1) Hover over the control buttons at the top of the tool to display details concerning each buttons use.
2) To determine if a fetch is producing energy aimed up the great circle paths to your location, click in one of the little boxes below the control buttons to display great circle paths emanating from your beach (or nearby ones). For optimal results, the fetch must be aimed within 30 degrees of a path arriving at your location. Any greater of an angle, and less swell size will result.
3) To determine distance and specific swell angle: Select the 'Show Location' control. Stop the animation on a frame that displays a fetch area of interest. Place your mouse over the core of that fetch, then depress the shift key and left mouse button simultaneously. Hold and drag your pointer to your beach.
Notice that swell angle and distance (in nautical miles) is automatically and continuously calculated and displayed on the screen.
4) Swell Angle: Notice that two angles are displayed. The first is the great circle angle for the start point of the line, the second is the ending point angle. If you draw your line from the swell source towards your beach, the second angle represents what the swell direction will be (when it eventually arrives). This is what is classically know as 'Swell Direction'.
5) Though the line drawn on the screen is straight, the math used to calculate distance between the two selected points is actually computing the great circle distance. Do not assume the swell travels in that straight line. Use the great circle overlays to better illustrate the actual swell path. Also follow that path to identify any potential obstructions or topographic features which would shadow the swell (i.e. islands).
6) Write down the date/time of the forecast frame, the distance the fetch is from your beach and the swell angle. Based on either the wind speed or significant wave height, one can determine the resulting swell period (e.g. 20 ft seas = 13 sec period). Swell travel time in nautical miles per hour = approximately (period X 1.5 - that's the swell group speed for those more oceanographically inclined - or the speed of a set of waves). So a 13 sec period swell travels at 19.5 nmiles/hr. Divide distance (from above) by the estimated period speed to determine swell arrival time (in hours). Example: 2000 nmiles distance with a 13 sec period = 102.6 hrs (2000/19.5 = 102.6 hrs). If the date/time of the forecast image was 06Z Saturday June 4, and the travel time is 102.6 hrs, then the swell will arrive in 4 days, 6.6 hrs or on Wed 12.6Z.
Disclaimer: This is a high resolution - high power forecast tool. It is designed to be used on a desktop computer. Requires Adobe Flash (not Flash Lite). Will NOT work on an iPad/iPhone and likely will not work on any mobile operating system.