Wave Height

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Wave Height

Post by Dave » Mon Feb 23, 2004 10:17 am

What is the go with wave height? Ive been surfing for 20yrs and people call it all over the place.

knee high = 1.5ft
waist high = 3ft
chest hight = 4ft
head hight = 5ft
overhead = 6ft

is about how I guage it and I am 5'9.

I would like to hear other peoples thoughts.

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Post by davo » Mon Feb 23, 2004 10:49 am

Hmmm, the age old question eh? How big is big? Hawaiian or Aussie - Qld or Vic or anywhere in between?
My view (after 35years) is that you're not far of the mark. Knee to waist would be two feet - waist to shoulder around the three to four and over head around five to six.
Of course if you want to go the "Hawaiian Bro" measurements......measure from the crest to the trough from the back of the wave.... the face doesn't enter into it, which, again in my view, is all a bit silly 'cause you surf the face of the wave... not the back of it! Anyway...that's my two cents worth, any other views?


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Post by thermalben » Mon Feb 23, 2004 11:02 am

here we go.. this is gonna be one heck of an interesting thread ;)

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Post by Dave » Mon Feb 23, 2004 11:05 am

don't be shy ben...throw one in

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Post by nubby » Mon Feb 23, 2004 11:21 am

i dunno bout hawaiian bro scale or qld or vic.....but i measure it roughly like this....

1ft......dont bother
2ft......chest high
3ft......head high
5ft......solids sets on a 4ft day
6ft......double overhead+
8ft......triple overhead+
10ft....cleanup sets on an 8ft day
12ft....doesnt really matter in sydney, but its massive, ridiculous, gnarly.....

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Post by buzzy » Mon Feb 23, 2004 11:31 am

I've never really thought about it a great deal. I guess 1' is about knee height, 2' about waist height, 3' around chest height, 4' head height, 5' is getting comfortably overhead and many beachbreaks are starting to close out. 6' is well overhead and most beachbreaks are closing out. I've never said any surf was 7'. 8' surf is almost certainly closing out all beachbreaks. Above 8' is left to the hellmen.

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Post by macca202 » Mon Feb 23, 2004 11:39 am

nubby, you left out one...


(according to dons report)

that would be ausome, but i would be more likely to just sit on some point and watch it. Actually with huge surf, where in sydney does the swell rap around to give reduced wave size??????

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Post by nubby » Mon Feb 23, 2004 11:46 am

yeah, i saw that 20ft call from the computer model as well......but i usually half the vbouys call. and like i posted somewhere else this mornin, that seems to go alright.......and macca202, i did leave 20ft off me list huh...so here it is.....

20ft......oh my [email protected]#kin god!

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Post by the kalakau kid » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:05 pm

sounds pretty right to me. It is all really just a rule of thumb with minimal relevance to actual measurements. Funny how we can talk about 1, 3 or 5 ft waves but never 7, 9 or 11 etc...
If in doubt, call it under.
Another scale that i find myself using when talking to friends is:

epic, all-time etc..

Thank the mystical beings in the sky that we haven't caught the Californian disease of " yeah it was 4 feet with 12 foot faces" !

Or you can get completely off-the-scale hawaiian as my brother likes to and measure it by the board you are riding. As he says,
" its not 4 ft unless you're riding an 8 footer" ..

Time in Hawaii does distort your perception too, so its no supprise the bruddahs call it under.
Bottom line, undercalling is cooler really.

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Post by baldric » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:15 pm

Last edited by baldric on Thu Nov 23, 2006 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Morgan The Moon » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:21 pm

I don't bother with feet anymore, I go with Dave's measurements - head high , shoulder high, etc.

The following is something worth reading on the subject, crux of the article is 'measure what you ride, not what you missed'
Written by Ricky Grigg (ultimate big wave & surf legend)
as printed in the Surfers Journal volume 12, number 1, 2003
Ricky Grigg’s words……………..
Once upon a time, an old Hawaiian surfer told me that those surfers who measure from the back have already missed the wave. Of course, you could argue that surfers who measure the wave from the back do so on purpose so that they can purposefully underestimate their size. But why would anyone want to do that you ask? Perhaps they are the macho guys. "Shucks ma, that overhead wave is only three feet, at least to me. Its no big deal". But then one day a wise guy like me comes along and says, "Three feet, for an overhead wave? What are you anyway, only three feet tall?" The 5’6" surfer says, "Huh? What? Are you blind?" "No" I say," maybe you are blind. That overhead wave was way over your fully upright body." "Hey man," he tells me, "you measure waves from the back." I say, "You mean the back of the wave you can’t see?" And of course he says, "Right on, dude, right on"
Wish that all this banter was much ado about nothing, but unfortunately it is not. There is a history and a very good reason why so many surfers these days measure from the back. Let’s go back about 40 or 50 years in Hawaii and revisit the golden years of surfing and try and find the answer. Back then waves were bigger, bluer, and much less crowded. Surfers at Waikiki rode huge waves all measured from the front. Duke Kahanamoku’s famous 1.1mile ride had to have been 20"plus when it first broke at first break (out near Castles). Today’s surfers would have called it 10’ had they been there. Trouble is, had they been there, they would not have been able to see the wave, at least not from the beach. So how did all this back of the wave nonsense get started anyway?
I was surfing the North Shore in those days, the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, and what started to happen very slowly over this time period was a gradual tendency to underestimate waves. As it got worse and worse, everyone started realizing that the smaller the estimates were, the smaller the reports were on the radio and TV, and fewer and fewer people were showing up to surf on any given day. Hey, man, this was way cool. A super cool method began to develop to keep the surf a secret. Eight to 10’ waves at Sunset slowly became 4-5’ with a few pulses. But how in God’s name could anyone call an 8’ wave 4’, or a 10’ wave 5’? Not that difficult. The surfers and lifeguards simply invented an new system of measuring the waves from the back. It worked great, because, of course, waves from the back are about half their size from the front. Since few people could actually see the backs of the waves, few people could disagree or claim otherwise. Fewer Townies went to the North Shore and the local guys had the waves all to themselves. The lifeguards liked it too, because they had fewer people to guard and so they could go surfing longer. The system prospered and more and more surfers grew up believing that measuring the waves from the back was the way to do it.
End of story. There were a few old-timers around who remembered the old way, the first way, the simple way, the face-value, from-the-top-to-the-bottom way, from the front, from the crest-to-the-trough, the way oceanographers define wave height, the way in which ordinary people can judge a wave simply by looking at it. By its face value. Not only did the old-timers remember, but they also reminded the lifeguards about safety. It wasn’t to safe to broadcast to Hawaii’s tourists that 8-10’ waves were only 4-5’. People drowning and getting slammed into the bottom by shorebreak could sue, and guess what, they did sue. A number of visitors throughout the Islands suffered severe neck injuries producing paraplegia and quadriplegia, all caused by shorebreak waves that were larger than those reported. Several cases were settled or won to the tune of millions of dollars. It was not long before the City and County of Honolulu was under a powerful economic and legal gun to change the system back to the old way of measuring waves from the front by the face. This old way is now called the "new" way, because so many young surfers never heard of the old way, until now perhaps.
The "new" has been adopted by the National Weather Service in Honolulu and is now reported by all of Hawaii’s news media: newspapers, radio, TV – everyone. Even the lifeguards are now reporting face values. A special course in how to measure and report surf was designed by the National Weather Service tailored specifically for the lifeguards of the City and County of Honolulu. Over the course of about 15 months (in 2000 and 2001) about 80 lifeguards successfully completed the class. With this new awareness, the lifeguards have embraced the "new" policy. And, there is no question that their first and foremost concern is safety for Hawaii’s visitors and residents alike. Its been a rapid transition back to the old way, the simple way, the safe way, and the HONEST way. Its just like my old Hawaiian friend said, "Never measure the wave you missed. It’s the one you ride that counts"
……………. The end.

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Post by zzz » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:24 pm

buzzy's description is pretty close to how I think of it, though I'll call it over 6' if I can comfortably stand at full height in a proper barrel. (I'm 6' 4").

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wave height

Post by matt... » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:49 pm

I'll agree with the measurements from knee 1.5ft up to head height being 5ft....

But if I could stand straight up in a barrel, it would need to be about 8ft, accounting for lip thickness etc...I'm 5'10.

I could squash up into a barrel of a 4ft wave, anything under that you'd have to be on your guts.

If you were my mate Jim, on the other hand, you would call Bondi 5ft when it was actually 3ft, knowing I'm at work & can't check for myself.

If you were my brother Ben, you would call North Steyne 3ft, when it was actually 5ft, for fear of being called a soft c#@k by the crew.

Yeah, head height about 5ft.

6ft is overhead, unless you are 6ft, then it'd be head high.
8ft is a good size for the Haven.
I would call 10ft double overhead because it's twice the size of what i'd call overhead. Also a good size for the Haven.
12ft sets are amusing at the Haven, as they'd probably swing wide & clean up a few people.
I would call 15ft triple overhead - it would have to be clean for most places to handle.

2 cents from matt...

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wave height cont'd...

Post by matt... » Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:53 pm

oh yeah, I forgot one thing...

if you measured tea'pou (or however it's spelt) from the back, then a 1ft day may have a 10ft plus face ?!?!?

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Post by Geoff » Mon Feb 23, 2004 1:18 pm

They've started to measure the waves from the front here lately. Too many tourists were sueing because they would get drilled and blame the surf forecasters!

I couldn't understand the deal with measuring the back. It's the front that will mess you up. Actually it's what's underneath and the tide that's more important. There are some places that at head high on a low tide are scary. I don't like seeing the reef when taking off. It's not fun.

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Post by baldric » Mon Feb 23, 2004 1:25 pm

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