When Are Coastal Waves The Highest?

The ocean is always restless. Waves crash and recede in an endless cycle, mesmerizing and often frightening. If you are a surfer or a thalassophile (ocean lover), you may be interested in finding out when the coastal waves are highest in certain areas.

Coastal ocean waves are highest when there is the most wind activity. Winds correlate to seasonal weather, which varies according to geographical location. Coastal waves can also be influenced by seismic activity, but this is a discrete event. Rogue waves are enormous, isolated waves.

Waves arise from the transference of energy which sounds very mundane until you look at the power behind them. The energy required to move masses of water effortlessly is enormous and awe-inspiring.

In Which Season Are Coastal Waves The Highest?

Waves are primarily formed by the wind moving over the ocean’s surface. The climate in a region experiences seasonal changes. Changes in weather patterns give rise to winds of varying direction, strength, and speed. It is logical then that waves will differ in height according to the season.

The most prominent global climate characteristic is that the northern hemisphere has winter from November to February. The southern hemisphere has winter from June to July. Each region of the world will experience seasons according to their latitude and the existing geographical features. Winds and, therefore, waves will vary at different points.

Generally, the highest winds are produced during the winter months in the majority of coastal regions across the world. There are some exceptions that have their highest waves in the summer months.

Seismic events such as earthquakes produce tsunamis which can occur at any time of the year.

Popular Surf Sites With High Waves 

Dungeons is a popular surf spot near Hout Bay in the South African Cape Peninsula. The highest waves form in winter and in particular in May.

June to August ( winter months) is the best time of the year to find big waves to surf at Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

The northern and eastern Australian coastline have their most impressive waves during the summer months. This is because tropical cyclones occur in summer and result in strong winds, which cause huge waves.

The southern and south-western coasts of Australia experience the biggest waves in winter. Low-pressure systems give rise to the development of powerful winds, which affect the waves. Winter causes more storms in the Southern Sea, which generates more wind activity.

Northern, eastern and western shores in Hawaii will experience rough seas and high waves during winter, from November to April. The rough seas result from Pacific storms that develop north of Hawaii.

The southern coastline of Hawaii has high waves in summer (May to October) due to winter storms in the southern hemisphere.

Florida beaches have the biggest swells from November to March (winter). Winds are generated in response to Mid-Atlantic low pressures that develop at this time.

California is known for experiencing large coastal waves, with the highest occurring in winter. January is a wild stormy month producing enormous waves, but huge waves have also been reported in November and December, depending on local weather conditions.

Nazare in Portugal produces Guinness-world record height waves. These occur from October to April and are enhanced by European storms. Nazare Canyon is a deep valley under the ocean. It amplifies the height of the wave up to five times as it breaks in the bay north of the canyon.

How Does The Wind Cause Waves?

The wind is the movement of air particles from an area of high pressure to a low-pressure region. As the wind blows over the ocean, there is friction and pressure between the air particles and the water. This interaction results in the transmission of energy from the air to the upper layers of the water.

In the open ocean, the wind can blow for a long distance in the same direction without interference. This is known as the wind fetch, and it is directly proportional to the size of the waves. The longer the fetch, the more energy moves and, therefore, the higher the waves.

If the wind or storm has been blowing for a considerable time, it will have more power, and the waves will consequently reach gigantic proportions. High wind speeds result in more pressure and friction and produce significantly larger waves.

When Are Coastal Waves The Highest 01

Do Hurricanes And Storms Produce High Waves?

Hurricanes and storms result from the interaction of high and low-pressure systems. They produce winds that rip through the air at tremendous speeds. A storm with a constant wind speed of 39 mph is called a tropical storm.

When the wind speed reaches 74 mph, it is classified as a hurricane. A category 5 hurricane is the strongest hurricane and has wind speeds in excess of 157 mph.

As you can imagine, winds whirling at these speeds produce a lot of energy that is transferred to the ocean water. The result is waves that can become enormous.

Hurricane Dorian occurred in 2019 and caused a wave that was measured as more than one hundred feet high.

Whenever there are violent storms and hurricanes, there will be high waves. 

When Do Rogue Waves Occur?

Rogue waves are unpredictable, and it is impossible to say when they will occur. Some areas, such as the southeast coast of South Africa, are particularly prone to rogue waves. The Bermuda Triangle is another area vulnerable to rogue waves. Some researchers believe that many of the mysterious disappearances in this area are attributable to rogue waves. 

Scientists theorize that rogue waves form when multiple waves from different directions meet coincidentally at a point. The waves amplify each other, and a massive wave is formed.

They usually form out in the deep ocean but can move with deadly speed towards coastal areas.  

Rogue waves (also known as episodic waves) occur as a single wave that is uncommonly large compared to the size of the waves in the area. They do not follow the direction of prevailing winds, making them move in unexpected ways. Many sailors and lighthouse coastguards have lost their lives to rogue waves that come like a fury and disappear like mist.


The biggest coastal waves generally occur in winter across the globe. Some areas experience high coastal waves in summer due to tropical storms and cyclones. Whenever there are strong winds, the waves will be substantial. Hurricane and storm season gives rise to colossal waves. 

Reference List