How do YOU measure wave height?

So then, A majority of folks here…
Owe me an apology for being a$$holes. Since I measured the way I was taught all my life and was correct as far as the way “I” measured. And I apologize for not taking Trigonometry in highschool 15 years ago- :slight_smile:

So then in the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”, when they said a 12 story tidal wave was coming ashore, it was actually only a 6 story tidal wave which meant nothing to worry about…LOL!

Paddle easy,


Not always
When waves interact with the bottom shape in cove like areas, the shae of the bottom focuses the waves, the water stacks up, also a rogue wave is just averaged out in the buoy data.

This winter Pat (Onno Paddle) and I saw triple overhead and higher waves on different but close beaches from a swell that you would not have thought would give those kind of wawve heights. I’ll post pictures.

while a bit impractical to determine backside heigths from shore you begin to get a feel for the size of waves the more you are out in 'em.

I have been surfing for 2+ decades and it’s pretty EZ to get a pretty fair guess going just looking out at a set. When I do get outside I spend a lot of time judging the size from the backside, as staring UP the front of a swell about to break on top of you is a sure fire way to judge it TOO big.


is that a challenge!!!

– Last Updated: May-19-05 10:38 AM EST –

no an apology is not in order, I demand satisfaction. (sorry I've been reading too many aubrey/maturin books)...


You are invited to come out and paddle your rec boat anytime with me and the gang in the waves on Lake Michigan this year when the wind is up in South Haven, or St. Joe, and we will see what you are made of... We will see how on "the edge" you really are, and how well you gauge wave height from the trough!

Or better you can always suck it up and come out to the east race to surf some standing waves in your rec boat there too!

Ok…Like I have said before…
I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it…

Paddle easy,


Coffee, we can make this happen.
Kwikle’s in my neck of the woods. You can make a weekend of it and come stay at my place. You can even borrow the Alamax if you want.

Sounds good!!
I am meeting Tsunamichuck over at Sleeping Bear sometime around 6JUN05?? And the Memorial Weekend is booked (any ideas where?). Looking at your schedule you sent to us, I don’t see an open slot? I guess anytime after 6JUN05 is good???

Paddle easy,


P.S. Are you having a slow day at the office too? :wink:

Just use my place as a base.
I know I’ve got a lot going on this summer, but you are welcome to come and crash any time. Just give us some notice. Even if I can’t go with ya, come on down and accept Keith’s offer. You’ll have a blast.

When I sailed on Lake Michigan we used
the ‘Coast Guard’ method which the skipper said was from the backside of the wave. We had a hand held device that helped us sight and measure size and speed. I’ve never seen a device like it since and don’t know what it’s called. When someone says waves are 3’, I get a picture of pretty rough water for smallcraft.

Only One correct way
From the back. Bottom to top. From the front leads to exaggeration.

Good enough…

Measuring Waves
Size 1 - oh look ripples, must be wind chop

Size 2 - oh look rogue waves, Paul Allens yacht cruising by in the distance

Size 3 - oh look a cold front approaching look at all the little surfer chicks

Size 10 - RuppRRoe tuck your head between your legs, here comes another cat 4 hurricane



I judge from the noise and foam too
If it’s making a hell of a noise from the outside I think twice before dropping in. Also the amount of white froth you can see gives you an idea of how much power is going to get unleashed. Another way to judge in California is by how good the surfers look sitting outside waiting for the big ones. If they are all about 28 with shaved heads, tattoos and very expensive boards and wetsuits it’s probably going to be a big wave.

It’s all overhead in a Kayak
that’s why I don’t believe anything folks new to waves say about how big they were.

By Animal Size.

– Last Updated: May-19-05 12:16 PM EST –

Last month, when I was at the NE Paddlesport show, one ot the seminars that I attended was given by Steve Scherrer, of Wilderness Systems. He gave a slide show presentation on kayaking in the Pacific Northwest.

He rates waves by animal names. I'm serious! And, if you think about it, this is a quick way to relate wave sizes to someone. Just look at the wave and try to picture what type of animal would be the closest in size to the waves.

Little waves might be "Cat Waves". Small waves would be Dogs. Then Sheep. Then Cows. And the really huge waves are Elephants.

Ok, so it's not very scientific, but it is very visual, and it's real easy to picture and you do remember the wave sizes better this way.

~ Arwen ~

if they’re old, grey, and overweight…


steve (old, grey and perfect weight!)

yeppers again
mostly I use the animal sizes for wind waves in a developed sea. Breaking waves on a beach go thru a pretty quick metamorphis going from a mouse to an elephant in oh…about 4 seconds!

steve (the one from WS!)

Hawaiian Style is 2/3 California Style

– Last Updated: May-19-05 1:14 PM EST –

I have been told that Hawaiian style, measuring the back of the wave, is about two thirds California Style, measuring from tough to crest.

Waves seem so much bigger on the water than they do from shore that I often doubt accuracy without doubting sincerity...

I generally multiply my own estimate by 2/3 to get it nearer to reality. By comparing my estimates against photos from shore, I think this is about right.

And they seem much bigger sitting in a kayak looking up at it, than they do standing on a board looking down at it.

And then there is just so much totally ridiclous BS....

Most surfers I know tired of the BS long ago, and generally just don't give out that information except to others they have actually surfed with...It was bigger than that day at....

These days any waves estimate given here on PNET will be challenged. Get used to it. Or don't give out any info you can not prove with reliable eyewitnesses and photos!

Too complicated
There are just two sizes: “Yeehah!” and “Oh s***!” :wink:

Bouy Data
There are a few places in NORCAL that are consistenly bigger than bouy data. When Maverick’s is going off, it is often twice the bouy data.