When I think about getting out on the beach I’m thinking about what the tides and surf will be like. These are the two most important factors to me.
Surf is swell breaking on the beach. Swell starts turning into surf once the water below the swell contacts the bottom. So surf starts forming hundreds of yards out on shallow, flat beaches and it forms closer to shore on steeper beaches. Oceanographers have plenty to say about what surf is, how it forms and what things influence the height and shape of surf waves, so I won’t spend much time repeating that.
Surf conditions, as I experience them on the outer shores, result from a complex interplay of things like how big swell is, the period between waves, the height of wind waves, and swing. Wind speed and direction, swell direction and the steepness of the beach also shape surf conditions on the beach.