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We at Learn to Surf teach the significance of swells and the way they bring energy to our coasts. Swells are the transfer of every from wind to water, quite literally. So whether you’re surfing in Santa Monica, Venice, Manhattan or Hermosa, or down to La Jolla, Pacific or Mission Beach, swells work the same. The energy that travels from the swell area will head toward your coast depending on how exposed the coast is.

California’s coastline is unique in that the land faces different directions—Malibu will face south while Venice will face west—and we see this all throughout the state. So, south swells will hit Malibu better than they will in Venice, whereas a west or west-northwest swell will hit Venice much better than Malibu. But what about both swells? What if two swells happen at once? Or three or four?

This is not at all uncommon. Most of the time, swell energy will peak at different times, and it’s up to you as the surfer to know when energy is peaking or fading from your specific area. Since Malibu is almost completely south-facing, and the islands block any northwest energy, there will still be good waves there because of the peaking south swell. But the energy in Venice might be a bit better because there is energy coming from two different places.

Take the opportunity to look at a map and see what swell directions will affect different areas. The more exposed, the higher the effect.