Santa Barbara Surf Report - Interpreting Buoy Data

Following are a number of charts that provide a glimpse into swell, wind, and tide data. Part of learning to surf is learning the art and science of surf forecasting! Though looking at the raw buoy data may take some getting used to, don't be intimidated. With a little practice, a few rules of thumb you can get up to speed with interpreting raw buoy data for Santa barbara and say goodbye to Surfline.

Current Swell Conditions

This section shows current wave heights for Southern California. Generally, the best way to get a snapshot of the swell energy in and around Santa Barbara is this this live model. The surf at our local breaks is most closely approximated by the color of the map directly adjacent to the coastline.

Tips on interpreting this graph:

  • Teal is good
  • Santa Barbara is identifiable by the two lumps, that look like a nose and a chin smack dab in the middle of Pt. Conception and Ventura
  • Even if it is 6-8ft in the outer waters, this doesn't mean this energy will reach Barbara, this is due to swell energy dissipation and island shadowing (FYI Schaler Perry)
Southern California swell model

Nw Swell Forecast (Harvest Buoy 071)

This report shows the projected wave height at Point Conception, a leading indicator for Santa Barbara surf forecasting. Typically, a wave height of 10ft or above on the Harvest Buoy translates to significant swell for Santa Barbara county. A couple rough rules of thumb:

  • 8ft Harvest = 2-3ft surf here in Santa Barbara
  • 10ft Harvest = 3-4ft surf here
  • 14ft Harvest = 5ft surf here

*This can vary based on direction and swell period, but for now, this should be enough to be dangerous with local surf forecasting 

Harvest Buoy 7-day Forecast

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