Groundswell vs. Wind swell

For beginning surfers, the weather conditions aren’t that important. When you have your first surf lesson at Odysseys Surf School, we will teach you all the basics and only use the white waves. But for the more experienced surfers, the weather conditions are very important. Important factors are the type of break, the tide conditions and the swell. In this article we will tell you the difference about groundswell and wind swell and why the swell is so important.


The swell is group of waves that escapes from the storm in the ocean. The waves will all be of different size and power and will slightly heading in different directions. The average size of all these waves we call a swell. The swell that is heading to Kuta Beach creates the waves that we use to give the surf lesson. When the swell is big, it will create stronger and bigger waves, which makes it harder for beginners to surf. With our professional and experienced instructors and lifeguards, we still guarantee safety during the period when there is a big swell.


So what is the difference between the ground swell and wind swell?


A groundswell and a wind swell are both created by the wind blowing above the ocean. In a scientific standpoint, these are the same. However, from a surfer’s point of view there is one major difference between the ground and wind swell, the swell interval. When the swell has an interval of less than 10 seconds we are talking about a wind swell. Groundswells have an interval between 10 and 20 seconds and are created by stronger winds over long distances; we call this the fetch, and over longer periods of time. This gives the result that there is more energy transferred in to the water during the generation of the waves, which gives the bigger swell periods. A big difference between ground swells and wind swells is that waves from a ground swell can travel a big distances without losing any energy and wind swell don’t. The swell energy in ground swells can also extend down until an around 1.000 feet deep. This allows better interaction with the ocean floor when the ground swell moves into shallow water.


Wind swells are created by the wind blowing above the ocean close to the shore. This creates usually short period waves for decreased quality of surf conditions and choppy waters.


The conclusion is that groundswells are better for surfing because they carry more energy and create longer and stronger waves. This allows surfers to perform better maneuvers, ride the wave longer and have more fun. This doesn’t mean that surfing on wind swells isn’t fun! If you have any questions about the swell, please feel free to leave a comment. We are always here to answer.