What is Swell in Surfing?

What is Swell in Surfing?

On calm days, when all the peaks are flat, it is very common to hear surfers saying that the sea will improve because a swell will enter. But what is a swell and what does it have to do with surfing? The word, in English, comes from the verbs to swell, dilate and grow and represents a meteorological phenomenon capable of generating large ripples.

Generally, waves are formed by the action of winds on the surface of seas, lagoons and oceans. But when there is a swell, the swell is caused by a storm on the high seas. The pressure exerted by the storm on the surface of the water forms a center, around which waves propagate from the inside out and can travel for long distances, becoming larger when the sea gets shallow, forming large waves on the coast.

It is not every peak that can receive a large swell with surfing conditions. It will depend on other factors: the characteristic of the bench, the distance where the wave breaks, the shape of the wave, the current, among others. To plan  to surf   a large swell, you must study the characteristics of the desired peak and be informed about the wave forecast. Not long ago, we listed here on the blog 10 peaks in Brazil that support big swells: The 10 biggest waves in Brazil.

be informed about the wave forecast
The 10 biggest waves in Brazil

Below you can see a video from the  Weather Weather   website, with explanations about swells and an experience that shows how it is formed:

Weather Weather

It is important not to confuse the phenomenon that forms the swell with the phenomenon that causes a tsunami. The first is a meteorological phenomenon, while the second is a geological phenomenon. The cause of a tsunami is a tidal wave, that is, an earthquake caused by the movement of tectonic plates at the bottom of the sea that agitate the ocean forming waves that can reach the coast over 10 meters high.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do different types of swells affect surfing conditions, and what should surfers understand about swells for optimal surfing?
Different types of swells, such as ground swells and wind swells, affect wave size, shape, and consistency. Understanding swell direction, period, and source can help surfers choose the best spots and times for surfing, ensuring better and safer wave riding experiences.

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