When researching surf conditions, what weather cycles indicate good overall conditions for a North American Atlantic Ocean-based break?
There are many wave height buoys along the Atlantic sea board and would allow for much better prediction than weather system prediction. There are some good resource for surf forecasting on the east coast such as http://www.surfguru.com/ (no affiliation) which is focused on Florida but does provide information up through SC.
Assuming that you are looking for the ideal conditions for a surfable wave to form, I will leave some of the conditions that I take in consideration
- Direction. The wind direction is essential and ideally look for offshore (wind blowing from the shore).
- The speed of the wind is related with the size of the wave.
- The longer the wind blows the larger the wave.
Sea / Swell
- Period (s). It gives you information on the time that it takes between the waves.
- Tides. They can make or break some surf spots as some places work better with high tide, others when the tide is growing, etc.
It is recommended to understand the geography of the surf spot as there are different types of breaks (beachbreaks, reefs, pointbreaks) and they affect how the waves are formed, and the spot needs to have exposure to the swell.
There are different types of forecasting websites. Apart from those, in Portugal we have some beachcams that help us find how are the waves in some of the most popular spots.