Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How the Hell Does This Work - The 5-day Summary

Since has a lot more crapola going on compared to my old simple Socalsurf blog I thought I would walk you through some of the new tools…just to show you how they might help you score a few more waves.

One of the first things that we put together was the 5-day forecast summary…

What is funny is that the 5-day was actually made because I don’t want to write a million forecast s. It is basically a way to break down the full Southern California forecast into the different regions.

Here is a link where you can play along too…

The first thing to notice is that each of the 5-day summaries are tied to the different Southern California Surf Zones...the one we are looking at on this page is for South Orange County. Unfortunately right now…because it is summer, and there is barely anything going on, the forecast summaries look like a lot of copy and pasting (which they are)…but rest assured, as conditions change and we see some real swell, each of these will be able to show the differences in how the swell will affect each spot

Each of these 5-days are interactive…as you guys know there is a lot of crap (like the planets aligning, dogs and cats living together…that sort of thing) that has to all come together just right for us to get good surf…and we have tried to put it all in the same place. Unfortunately if you try to show it all at the same time your computer just explodes…sort of like that dudes head in Scanners.

So we hid some of the more detail heavy stuff in tabs that are associated with the day. So like you can see in the above image…if you clicked on Wednesday this circle thing forms and starts spearing the content in the other parts of the 5-day (Wednesday is an angry day for some reason)….no, there is no circle (my developers wouldn’t let me have that), instead it just gives you a cleaner summary of the swell mix, some more detailed weather, and the tides for the day, which if you pay attention…you can see that the “low” tide boxes will turn red if it is a negative tide. (and green in case of unicorns…don’t expect to see that one often).

If you are just looking at a single day you can actually tell a lot…without getting into the tab portion. First off, you will notice that the day itself is color coded. The color is actually tied to the Shape/Surfiness (which a real human forecaster picks)…and the spectrum is about 4-5 colors…red being a bad surf day and green being the best. I imagine that once we get this going at some spot like Jefferies Bay for example, it will be bright green all the time (we will probably just give it a whole different color)…since we are in Socal summer between swells…plan on seeing a lot of mustards and lime days.

Moving down the content…you hit “SIZE” which as a forecaster I try to use this tool to describe the average spots…the whole knee-thigh high is really for the average breaks…the “occasional” set size is usually for the top breaks in the areas.

From there we get to SHAPE/SURFINESS…I have a lot of different terms that can drop into this little box…but it is still good to remember that I am trying to give a summary of a fairly big region…and so some spots may be better than the average and some will be worse…this will be a perfect example of when your “surf and ocean experience/knowledge” helps you use the forecast tools to read between the lines, so to speak.

As we move to the last two sections…the weather and the wind…these are automated sections that are pulling wind and weather from a fixed point in this particular Surf Zone…you can actually get a much more accurate wind and weather forecast by clicking through to an individual spot. I will go into those later…but there is some awesome stuff buried in those pages that if you like surfing, will make bookmarking a few of your favorite spots (or playing with the interactive maps) a good thing to do.

The Weather is pretty explanatory…it gives you high and low temps with a little weather icon that defines what the NWS/NOAA forecasts are calling for the region.

The WINDS: thing is pretty cool…and a cause for an internal discussion between a couple of us here at Solspot. Right now we have the winds set up in a way that if you mouse over the arrow it will give you the wind and direction for the time period of the day. You can see, on the example, that I moused over Wednesday morning and got the 7am wind forecast…which is “1-mph from the WSW” which isn’t much.

Now here (as a user) I think this is the perfect place to help us dial in the product. Right now we have arrows for every direction (well the 16 major ones) and they come in 3 colors. Red is a bad direction, Yellow equals marginal, and Green is a good direction. I went through and helped to match up the winds for each of the Zones so that if you were looking at the South Bay (for example) you wouldn’t get a red or yellow arrow on S winds, like you would for instance in Orange County (stupid eddy…hate you).

Now my programmer thinks that is all we need…he will say things like, ”Hey the wind arrow is yellow…they will mouse over it and get the data and if it marginally good (vs marginally bad) you guys could make the call.”

I am arguing for more color arrows…some that help to visually describe the whole (sort of bad, sort of good, but not great) type of ambiguity that we as surfers always seem to run across. I want like 5 colors that can give a good, quick, assessment of the wind conditions and can include the sort of good, sort of bad, lines of thought. The arrows would change based on both the direction and speed…and so in some cases you might have an arrow pointing onshore but the color would be green or close to it because wind speeds are below 2 knots.

This image is a perfect example of my side of the discussion. In just looking at the chart for tomorrow…I see red (bad) arrows all the way across the day. But if I mouse over the morning ones I see that the winds are basically light and variable with just a touch of onshore texture, which for me isn’t enough to wave me off checking the surf in the morning. Granted you guys have my forecasts, all of the NWS/NOAA, weather bug, resources that are available beyond just this little 5-day tool so you should be able to still find some waves no matter what a bunch of negative arrows are telling you (just remember to mouse over them until I win the Greco Roman Wrestling match…uh I mean discussion…which is how we solve things at

Or you guys could also comment on the article and let us know what you think the better solution would be.

Anyways…that is the first edition of How the Hell does this work…there will be many more coming down the pipes.

1 comment:

Adam Wright said...

Timmy, do you like movies with Gladiators in them?

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