAA's Wavewatch III wavemodel can forecast waves coming from up to six different directions simultaneously, all interacting to create the waves you see onsite.

Here's an example of a surf forecast for the Big Sur Coast:

Here's a map you can use to select other California coastal locations:

Based on the forecast, I'm going to make a point of pursuing large waves along the Big Sur this Thursday. I'll let you know how it turns out!