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Waves, Tides, and Breaks
23 January, 2013
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Swell generation


Hi everyone,

I’m Dominik – some of you might already know me from I’m sitting here in winter weather that even for Berlin is extraordinary depressing. That’s why I have something to cheer you up! I will post the SpanienSurfCamp-Theory series in English so that also those of you who don’t speak German can read it! So, Lesson 1: how do swells develop?

If you go down to the beach in the morning and see the onshore wind transforming the good conditions into white water, you could conclude that the wind is the natural enemy of every surfer. Of course you know that the nice offshore makes sweet barrels – but only when it’s not too strong. So let’s be honest: In fact, paddling on top of an absolute glassy wave and getting tanned in the current-free lineup until the chosen wave comes is best, especially for beginners.

So – the wind on the beach is a difficult topic. However, is it better to get rid of the wind and thus also of the annoying Kite Surfers? Far from it! Without wind there are also no waves. Each big swell that comes to France or to Spain is created by the power of the wind. But it’s not the wind close to shore. Instead, it all takes place hundred of kilometers and several degrees Celcius away, a bit south from Iceland. Brutal storms often get unleashed there due to deep pressure areas that stir the sea and transfer their energy to the water.


In this way fetch are created that are not visible in the deep sea, but that constantly roll on to the sunny coasts of France and Spain. Bigger waves with more energy “swallow” smaller ones and gain height and strength. By traveling hundreds of kilometers, the waves get arranged into clean sets. Conversely, you can deduce that unclean swells with small period are rather “fed” by winds close to the coast. So the next time when you’re at Atlantik Surf and pray to the wind god of your choice, don’t in any case tell him that you want no wind at all! Instead, you want as less wind as possible and if any, you want a slight offshore wind in order to have good waves – but you definitely want (mid-) big storms right before Iceland’s coast!

So, wind ahoi or whatever you say and till next time!


PS:  As you can see from the graphic, not only the wind takes part in generating waves but also local weather conditions such as low and high tides. I will go into that when we talk about Magic Sea Weed, Windfinder and other stuff.

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