"Wave size remains one of surfing’s most popular topics of debate. Each surfers wave scale differs depending on who you ask and there are a great number of variables one has to factor in before calling the size of the surf! Its not a scientific formula but more of a 'guesstimation' based on the surfers skill level, surf knowledge, personal sense of 'machoism' and how jealous you want to make the guy asking.
As a 'greenie' to the sport, your surf report comes in and you hear the surf is a punchy 3ft. You think rad, I’m average height so the surf should be about waist high. However when you rock up at the beach, its breaking somewhere overhead and you begin to wonder if the guy reporting could have been 7ft tall! So what happened? In the surfing code you are just expected to know…a surfing 1ft is not a regular 1ft…and when you think you have the formula sorted, someone starts calling it in Hawaiian sizes.
Surfers loosely measure the wave face then halve it. So a 6ft face becomes a 3ft wave. The surfing scale looks like this: 1ft = ankle to knee high, 2ft waist to shoulder high, 3ft head high and anything past overhead becomes 4-6ft.
When calling on the Hawaiian scale, everything is called SMALL until its well overhead. So a regular 6ft becomes Hawaiian 2ft as measuring is done from the back of the wave. How do you do this when you are standing in the car park?
Big wave surfing legend Buzzy Trent once said “Waves are not measured in feet or inches but increments of fear” so in South African terms this translates into playful, alert, nervous, knyp or kamikaze!
Watch out for those puffy chested guys who tend to under call it…as a newbie you may have just paddled out in the biggest surf you have ever ridden, come back to the beach and he then claims it was just 2ft!
So if we are not measuring in actual feet, not living in Hawaii and we all differ in height...the questions reasons what measuring stick are we actually using?