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Bigsalty Posts > Weather & forecasting > Untether the summer weather

Untether the summer weather

3 ways to turn a summer session in to a session of a lifetime.

Windsurfing Adventure

Fortune favours the brave. Including those that go in search for something a little different from your average summer weather forecast.

Getting out on the water in summer is often reward enough regardless of how exciting the conditions. The warm water, sunshine and warm temperatures can turn an average session in to a meditative relaxation. But what do you do when the weather systems seems to get stuck and you're finding the same ol' conditions getting a little bit tired.... Do you get complacent and get on with some jobs; or role the dice in favour of adventure?

The saying: 'A change is as good as a holiday' holds true if you're looking to put a bit of spice back in to your time on the water. Here are 3 ways to turn a summer session to an all-time session.


1. Try a new location

We are creatures of habit and often go to the same beaches based on a given forecast without considering alternatives. At Bigsalty Weather we are focused on finding the best for a given forecast and have set up unique wind & swell alerts for this purpose based on weather and swell forecast analysis of your Watchlist locations.

Adventure vs convenience

You can broadly categorise locations based on a) convenience (nearby locations) or b) adventure (those that are worth a gamble: win or bust). So choose locations from both these categories for your Watchlist and wind & swell alerts. It’s very tempting to go to the beach that everyone else goes to, but experience shows that it’s not always where the best conditions are, so why not role the dice and have an adventure? When the curtain closes at the end of the show the sessions you’ll remember are the ones that involved adventure.

Wind angle & waves 

Look for waves. Summer time weather patterns can be unexciting but the difference between a cross-shore and on-shore wind can be the difference between flat water or rideable waves and wind angle can change significantly over a short stretch of coastline. Our Angle Grinder is a simple tool to tell you what wind angle a beach is for a certain wind direction. The effect on wave height of a prevailing onshore wind can be considerable given an adequate fetch.

Here’s a good example of this. During a typical summer time moderate to fresh south west wind with no ground swell, in Dorset:

- Avon Beach will have a cross-shore wind angle with flat water and some bump and jump. 
- Southbourne Beach 10 minutes drive away, will be cross-onshore with up to head high rideable waves. 

And just around the corner was....Photo by Olly Wood.

Working out expected height of wind swell can be a useful addition to the Bigsalty swell forecasts.

Here's a table that relates wind strength to wave fetch. Force 4 wind generating a 6 foot wave? Uh huh.... yes please...

Fetch (nautical miles)5102050100200500
Force 3 (7-10kt)
Wave (ft) - 1 2 3 3 4 4
Duration (hrs) - 3 5 10 18 24 48
Force 4 (11-16kt)
Wave (ft) 1 2 3 5 6 7 7
Duration (hrs) 1.5 2 4 6 12 24 48
Force 5 (17-21kt)
Wave (ft) 2 3 5 8 10 11 12
Duration (hrs) 1 2 3 6 11 22 48

Maintain the learning curve

Safety is important but so is gaining experience and the more experienced you are in a wide variety of conditions the safer your water ventures will become overall. Exploring new locations can dramatically increase experience and your ability level. There can be a great deal of difference between launch areas or on-water conditions in a short space of coastline due to:

- tidal flow
- wind angle
- ease of launch
- sea state

Give somewhere else a go and it could be a session to remember, and at worst it could be one you learn a lot from.

2. Look for local effects

When winds are light then local winds frequently take over. Sea breezes are well known but in hilly areas anabatic and katabatic winds occur that can increase and bend wind from the forecasted direction. In regions with mountains and valleys a wind shifts can be routine. Additionally on a small scale wind can be steered by local topography and provide a boost to an otherwise marginal forecast. These adjustments aren’t typically accounted for in the numerical model’s forecasted conditions (although we do allow for these within the Bigsalty Ratings) so keep an eye out for these to spice up your summer time conditions.

Sea breezes

Summer time is the season for sea breezes. Not everywhere gets them but in warmer climates e.g. Mediterranean they also occur in autumn and winter. Requirements for sea breezes are:

- Land must be warmer than the sea
- Light morning winds
- Less than half cloud cover

Keep your eye out for tale tell signs of cloud build up over land and clear sky at sea, a sign of convection that means the wind engine is turning on.

Topographical effects

Examining maps for topographical features that can steer and squeeze wind is surprisingly useful. A few examples:

- Promontory squeeze. Wind squeeze due to a promontory or headland can be enough to increase wind conditions to small scale geography local to the area effecting conditions within a range as small as 200 metres. These sorts of situations are often ignored or overlooked but can significantly improve a session.

- Valley squeeze. Wind channelled and bent can speed up. A good example of this in North wales is Plas Menai in a north-east or south-west wind.

Tidal flow

Observing tidal movements can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of a session when your choice of location is affected by tides. Wind against tide can make for some chop and wave formation with the added bonus of an increased apparent wind. 


3. No wind, no swell, no problem

It’s never to late to try something new and most of the water based pastimes we enjoy are pretty easy on the body so age and fitness aren’t always a valid excuse. Time and perhaps pride are the key casualties. At Bigsalty Weather we are strong advocates of getting stuck in to a wide range of water sports depending on the conditions hence why we are expanding our rating tools. Here are some suggestions:

No wind, no swell Paddle board, fish, spear-fish, snorkel.
Wind, no swell Windsurf, sail, kitesurf.
Wind, swell Windsurf, kite surf, surf, body surf, body board.
No wind, swell Surf, body surf, body board, paddle board.

As you can see, in almost any weather conditions you can be doing something exceptional and exciting. Isn’t that good news?! Remember that certain locations provide shelter for both wind and swell. A preliminary indicator for this is by determining the wind angle at beach which our Angle Grinder tool will help you with. In addition a knowledge of coastal features can provide you with sheltered locations for swell and wind that favour a particular water sport.

And finally…

Safety when visiting new locations is important, ask around for tips and advice. Don’t be shy. Let our Bigsalty location guides help and follow these rules:

- Have a healthy respect for the conditions.

- It may be summer time and the water may seem ‘warm’ but if you prepare for self-rescue then you’ll realise that a good wetsuit is necessary even on the warmest of days to get you back to shore safely. Cold can get to you suddenly and with little warning.

- Always have a get out of jail strategy if equipment breaks.

- Use the appropriate safety equipment (leashes with paddle boards etc…)

- Check the UV forecast and apply sun protection. We recommend the water block SolRX sunscreen specifically for water sports use.

So that’s it, step outside the comfort zone, try someplace new and enjoy a mini adventure. All it takes is a role of the dice.

Weather & forecasting

Posted: Wed 16 Aug, 2017
by admin

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