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Hanging Ten: Surfing the web, the surfing the waves
waves The science of surfing tides rain links

Predicting Surf
by Rebecca Roberts
Aug. 6, 2002

What comes to mind when you hear the words "technology" and "surfing" in the same sentence? Surfing the Web, perhaps? Well, today we're going to tell you about using the Internet and satellite technology to find real waves. The World's Rebecca Roberts has been studying the latest, and most sophisticated, methods being used by surfers to find the best ocean waves.

RR: Using very sophisticated satellite data, wind speed and wind pressure data to find the perfect wave. All of these satellites that are orbiting the earth and sending data back to weather services are all available online and surfers have discovered them. So they use this weather data to look for the great ride.

Announcer: So, dude, tell me how this happens…

RR: These are Web sites that convey data for things like ocean circulation and global climate studies. They're used by scientists, geophysicists, to understand how the ocean moves. All of this information is actually online. The satellites basically locate potential storms, and they show up as images that look like a weather map on TV. But you need to know how close to the water those storms are to know what kind of effect they're going to have on the waves. There's also data of the surface air pressure, the surface wind speed, the height of the ocean surface, wave direction, and wave height. Actually, you need to check a couple of different satellites to get all of that data, but ultimately, if you're able to piece it all together, that will tell you how close the storm is and how much of an effect it's actually having on the ocean, and whether or not it will include some sweet waves.

Announcer: What's the recipe for a sweet wave?

RR: Basically, big storms equal big waves. When storms start to whip up a good wind speed, and the wind speed creates chop, every so often a wave accumulates that is basically a couple of waves slamming into each other. That one wave travels a little faster and a little farther than the smaller waves, and it kind of stands out on its own. That's what surfers are looking for: a big, thick, 50-foot wave that's not in the middle of all this other rough that the storm is causing.

Announcer: Can you have a picture of yourself taken on one of these waves by a spy satellite?

RR: Not just the spy cam satellites, but there are Webcams of most of the hot surfing spots, so that if you think maybe you'll get a couple of hours at the end of the day to go check out the waves at Half Moon Bay, you can log onto the net, look at the Webcam, and see if there are any waves there today.


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