Surf Science: an introduction to waves for surfing

Tony Butt, 2014

Paperback and Kindle versions




What people thought about Surf Science

An excel­lent resource for surfers who want a simple under­stand­ing of the how’s and why’s of wave cre­ation and surf con­di­tions. …
‘The large-​​scale, world­wide wind/​weather pat­terns were explained excep­tion­ally well … Group propaga­tion was fas­cin­at­ing … There were great explan­a­tions of how bathy­metry (ocean bot­tom con­tour) and refrac­tion helps char­ac­ter­ize waves.
(his​ur​fad​vis​ory​.com, Octo­ber 2004)

Explains in simple, easy to under­stand fash­ion, the dynam­ics behind wave cre­ation, from how swells are gen­er­ated to how topo­graph­ical vari­ables affect wave shape and qual­ity. For that reason alone, it should be a requis­ite read for all coastal act­iv­ists con­cerned about beach and surf pre­ser­va­tion.
(Surfrider Found­a­tion, Mak­ing Waves, 20–5/15)

Holds interest for any­one who loves the sea and wants to under­stand it bet­ter. The authors present soph­ist­ictaed con­cepts such as swell gen­er­a­tion and dis­persal, and the influ­ence of tem­per­at­ure vari­ation and the tides on surf, in access­ible, enga­ging lan­guage.
(The Age, http://www.theage.com.au, 20.11.04)

Jam-​​packed with many help­ful graphs, dia­grams, pho­to­graphs.
(Long­board Magazine, Feb­ru­ary 2005)

With the release of Surf Sci­ence, we now hold all the tech­nical know­ledge we need – at our fin­ger­tips... Surf Sci­ence provides read­ers with an easy-​​to-​​read, in depth explan­a­tion of the topic with a spe­cific focus on how the con­di­tions influ­ence our sport....This crash course in wave pre­dic­tion not only shows how to read com­plic­ated satel­lite and com­puter mod­els, but it also con­tains a wide-​​ranging list of addi­tional resources for fur­ther study. 
(East­ern Surf, vol. 13:100, Octo­ber 2004)

Clearly reaches out to both surfers and those inter­ested in the surf … great color graph­ics and color pho­tos.  Another attract­ive aspect of this book is the his­tor­ical per­spect­ive provided regard­ing wave research. The book is well-​​written and well-​​organized …
(David F. Naar, Asso­ci­ate Pro­fessor, Col­lege of Mar­ine Sci­ence, Uni­ver­sity of South Flor­ida, Ocean­o­graphy, vol. 18, no. 2, June 2005)

Extremely well-​​illustrated and com­piled. 
(Pub­lish­ers Weekly, PW Daily for Book­sellers, 25.08.04)


Praise for the first edi­tion of Surf Sci­ence (2002):

This excel­lent book looks at the sci­ence behind our ocean fet­ish … everything a surfer needs to know about “Large Scale Weather Pat­terns”, “The Growth of Ocean Waves”, as well as chapters on refrac­tion, sand move­ment, local winds, fore­cast­ing meth­ods and much more.
This is sci­ence, but not as you know it. An ocean­o­grapher and big wave rider, Tony is also blessed with an abil­ity to trans­late his extens­ive tech­nical know­ledge and water exper­i­ence into under­stand­able lan­guage for the lay surfer. The graph­ics … are all rel­ev­ant, clearly laid out and easy to inter­pret … there are also … good surf pho­tos in there to pause and fan­tas­ise on... So who would bene­fit from this book? Well, it’s hard to think of a surfer who wouldn’t. If you’re a begin­ner … you’ll learn a whole lot of cru­cial inform­a­tion that will help you under­stand what’s going on... If you’re an exper­i­enced surfer then it’s an ideal book to have on the shelf for either a one-​​time read or, most likely, reg­u­lar ref­er­ence... We’d recom­mend you buy this book – it can’t hurt to increase our under­stand­ing of the ele­ments that, after all, dic­tate so much of our lives. 
(The Surfer’s Path, Issue 33, October/​November 2002)

Swell fore­cast­ing is one of the most fer­vently dis­cussed top­ics amongst surfers and one of the most poorly under­stood aspects of our life­style. … This is where Dr Tony Butt can save your soul. The man is … a “surf fore­cast­ing guru”. If he doesn’t know it, it isn’t worth know­ing. … Thank­fully he has decided to com­mit his wis­dom on how the hell waves work to paper … . [The book is] aimed squarely at us reg­u­lar joes not egg­heads and is presen­ted in a clear intel­li­gent fash­ion. So hope­fully you’ll learn stuff and it should make your swell pre­dict­ing skills second to none.
(Surf Europe, Issue 22, April/​May 2003)


Roll over Wil­lard Bascom. … It is time to put away that dog-​​eared copy of Waves and Beaches: The Dynam­ics of the Ocean Surf, because there is a new wave book in town... If you are the kind of deep-​​thinking surfer who stands against the rail at Mundaka or on the cliffs at Mav­er­icks or on the road up to Com­Sat Hill and looks out over big, power­ful per­fect waves break­ing like per­fect little sol­diers and says not only “Whoa” and “Wow” but “How?” then Surf Sci­ence: An Intro­duc­tion to Waves For Surf­ing is the answer to all your pon­der­ing… it’s all here in this book … it runs the gamut from the strange phys­ics of wave gen­er­a­tion to the very soph­ist­ic­ated sci­ence of com­puter mod­el­ing and satel­lite wave-​​imaging and fore­cast­ing. This is the mod­ern world, and Surf Sci­ence is one of the most soph­ist­ic­ated surf­ing books ever pro­duced. There is a lot of sci­ence and equa­tions in here but Butt and Rus­sell lay it all down for the semi-​​sophisticated lay­man... By George, Butt and Rus­sell have done it and this book is a must for any surfer whose mes­mer­iz­a­tion by the power and beauty of per­fect waves moves from “Wow” and “Whoa” to “How?”’ 
(Ben Mar­cus, Surfers Journal, May 2003)

Writ­ten from a surfer’s point of view. Cov­ers all aspects needed by surfers in the­ory, fluid mech­an­ics, ocean sci­ence and coastal effects. Superb, easy to under­stand illus­tra­tions. Good value as it puts all the info you need into one book.  Pub­lished in high qual­ity paper­back, col­our, print­ing and lay­out are really top of the range pro­duc­tion. … Highly recom­men­ded, excel­lent value, excel­lent pro­duc­tion
(Surf­ing Ire­land, May 2003)

For all of you surf­ing egg­heads out there who won­der about swell gen­esis and propaga­tion and get into the slings and arrows of 21st Cen­tury surf fore­cast­ing, there is a very good book called Surf Sci­ence: Intro­duc­tion to Waves For Surf­ing. This is 144 pages of fairly soph­ist­ic­ated ocean sci­ence put down in layman’s terms 
(Surf column, Sunday Santa Cruz Sen­tinel, May 2003)

The authors are well qual­i­fied on their sub­ject – both have PhDs in wave motion and coastal sand trans­port and are avid surfers.
(Uni­ver­sity of Ply­mouth Upfront, Issue 29, September/​October 2002)