How to Measure the Height of a Wave: A Comprehensive Guide

Measure The Height Of A Wave

If you’re a surfer, measuring the height of a wave is vital for assessing the risks of the wave and determining your own performance. However, many do not know how to measure the height of a wave beyond what their eyes can see. In this article, we’ll delve into some of the possibilities you have for measuring the size of a wave.

Oceanographic Buoys

Oceanographic buoys are one of the most common ways of measuring the height of a wave. They are equipped with an accelerometer that measures the movement in three directions, allowing them to determine the wave’s height.


Satellites can also provide data on wave height. By using a radar signal that points downwards, satellites generate a reflection that is transmitted back to Earth, allowing for a more global observation.

Marine Sensors

Sensors on the seabed can also be used to measure wave height. These devices register the pressure in the water, so the higher the water level, the higher the pressure. However, retrieving the data requires access to the sensors.

Bascom’s Scientific Method

Developed by Willard Newell Bascom, this method is based on physics and mathematics. It calculates the height of a wave by measuring the distance between the crest of the wave and the mean sea level, as seen from the shore. It’s a reliable calculation that provides scientific data.

Hawaiian Method

Hawaiian surfers have their own method of measuring waves. They measure it by its backside, and then divide the height of the wave by two to get the result. This method is an approximation and not as reliable as scientific methods.

It’s worth noting that there are other ways of measuring waves, such as surfers who relate the wave height to their own size. Waves are always in motion and their height changes depending on their distance from the coast, depth, and bathymetry of the seabed.

In conclusion, knowing how to measure the height of a wave is crucial for surfers. It allows them to determine the risks involved and their own performance. While there are many ways to measure wave height, scientific methods such as Bascom’s method are the most reliable.

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