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Estimating Wave Height at Surf Spots

The normal wave forecast informs the height of the waves in a deep water spot, Surfguru now intends to inform the height of the waves that will be surfed on any beach, using a mathematical estimate of the waves in shallow waters.

05/Jul/2024 - Surfguru

Surfguru daily runs the Wavewatch III wave model on high-performance computers to calculate the waves that approach the beaches, however this calculated height is not exactly the same as the height of the waves that are surfed on the beaches, this difference is due to several factors , which are explained in more detail in the article: The Influence of Shallow Waters on the Waves that Arrive at a Beach.


Generally speaking, when waves approach any beach, they are influenced by the seabed, and not all the energy present in the ocean can always reach the beach, because there are several obstacles that prevent all the energy from entering. of waves on the beach. Taking this into consideration, to obtain the real value of waves in surfing, we use simplified mathematical calculations, based on wave energy in deep waters, calculated for points close to each beach.

One of these formulations was made using Airy's wave theory, applied to a generic surf, to calculate the height at which the wave breaks. This formulation was developed at the Oregon State University School of Oceanography by Paul Komar and Michael Gaughan, and was released in 1972 at the 13th International Conference on Coastal Engineering, in Vancouver, being published in the American Army's Coastal Engineering Manual.

Komar and Gaughan's formulation is very generic and is not the ideal formulation to obtain accurate results, due to the particular characteristics of each beach. In this sense, Surfguru developed a way to obtain feedback from users, with the aim of trying to adjust the height obtained by the theoretical formulation to the surf characteristics of each beach.

In the forecast for each beach, there is a form available for the user who surfed on that beach to inform us about their observation of the waves. Therefore, we count on the collaboration of surfers who voluntarily offer this information, so that we can provide a better service to users:

In order for the height of waves in surfing to be calculated accurately, it is necessary to have several pieces of information to apply to a computer program known as a "mathematical wave model", which is a program that simulates the behavior of waves as they move. by the sea, but it cannot be just any wave model, but rather a model called the "shallow water model", this model specifically calculates the behavior of waves when they travel over shallow underwater soil (less than 150 meters deep ), where strong interactions occur between waves and the seabed.

Shallow water models are very complex programs that process a lot of data, which is why they are very time-consuming and expensive to run. Furthermore, for them to be able to give valid answers it is necessary to know the seabed very precisely, the which is almost never possible, especially in Brazil, where most of our coastline does not have adequately measured bathymetry (relief of the seabed) for the model results to be good enough.

This is Surfguru's first attempt to develop a more specific forecast for each beach, in order to provide a better service for our users. Like this initiative, the objective is to subsequently test other formulations that are closer to reality, which we intend to do in the coming months.


And if you want to delve a little deeper into wave forecasting, we recommend Surfguru's Wave Forecasting Course. With it you will be able to use forecasting to your advantage through basic concepts and practical tips!

The course is completely online, with approximately 4 hours of recorded classes and in it you will learn the entire theory of wave formation: from how they form, how they move, until their arrival on the beach. It offers you everything, EVERYTHING, so that you can correctly interpret the forecast.

Anyone who is already a PRO subscriber has an exclusive discount through our Advantages Club. If you're not a PRO yet, try it for 30 days free using the CURSO30 coupon. Let's go?