How To Ignore Long Range Forecasts…

To estimate or calculate in advance, especially to predict weather conditions by analysis of meteorological data.

If you try and calculate the probability of anything weather related happening with any certainty, let’s just say will there be good surf a week from today the maths involved is so complex that you soon suck all the numbers out of the world and get a really big headache.

The weather is a complex beast made of water, air, heat, maths and chaos. Predicting what it will do next is next to impossible. It’s like trying to punch smoke. No matter how many RAMs your weather centre’s supercomputer has, even if you have on of them fancy double screen set ups, it means nothing. If your supercomputer can do more calculations per second than the entire population of China with an abacus on each hand then well done you. But you might as well flip a coin. The coin flip operator will be just as accurate. He has a fiddy percent strike rate after all … and looks cool.

You see forecasting the weather, even with all our modern weather buoys, satellite data, Hadron colliders and string theories is just, at best, an educated guess. Add in trying to get swell predictions anywhere near accurate and it’s a guess times a hunch times a thousand.

All that happens is you chuck in the recorded data, press the big button that says ‘GO’ on the computer and watch it burp out a forecast. A word which needs repeating a: “forecast”, not “fact”, a possibility based on the available evidence and similar looking prior events which becomes increasingly implausible the further it proceeds down times unfaltering highway away from the known bit at the beginning.

It’s like those sci-fi fantasies where there are a million parallel universes all coexisting. From any set of data the weather machine could do whatever it pleases. The possibility of the computer generated result being anything like the actual weather in a weeks time is impossibly remote. In one of the million universes it will be cock on. In the rest you’ll be staring at a flat ocean and wondering why you got so excited the week before. It’s hard enough for the weather bods to predict if it will rain the next day. Forecasting weeks ahead is a mugs game, especially in that most chaotic of systems the Atlantic, which doesn’t play nice like its brethren the Indian and Pacific.

But that doesn’t stop the forecasts, now readily available on the Interwebs for up to 16 mind-boggling days ahead. Which people see. Then get all excited and start doing a jig about how the best surf ever is looming. Then they start making plans, booking ferries and flights. Then a week later everyone wonders what the fuss was about as the charts have changed wholesale and now it’s going to be a few feet and onshore as opposed to 20-foot and best ever.
It’s confusing for all. Where one day there’s a red beast on the WAM charts that puts the red spot on Jupiter to shame by the next day it’s wimped out and gone all green and ill looking.

Long range forecasts are ephemeral things. Shimmering in our sight for the briefest moments until the models are run again and a fresh set of charts appear. The best ever onion ring that was there in the morning is replaced by an unsightly carbuncle of a low with all kinds of unpleasantness by the afternoon and by the end of the next day it’s a flipping high.
Looking at long range charts is like tossing a coin and basing your happiness on what’s cast.
‘Heads! Hurrah! Happiness reigns!’
‘Tails? Arse barns. Best flagellate myself again.’

Long range forecasts are addictive because good surf makes us happy. Knowing that good surf is imminent makes us do smiling. Just the knowledge of an impending adrenalin and endorphin speedball shot acts like a drug. This is why we are drawn moth like to their digitised flame.

Older surfers will remember the four day weather fax of pressure maps: a badly printed piece of shiny paper that cost you £1.50 a pop. A thin sheet shared around like a religious artefact. But those four days of pressure gave you a perfect insight into how the surf was shaping up. We can learn lessons from the past. Try just looking at the charts for four days, like the kick ass Met Office Atlantic maps online.
We need to go cold turkey on anything longer. The probability is on your side, the models firmer, the likelihood of the desired good surf better if the charts are playing ball. You can dare to dream, to get excited and start waxing your gun.

Pressure systems aren’t conformists. They don’t do what anyone tells them. They’re free spirits just cruising on the jet stream. They don’t care if they crush your dreams of perfect surf. We just have to accept what they give us with good grace and maybe learn to just go surfing when there are surfable waves. Offshore, onshore, whatever. Just get wet. Howling onshore surfs can be hilarious, especially when it’s so windy carrying your board down the sand is a right kerfuffle. We need to not be so caught up in the future and concentrate on the now.
If in any doubt about going for a surf try this simple routine:

Is there surf?
YES: Go surfing*
NO: Do something else.

*If ‘YES’ to the above question then there’s a qualifier: Is the surf a size that will make me shart my wetsuit in fear and make me cry for momma?
NO: Go surfing.
YES: Do something else. Like drink a cup of concrete and harden the hell up.

That’s all there is to it. Now stop wondering what the weather is going to do in a two weeks time and go surfing today.