Swell Matrix

Which buoy to use for your surf spot?

The buoy report for a surf spot depends on the angle of the swell and the time frame you’re looking at. Generally you’ll look at a buoy that’s nearby and with the same exposure as your surf spot.

For extra-long range reports look at buoys closer to the source of expected swell. Harvest and Baja California Sur are good buoys to use for Southern California West and South swell, respectively. Each is a few hundred miles away, so medium and long period swell heading your way will show up there a couple days ahead of time.

While it’s convenient if a buoy is right offshore from your surf spot, one buoy report covers many beaches- swell propagates through the ocean consistently. Some spots may magnify or reflect swell, but they do in regular and predictable ways. So with a little practice you can look at a forecast or live buoy data and know what a spot will be like.

The depth of the water the buoy is in also factors in to buoy choice. Deep Water buoys pick up more swell and can be a better predictor of set waves than more sheltered shallow water buoys.

Here’s a general guide to Swell Matrix buoys and areas they serve:

The five-digit number in the url refers to NOAA’s station id. As always, give us a shout if you would like to see any more buoy stations on Swell Matrix