You’d reckon it was dead simple to say how big the surf was hey?! I mean, you look out to sea, some ou is on a wave, it's 3ft over his head, the ou is 6ft....so that's a 9ft wave right? Maybe not!
I wish wave size was collective - cos then I rode 6ft in the bay today! Four 6 inch waves at Fence, and eight 6 inch waves at Millers - that's 6ft in total right!? If only.......
The way in which surfers measure wave height varies depending on who you ask. In general there's 2 approaches: Face height - which refers to the height of the wave from the bottom to the top as it breaks; or Swell size - which is a measure of the swell in general and not specifically at a particular break. Option 2 gets a bit tricky cos a 6ft swell is going to produce a bigger wave on a shallow slab than a sloping beach for instance.
Hawaiians of course have their famous Hawaii-size scale, where they measure a wave from "the back". The ‘Hawaiian Scale’ theoretically measures the wave from the back but in practice is more a matter of dividing the face height in half. So a head-high wave would be around 3ft Hawaiian style - of course! Thus the bay would always be flat by Hawaiian standards. Oh wait - at the moment it's flat by our standards too!
There might be another reason why Hawaiians tend to undercall the wave size - they just scared to call it bigger than their bro's think it is and be seen to be exaggerating - something manly about calling it small! Not often men like to under-estimate size. A classic example of this was from the "Eddie Would Go" big wave comp a while ago, when the judges were asked how big it was. After a long silence one of the judges said "Overhead!" (the Eddie is only held when Waimea reaches 20ft+!)
So then how do you measure Chopes using the Hawaii size scale - it doesn't have a back! It can be double overhead on the face and barely have a back. How do you call that?! "Oh, I reckon it's like 2ft out there..."??
Seeing as we don't get much Hawaiian size stuff in the bay it's probably the most accurate to just call it on the face height - cos then most peeps can relate to what you're talking about without having to do any convoluted maths calculations. Or just going with an even safer call of saying the wave height as a function of which level of the anatomy the breaking lip is at - so waist high, chest high, shoulder high etc. Of course a bit of discrepancy comes in depending on who's riding the wave - cos chest high on Matt Elliot (6ft6) and on a grom (4ft) are gonna be two different things.
At this stage it's been flat for so long I'd settle for knee high.....Matt size.