Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to Read Surf Reports and Forecasts

By, C.R.S.I.

Finally! The workweek is over, the weekend is here...You wake up at the crack of dawn, pack a cooler full food and beer, pile your surfboards and friends into your car and rolled out to your local beach. You step out of the car, squint your eyes as you look out at the ocean and…..wtf!? The water is flatter than a Nebraska turnpike. You drive to the break…same thing. Your day is ruined, but this bummer situation could have been avoided if you had learned how to read a surf forecast!

Unlike regular weather reports or even snowboard/ski forecasts, surf forecasts are super technical, but they are very helpful and will be an asset in your search for waves, as long as you learn to interpret them correctly. Follow the CRSI guide, and the mystery of surf forecasts will vanish and next time you head out to your spot you will be armed with the knowledge and equipment you need for the day’s conditions.

The Basics of Reading Surf Reports

There are going to be four main factors that you need to pay attention to when reading a surf report; swell direction, wave height, tides and wind (water temperature and air temperature are important too, but don’t have as much of an impact on conditions).

Swell Direction

As you might guess, swell direction tells you from which direction a swell is originating. A west swell is coming from the west, a southwest swell coming from the southwest. Depending on their orientation on the coast, different surf breaks work better with different swell directions. The best way to figure out when the best conditions are going to be for your area is to research some of your favorite local spots to see how swell direction impacts each one, and learn where your best bet is for a given swell direction.

Wave Height (Swell height and period)

Most new surfers ask one thing before heading out: “How big are the waves going to be today?” The answer to this question actually depends on two things, swell height and swell interval or period.
For example, many surf reports will quote the wave height conditions like this: 4 feet at 11 seconds. The first number is the swell height and the second, the period. Both numbers are equally important in determining how big the conditions are going to be. The larger the swell interval/period, the larger the waves are going to be. 4 feet at 4 seconds, isn’t going to produce waves to write home about, but 4 feet at 22 seconds and you should get your ass out of bed and down to the beach as soon as you can!
Between surfers, wave height is also discussed and measured in reference to the human body. 1-3 foot waves are referred to as waist high, 3-5 as chest high, 6-8 foot as overhead, 10 and higher as double over head etc.


While swell direction will determine the existence of waves at your local spot, swell height and period determine the size, wind is the primary factor in determining the quality of the waves. Learning the basics of how wind affects surf is essential to predicting surfing conditions. Scientifically, the wind gives birth to waves by transferring energy from the air to the water. In a more specific surfing sense, winds can make or break the conditions at your local spot by either chopping up the water or making it butter smooth. A swell can be hitting perfectly, churning out huge waves, only to have everything ruined by a nasty on-shore wind. There are two basic rules you need to know:
What is an off-shore wind? What is an on-shore wind?

Offshore winds (or no winds) are generally good. The easiest ways to imagine this is to picture yourself facing the water. An off shore wind would be hitting you in the back or blowing “off the shore.”

On-shore winds are generally bad as they can take a sweet swell and turn it into choppy, messy waves. These are the opposite of off-shore winds. If you picture yourself facing the water again, the wind would be blasting you in the face or blowing “onto the shore.”

In review, Off-shore winds…good. No wind….good. On-shore winds….bad. Most buoys will measure wind based on a compass reading and speed (Knots). So if your spot faces northwest and the report shows a wind blowing SSE (south/southeast) at 10 knots, you would conclude that there is a light off-shore wind. Good news!


The final factor we will discuss in this post differs at every break. Tides change the depth of the water, which either hides or exposes the rocks, beach or points, on which waves break.
Some spots work best at high tide, some at mid tide and some at low tide. This does not mean it isn’t possible to surf during off times of the day (in fact you may enjoy the fact that the water is less crowded), it just refers to the ideal time of day, when waves are most likely to be going off.

Now you have the tools to read surf reports and make knowledgeable predictions of the conditions at your local spots. Many sites also have beach cameras that show a live feed of wave conditions. These can give you an idea of what the waves are looking like in real-time.

We at CRSI provide real time Tamarindo surf reports and weather on their website courtesy of Surfline.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Radical Meyerhoffer longboard designs, a new frontier or a gimmick?

Check out these wild new surfboards from Thomas Meyherhoffer, a former Apple employee who took a radical approach to re designing the longboard. He has one a few design contests around the world and so far his boards have been getting rave reviews and have been getting mentioned in non-surf media such as Men's Health.

According to the company, the unconventional shape maximizes ease of paddling while allowing for unmatched maneuverability. We will see if the design catches on. The company is also launching a line of shortboards this spring.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Andy Irons Dies Tuesday - R.I.P One Of The Greats

Surfing lost one of its greatest this week when Andy Irons, Hawaii native and brother of Bruce Irons passed away during a layover in Texas.

Here are a couple of stories detailing what happened and the response from the surfing community as well as some sick videos of him ripping.

Andy Irons
(July 24,1978 – November 2, 2010)

Story detailing the circumstances surrounding his death

Billabong story on Andy Irons paddle out memorial

Andy Irons Videos

I surf because...

Free surfing

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

big barrels, big air

surfing camp costa rica
costa rica surf camp crsi

While our costa rica surfing classes may not get you surfing like the dudes above....it's a start!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Alana Blanchard Profile

Alana Blanchard
Birthdate: March 5th, 1990
Want to learn to surf like Alana? Why not attend a surfing camp in costa rica?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pop to Your Feet Quickly and Smoothly


Find more surfing tips on the CRSI website.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Summer 2010 Pics Up + Kids and Family Surfing Videos!

Hola amigos!

New photos are up from August as well as a cool video of some of our Kids Camp surfers!

Check em out here at the Costa Rica Surf Institute website.

Pura Vida!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Sessions Tamarindo Style

As the high season is winding down I would like to reflect on the last couple of months here in Costa Rica at the Costa Rica Surf Institute.We have had many great groups and people come through. Some from the States, some from Germany, Italy, INDIA, Norway, France and Canada. This year we also created a new part to our program for FAMILIES.

The Family Surfing Program has been an excellent addition for us as well as for the countless families that roll through the school. The KIDS, even though sometimes a lot of work, have been a an absolute joy to work with, and each one has been talented and tough. Every single kid from the ages of 6 on up were capable of surfing, and more often than not they were even better than the adults (ranging from 18-23 years of age). But shhh I didn't say that.

As for the adults, they have been a blast as well. To watch people IMPROVE from their first day to the end of their second week is amazing. We teach people not only to surf but be able to understand surfing. And for the people who take our two week program the difference is amazing by the second week and they could truly surf anywhere in the WORLD (depending on the wave size) and know; the etiquette, how to choose boards, the type of breaks, how to ride and etc..

Every week, we have been taking our second, third, fourth and fifth week students to AVELLENAS, which is another beach about 45 minutes away. Here, they are able to test the skills they have learned in a new environment where the surf is bigger and better. Although much more difficult, each one of our students has PROSPERED here and it is always a treat to visit a new beach, especially one as beautiful as Avallanas.

The HIGHLIGHT of the summer must have come about 2 weeks ago during a thursday when we had everyone out in the water at the same time. We were over in capitan suizo, we had 3 people taking video and all our students and almost all our instructors out. We were a FORCE to be reckoned with. The sun was out, the water was clear and the waves were good. I just remember sitting out there with everyone as we were all LAUGHING and surfing for three hours straight. No one wanted to get out of the water, so we all stayed for probably an extra hour or so, including all the instructors. I remember thinking, this is what surfing is all about, this is what our institute is all about. It was a moment of CLARITY where I think we all realized (instructors and students alike) that our hard work was paying off. After that day I remember Alejandro (the institute manager) say "those who are the best surfers, have the most fun". How true this statement is for anything one could do.

Lastly, I want to say thank you to all our great INSTRUCTORS who are not only phenomenal surfers but are also SELFLESS and amazing teachers, we would not be able to do what we do without all of you; Kurt, Zach, Paula, Jose, Omar, Francisco, Kairo, Nahuel, Geovany, Victor, Reuben. Also, thank you to all our great students as well, you all put the fun in surfing..

Until Next time, Hasta luego.........


Saturday, July 24, 2010

New pics, nasty wipeout vids.

July is wrapping up and we are getting ready for August. We have had a great summer so far and can't wait to end it with a bang!

Props to Alejandro, Michael, Jordan, and the rest of the staff for stepping up and making it a successful summer season at CRSI!

New pics and vids are up from the summer at the Costa Rica Surf Institute FB.

Check out this video of a nasty wipeout.



Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Installment: Surf Hotties

Pretty self explanatory:


HOW TO: Bottom Turns Explained

The bottom turn is one of the most important aspects of a good ride. So what is it? The bottom turn is the first maneuver a surfer will make after dropping in. It helps generate speed and power and sets the surfer up for the rest of the wave.

How to:

1. As you make your way down the face of the wave you will need to push off the bottom (trough) of the wave and turn your board away from the peak (put the breaking part of the wave behind you)

Frontside: (facing the wave, looking out at the ocean): Keeping your eyes where you want to end up, bend your knees and push the toe end of your board into the wave, using your hips to turn the board in an arc back towards the face. Be careful not to over commit to the turn or you will kick out over the top and lose all your power.

Backside: (facing the beach, back to the face of the wave) Keeping your eyes where you want to end up, bend your knees and push the heel end of your board into the wave. Turn until you are in the power zone of the wave or kick of the lip and glide back down. The same rules for over commitment apply here.

Confusing enough?

Try this video chock-full of bottom turns in oz and cool time lapse effects.


Or join us at one of our costa rica surfing camps and let us teach you first hand!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More new videos up! Contest in the works...


Awesome videos of our winter 2010 students progressing and ripping waves!

CRSI also has a web-contest in the works. For now the details are a secret, but the grand prize is going to involve a FREE week-long surf camp in Costa Rica!

Stay tuned!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thrilla for Chinchilla! And some brrr surf pics!

Check out these frigid waves.

makes you glad to surf in Tamarindo. no wetsuits.

And in some non- surfing Costa Rica news:

Costa Rica has a new female president. Laura Chinchilla, won the presidential election on February 7th 2010. She is the protégée of Óscar Arias, the outgoing president.

According to the economist, "Her party was originally social-democratic, under Arias but it has since moved to the center. She has promised to continue his economic policies and his wooing of foreign investment in industries such as semiconductors and medical equipment."

Read more here:


New Video Up!

New Videos Up!

Learn to surf with CRSI!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Check out the new website layout

Been experimenting with some new layouts for the crsi surfing website.

Check it out and direct feedback to costaricasurfinstitute@gmail.com

Go Saints!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New video up from CRSI students: Joel and Eva!

Check out CRSI lessons from late January featuring Joel and Eva! Great job guys.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Surfing FAQ: Surfing Lingo Part 1

Hello all.

This week's FAQ is going to be dedicated to common surfing lingo/slang/terms. It can be intimidating enough on the water without trying to understand the garbled lexicon of you average surf bum. We will slowly build up a glossary of terms to get you started sounding like a surfer (or a dumbass)... or at least to allow you to decipher what the guy selling you wax at your local shop is talking about.

Surfing Glossary Part 1

AGGRO -Always aggressive.

AIR -When surfer + board leave the face of the wave to become airborne.

BACKSIDE -Turns or rotations in the direction your toes point towards, so that your back is facing the outside of the waves arc

BOTTOM TURN -A turn at the bottom of the wave face. The turn you make after you drop in to establish speed and direction (either to the right or left)

DROPPING IN - Catching a wave that is already occupied > taking off on the shoulder while someone is taking off deeper (closer to the break)



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy New Year


Hope everyone had a great holiday break. We were busy surfing and running camps all through Christmas and the New Year. Check out our new pictures here:

Surf photos

New FAQ up later this week!