Thanks to Oahu native Evan Loeng of Standupaddlesurf.net for visiting us in early Fall in Seattle. Check out this great video and interview he did of me while Freighter Wave Surfing in Seattle!
What is Freighter Wave Surfing?
Being in Seattle, we are 3-5hrs from the ocean so we we take advantage of inland surfing options such as downwinding plus freighter and tug surfing. Over a decade ago, a few friends and I began to notice substantially large (for Puget Sound) waves and over time found out they were generated from freighters and tugs.
Originally, we didn't have a way to predict boats, so it was a matter of going out and hoping for boats to come in. Some boats were on a weekly schedule which helped. Like any surf spot, we noticed some beaches broke best at specific tide levels. Marinetraffic.com appeared at some point which greatly reduced our wait times. The apps shows boats on the AIS system throughout the world and gives us real time tracking of boats as well as their type, speed and arrival ETA. This info helped in reducing our on-water time. Now, if I know a scheduled boat is coming in, I'll check the tides to see if the boat will arrive at the right time for a good wave, then grab my gear and head to the beach. It's possible to surf the wave for an hour then head back to work.
I now teach people how to surf using freighter waves. One boat can generate up an hour of surf waves. On some days, especially in the summer we'll have several boats in a row thus creating 2-3hrs of surf. At low tide levels, other types of boats such as tugs and power boats will throw a wave into our spot. The waves are generally pealers, occasionally A-framing into a bowl at specific tide levels. We've had 1-2 head high days. It's amazing to see a flat Puget Sound erupt in to a set spanning over 100 yards long coming our way. We get a lot of jaw drops from students who first experience it. In summer on hot days, the Sound will warm up to the lower 70's so we'll all be out in shorts.
I do have a disclaimer for the class in that boats aren't always on time, or going the speed we need or sometimes the wrong wind will flatten the waves. In those cases, we offer guests an opportunity to join us for a free class.
SUP began to build in Seattle in 2006. Most on the wave are sups but we also have an occasional kayak, prone board and few guys have had great rides on longboards. Our local Hawaiian, Jon Kwon rides it on his body board.
The waves are seasonal, only working Spring-Fall due to the daytime low tides we need. Other spots in Puget Sound break at high tides. Tug waves are caught offshore in deep water as it's an actual boat wake, but quite large. Read more about Freighter Wave Surfing