Checking the surf this morning and not finding much got me thinking about the whole process.
Everyone has their own rituals, with variations, to looking at the surf. Some people have to have coffee (with milk and sugar) or the whole process falls apart. Some use a car (much faster) others prefer a bike (slower but you see much more detail).
After years of watching swells at your local breaks you should be able to tell a lot about how other breaks may be reacting to a particular swell or combination of swells. So if spot A is showing a lot of South swell you can leave the NW swell spots off your list to check. Unless, there is so much South that everywhere is walled so you may want to check the NW breaks for a chance at a shoulder. OR the south swell is really a south east swell which only lights up a couple of beaches every 10 years or so.
An then there is the wind to consider. Every breath of wind provides a new piece of the puzzle. Different wind directions can groom it to perfection or blow it to ribbons.
The surf check is really a riddle.
The cams can help, but only to the extent that you know a break already. Sort of like being able to tell how a Big Mac will taste by looking a picture of one. If you had one yesterday you have a good idea. If you have never eaten one, you'll have no clue.
In the end it always comes down to, "either go out or go to breakfast".
Happy trails and good hunting!
(I am still feeling under the weather and resorted to the demon NiQuil again last night. Nothing was buzzing around the cranium this morning so a repost was in order. Should be back in order by tomorrow)