Which surf report is the most accurate?
Well there is a very simple answer to this question. The most accurate surf report is from the person looking at the surf at that exact second…and it could change significantly in just 15 minutes!
There are many different places providing reports. Not all areas are lucky enough to have a live person reading a report every hour. So we have to look at multiple surf reports, forecasts, and cameras to predict when we should surf (unless of course you live on the beach and can look out your window). And remember, most of these reports are all interpreting the exact same data from NOAA! In fact, for long term forecast, I find the GFS Wave Model the most accurate and what I use. These models are what is driving the data behind all surf forecasts. The GFS model is updated 4x daily – 12am, 6am, 12pm, 6pm whereas other models are only updated at 12am/12pm. Depending on the forecasting site you are looking at, they only get updated 2-4x a day as the models are updated. The disadvantage of using a model like GFS for your surf report is that it doesn’t take into consideration what you break is really like. For example, it just gives height of predicted waves – but a south swell with a 10 second period of 2-3 ft waves could product stomach+ high faces whereas another break might only produce knee high faces. That’s where knowledge of your break comes in handy and where surf forecasting sites help out by taking out some of that guesswork.
Additionally, there are many reports because sometimes one is more accurate for your area. Sometimes one just happens to be way off that day. Therefore its best to look at several reports (data triangulation) so that you can get a good idea of what it’s going to be like. Even then, the surf may be better or worse! Here is how I personally check:
For the forecast, I always use the GFS Wave Model, then I look at a few of the forecast sites like surfline/magicseaweed to see if they agree. That helps me out long term to know what’s coming during the week.
For the current surf report, well I am spoiled. There is a great site where I live that gives an eye ball report several times per day. But I also use surfline reports and the cams from surfline and surfchex. That’s in addition to knowing what the wind, weather, tide, and swell is doing.
So look at multiple data points and cross your fingers!