Offshore vs Onshore Wind: Surfing Explained

Is the wind offshore or onshore today for surfing?” 

Who cares about offshore vs onshore winds! Should you care? Why should I?

We explain offshore vs onshore wind in surfing and the impact it can have on your surf sessions. 

You should care, it matters!

Surfing Offshore vs Onshore Winds

Offshore vs onshore winds will definitively change the experience of your surf, but the good news is once you understand the difference you are in control.

Onshore winds blow from the ocean to the land, creating choppy, less ideal waves for surfing.

Offshore winds blow from land to the ocean, producing clean, well-shaped waves, making them preferred for surfing.

There are hundreds more surfing terms to learn, we've got your covered! Check our surfing terms glossary

Offshore vs Onshore Wind Diagram

offshore vs onshore winds
Offshore vs Onshore Wind Beach Diagram

The Difference Between Offshore vs Onshore Winds

Surfers often talk about offshore vs onshore winds, and these terms are crucial to grasp. 

Onshore winds blow from the ocean towards the shore, creating waves that break closer to the beach. These waves can be choppier and less predictable, making it more challenging to ride them smoothly. 

On the other hand, offshore winds blow from the land towards the ocean, grooming the waves into clean, organised lines. Offshore winds are a surfer's dream, as they create waves that are perfect for riding.

Surf Lingo for Offshore vs Onshore Waves

When the wind is onshore, surfers often describe the waves as "sloppy" or "messy." 

These waves may have sections that close out, making it hard to ride them for long.

In contrast, offshore waves are often referred to as "clean" and "perfect." Surfers love riding these waves because they offer long, open faces and smooth rides. 

So, when you hear surfers talking about "clean waves" or "sloppy waves," you'll know what they mean. It's important to remember different winds, whether offshore or onshore impact the shape of the waves.

Offshore Wave Names

Surfers are a creative bunch, and they've given names to different types of offshore waves based on their shapes and characteristics. 

One famous type is the "barrel," which forms when a wave hollows out, creating a tube-like shape. Catching a ride in the barrel is considered the pinnacle of surfing.

Another type is the "point break," which occurs when waves break along a point of land, creating long, rideable waves. Point breaks are known for their consistency and are a favourite among surfers.

Onshore Wave Names

Just like offshore waves, onshore waves have their own set of names. "Mushy" waves are often used to describe onshore waves that lack power and have soft, rolling sections. 

These waves are less challenging but also less exciting for experienced surfers. Onshore waves can also be "closeouts," where the entire wave breaks at once, offering little opportunity for a ride. 

These waves are generally best suited for beginners who are learning to surf.

Is Offshore vs Onshore Wind Better for Surfing?

Surfers often prefer offshore vs onshore winds when they surf.

Why? Because offshore winds are like the surfers' best friend. 

They blow from the land toward the ocean, grooming the waves into clean, organised lines. These waves are perfect for riding, with long, open faces that offer a smooth and exciting ride. 

Offshore winds also help the waves stay up longer, allowing for more extended rides. In contrast, onshore winds blow from the ocean towards the shore, creating choppy, messy waves that are less predictable and challenging to surf. 

So, the short answer is that offshore winds are better for surfing and can make your experience more enjoyable.

What is Cross Shore Wind?

In the world of surfing, you might hear the term "cross shore wind." This refers to winds that blow parallel to the shoreline different to offshore vs onshore winds.

In other words, they don't come directly from the ocean (offshore) or from the land (onshore). Cross shore winds can have a mixed effect on the waves. 

They can create some interesting wave patterns, making it a bit more challenging to surf. These winds might push the waves sideways or at an angle to the shore, which can create diverse wave shapes. 

While cross shore winds may not always be ideal for perfect waves, they can offer variety and an exciting challenge for experienced surfers who want to try something different. So, if you hear about cross shore winds, it means the waves might have unique characteristics you'll need to adapt to during your surf session.

Types of Cross Shore Winds

Cross shore winds can come in various forms, and each type can affect the waves and your surfing experience differently. Here are some common types of cross shore winds.

Side-Shore Wind

Side-shore winds blow directly parallel to the shore. They can create ideal conditions for riding consistent waves, as they don't disrupt the wave faces as much as onshore winds. 

Surfers often prefer side-shore winds for their predictability and the ability to catch longer rides.

Cross-Onshore Wind

Cross-onshore winds blow slightly from the ocean toward the shore. While they may create rideable waves, they can also make the waves a bit choppy and unpredictable.

Surfers may need to adapt their techniques to surf in cross-onshore conditions compared to offshore vs onshore winds.

Cross-Offshore Wind

Cross-offshore winds blow slightly from the land towards the ocean. These winds can create clean, organised waves similar to offshore winds but may not be as ideal. 

While they provide some grooming effect, they can also push the waves sideways, making it challenging to find the perfect spot to catch a ride.

Variable Cross Shore Winds

Sometimes, winds can change direction, shifting from side-shore to cross-onshore or cross-offshore, and vice versa. This variability can add an extra layer of complexity to your surfing experience, requiring adaptability and good wave reading skills.

Offshore vs Onshore Winds Video

Offshore vs Onshore Wind Explained

Wind Tracking Apps

Staying updated with current wind conditions is essential for surfers looking for the perfect wave. Wind tracking apps can be your best friend in this regard. These apps provide real-time data on wind speed, direction, and other valuable information. Some popular wind tracking apps include Windy, Wind Alert, and Surf Line.

These apps allow you to monitor the wind conditions at your favourite surf spots, helping you decide when and where to paddle out. Furthermore these apps allow you to see if your favourite tricks such as 360's are achievable on the day.

They also offer weather forecasts, wave height predictions, and tide information, making them valuable tools for planning your surfing adventures. 

Onshore Wind

Onshore wind is a crucial term in the world of surfing. It refers to the type of wind that blows from the ocean towards the shore. In other words, the wind comes from the water and moves towards the land. 

Onshore winds are an essential factor that affects wave quality and, ultimately, the surfing experience.

Should I Surf If the Wind Is Onshore?

Surfing in onshore winds can be challenging, and it's a decision that depends on your skill level and what you're looking for in your surf session. Here are a few factors to consider.


If you're just starting out or a keen grom, onshore winds may be more forgiving as they create smaller, less powerful waves. This can be an excellent learning environment, giving you a chance to practise your skills in milder conditions.

Experienced Surfers

Experienced surfers might find onshore winds less ideal because they tend to make the waves messy and unpredictable. It can be harder to catch clean, long rides in these conditions.

Onshore Wind Direction

The specific direction of onshore wind varies depending on your location. 

For instance, if you're on a beach facing west, onshore wind comes from the west and moves towards the east, blowing over the waves.

Is Onshore Wind Good for Surfing?

Generally, onshore wind is not considered good for surfing, especially if you're looking for perfect, clean waves. It tends to make the waves messy and can create closeouts, where the entire wave breaks at once, making it challenging to ride. 

However, for beginners or those just looking to have fun in the water, onshore wind can provide smaller, more manageable waves.

Is Onshore Wind Good for Surfing in California?

Surfing conditions in California can vary greatly depending on the region, so the impact of onshore wind varies as well. 

Onshore winds are more common along the California coast, particularly during the afternoon. While they may not be ideal for experienced surfers, California still offers plenty of surf spots with varying wind conditions. 

Some areas, like northern California, can have excellent surf even in onshore winds. It's essential to check local surf reports, as well as the specific beach and wind conditions to determine if it's a good day for surfing.

Offshore Wind

Offshore wind is a term frequently used in the world of surfing. It describes a type of wind that blows from the land (typically from the shore) towards the ocean. In other words, the wind comes from the land and moves out to sea. 

Offshore winds play a significant role in shaping and influencing the quality of waves at a surf spot.

What is Offshore Wind Surfing?

Offshore wind surfing, also known as "offshore surfing," is the act of riding waves that are influenced by offshore winds. 

Surfers often favour offshore wind conditions because these winds groom the waves into clean, well-formed shapes, making for ideal surfing conditions. 

Offshore wind surfing is all about catching those perfect waves and enjoying long, smooth rides on the water.

What Direction is Offshore Wind?

The specific direction of offshore wind depends on the orientation of the coastline and the surf spot. For instance, if you are on a beach facing west, offshore winds would blow from the land (west) towards the ocean (east). 

If you are on a beach facing south, offshore winds would come from the south and move towards the north.

Is Offshore Wind Good for Surfing?

Offshore vs onshore wind is generally considered excellent for surfing. Here's why:

Clean Waves: Offshore winds have a grooming effect on the waves, ensuring they remain clean, organised, and unbroken as they move towards the shore.

Long, Open Faces: Offshore winds create long, open faces on the waves, allowing surfers to catch rides that are both consistent and smooth.

More Control: Surfers find it easier to control their boards and manoeuvre in offshore wind conditions, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced surfers.

Wave Shape: These winds can shape waves into interesting forms, including barrels (tube-shaped waves), point breaks, and other surfers' favourites.

How Does Offshore Wind Affect the Waves?

Offshore wind has a significant impact on the waves, and it's one of the main factors that surfers pay close attention to. 

When offshore winds blow from the land towards the ocean, they create several effects on the waves:

Grooming Effect

Offshore winds smooth out the surface of the waves, resulting in clean, well-organised wave faces. This grooming effect is highly favourable for surfing.

Clean, Long Faces

The wind holds up the wave faces, preventing them from breaking prematurely. This produces long, open faces that are ideal for riding.

Hollow Shapes

Offshore winds can make the waves hollow or tube-shaped, which is a dream for many surfers, as riding inside a tube is considered the pinnacle of the sport.

Why is Offshore Wind Considered the Best for Surfing?

Offshore vs onshore wind is widely considered the best wind condition for surfing for several reasons.

Unbroken Waves

Offshore winds groom the waves, ensuring they are clean, well-shaped, and unbroken as they approach the shore. This creates perfect surfing conditions.

Smooth Rides

The long, open faces of waves in offshore wind conditions provide surfers with extended rides, allowing for more manoeuvres and excitement.


Offshore winds offer more predictability in wave behaviour, making it easier for surfers to anticipate and catch waves.

Ideal Wave Shapes

The wind often shapes the waves into tube-like formations (barrels), which are a sought-after challenge and thrill for surfers.

How Much Offshore Wind is Too Much When You're Surfing?

While offshore wind is typically excellent for surfing, too much wind can be a problem. Strong offshore winds can make the waves too steep and fast, which may be intimidating for beginners or even some experienced surfers.

It's important to strike a balance and gauge your own skill level. What might be perfect for one surfer could be too much for another. 

Typically, light to moderate offshore winds provide the best conditions for most surfers.

Why Do Some Surfers Like Onshore Winds?

Despite the general preference for offshore winds, some surfers do enjoy onshore wind conditions. Here are a few reasons why:

Easier for Beginners: Onshore winds often create smaller, less powerful waves, which can be less intimidating for those who are just starting to learn how to surf.

Variety: Onshore winds can lead to more challenging and unpredictable wave conditions, which some surfers find exciting and fun.

Less Crowded: Many surfers avoid onshore wind days, so if you enjoy solitude or a less crowded lineup, you might have more space to yourself.

Favouring offshore vs onshore winds will depend on your level of surfing.

Summing It Up: What To Do Now

Checking the wind is an important routine to get into before you head out to surf, so now you have a greater understanding you can pick and chose your breaks!

If your interested in learning more about surfing discover our many guides that will inform you on your surfing journey. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook & Instagram to stay informed on our amazing surf shots and stories shared from surf creators around the world!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is offshore vs onshore wind better for surfing?

Offshore wind is generally considered better for surfing. It creates clean and well-shaped waves as it blows from the land towards the ocean, holding the waves up and preventing them from breaking prematurely.

Can you still surf onshore winds?

Yes, you can still surf in onshore winds, but the wave conditions are typically less favourable. Onshore winds tend to make waves messy and challenging to ride, but experienced surfers may still enjoy it.

Why do surfers prefer offshore winds?

Surfers prefer offshore winds because they groom and shape the waves, creating clean, well-formed, and rideable waves. Offshore winds blow from the land towards the ocean, holding the waves up and preventing them from crumbling prematurely.

Is offshore wind better than onshore?

Yes, offshore wind is often preferred over onshore wind for surfing. It helps create more favourable wave conditions, producing cleaner and more rideable waves compared to the messy, choppy conditions associated with onshore winds.

How much offshore wind is too much for surfing?

The ideal amount of offshore wind for surfing depends on various factors, including wave size and local conditions. Generally, moderate offshore winds are ideal. Too much offshore wind can make the waves too hollow and fast, making them difficult to ride safely.

Is it worth surfing onshore winds?

Surfing in onshore winds can still be enjoyable, especially if you're looking for a challenge. While it may not provide the ideal wave conditions, some surfers appreciate the diversity and adaptability that onshore winds bring to their surfing experiences.

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