Ocean Safety – Why it Matters & How to Check the Ocean Forecast

by | Dec 8, 2021 | Hawaii Travel, Snorkeling & Diving, Swimming with Manta Rays

When you go swimming in Hawaii, you want to make sure that the ocean is safe.

Drowning is the 3rd biggest cause of accidental death worldwide (according to the World Health Organization), and rip currents and shorebreak keep lifeguards on their toes as well.

This often occurs when unprepared tourists go swimming despite risky ocean conditions, without checking the ocean forecast before diving in.

In our line of business — taking people out to swim with manta rays — we have to be very aware of the weather and ocean conditions. We can’t simply wake in the morning and look outside to determine if it’s a good day to take people out to swim in the ocean. As much as we make it look easy and fun, our business can be a matter of life or death, and we take our duty to keep people safe very seriously.

We use our professional expertise along with proven forecasting tools to anticipate how the ocean will behave. This information is then used to create a proper plan to take guests into the ocean.
One of our favorite forecasting websites is called Magic Seaweed.

How to Check the Surf & Ocean Forecast on Magic Seaweed

Surf forecasts can tell you if it’s safe to swim in the ocean and come in very handy during the winter months. From mid-December to March, Hawaii’s shorelines are exposed to large winter swells that generate up to 40 feet high waves (North Shore of Oahu.)

We use the Magic Seaweed (MSW) website for up-to-the-minute, accurate, and dependable forecasting. It’s the oldest, most popular, and most detailed long-range forecast website. The free version offers a 7-day forecast, and the inexpensive paid version provides a 16-day forecast.

MSW’s network of live human reporters updates the forecasts in real-time four times each day. Plus, it utilizes live winds updates, ocean buoy readings, HD webcams and much more. After a decade of tweaking and tuning, they’ve created an incredibly timely and accurate forecasting system.

If you’re on the Big Island of Hawaii, go to the MSW Point Map to find out what the ocean will look like for swimming. It also provides specific information about how the ocean will be for swimming with manta rays.

Not only can you see the schedule for the high and low tides, but you can forecast how the waves will behave.

If you’d like to learn more about reading a surf forecast, How to Read a Surf Forecast is a helpful resource. It offers a simple, easy-to-understand breakdown of all the aspects normally listed within a surf forecast, including what you’ll find on the MSW website.

How to Interpret Surf Forecasts

If it’s your first time navigating the MSW website and checking ocean conditions, it all might seem a bit overwhelming.

Here are a couple of limits we look out for when checking ocean conditions:

  • If the waves are 0-1 feet high (0-0.3 meters), the sea is “doable” and safe for swimming.
  • If the surf height is 2-3 feet (0.8-1 meters), ocean conditions are questionable.
  • When we get to 3 feet and above (1 meter), entering the water borders on dangerous.

This means that when we’re planning to take guests out to swim with manta rays and the surf forecast tells us we’ll get 3 feet or above, our only option is to cancel the activity for that night.

The example below shows a forecast from last winter for the bay we operate from, versus the summer months.

Surf Report during winter month
Sample Surf Report of Kauna’oa Bay Big Island of Hawaii during a winter month


Surf Report during summer month
Sample Surf Report of Kauna’oa Bay Big Island of Hawaii during a summer month

Optimal Ocean Conditions

When you go for a swim with manta rays, you want the conditions of the Pacific Ocean to have nice calm rolling waves, or even better, no waves at all!

The ocean, of course, changes quickly, so we meticulously and routinely check the surf forecast to make sure that we have the most optimal and safe conditions.

The surf forecast is the best marker for ocean safety, but there’s also wind, tide, and time of day. Additionally, if it’s jellyfish time, we need to take that into consideration as well.

At Manta Ray Advocates, we enter the ocean from the beach (not from a boat).

We have to walk through the surf zone to get to the manta rays; that’s why we’re very careful in assessing the ocean’s moment-to-moment activity.

Preparing to Swim with Manta Rays in Hawaii

Interested in swimming with manta rays?

Whether you booked one of our moonlight manta swim activities or you’re planning to scuba dive with another outfit, download our guide to swimming with manta rays to fully prepare for this magical experience!

It tells you more about safety, equipment, what to look out for, and of course, we included our famous greenlist of sustainable manta ray tour operators.


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