The Difference between Groundswell vs Wind Swell Waves
Knowing the difference between Groundswell vs Wind Swell can help you find quality waves and avoid surfing in areas where the waves are bad.
All waves are generated by wind, and its the origination of the wind that determines whether it’s a groundswell or wind swell.
Groundswell waves are generated by wind thousands of miles away, like a hurricane, a storm or even an earthquake (which has nothing to do with wind). These winds are typically more powerful and can create waves deeper in the ocean, hence the name groundswell. Groundswells can travel thousands of miles without losing power, this is why surfers prefer to surf a groundswell vs wind swell. Because the waves generate further away from land they become more unified and form clusters of waves known as “sets”. The sets then travel through the ocean until they meet land or objects in the ocean that allow them to “crest” or break above water. These types of waves can and will break in deep water depending on the strength of the swell, which is often referred to as the swell period. This is the measurement of time between successful waves. Groundswells are typically categorized as “Long period swells”.
Wind swell waves are generated by “local winds”. These are disturbance within a couple hundred miles of the coast. These waves are more stacked up on top of one another, rather than in sets, and can seem more consistent, but they lack power. Wind swells don’t generate much wave power below sea level, which means they can only travel so far before the waves dissipate. Waves from a wind swell tend to only break in shallow waters and appear less uniformed and “choppy”. This is also why most wind swells are categorized as “short period swells”.
For experienced surfers, the choice between groundswell vs wind swell is an easy decision. Groundswells produce better quality waves with more power allowing for more critical surfing maneuvers. For beginner surfers, learning to surf during a groundswell or a wind swell is not that important. When you take your first surf lesson with Kahaluu Bay Surf & Sea, we teach you all the basic surf techniques in the whitewash part of the wave which is the safest area for beginner surfers to catch their first wave!
If you have any questions about Groundswell vs Wind swell, feel free to leave a comment below. We are always happy to talk surf with you!