The surface of the ocean, and so such quantities as the significant wave height, , can be thought of as a random surface that develops over time. In this paper, we explore certain types of random fields in space and time, with and without dynamics that may or may not be driven by a physical law, as models for the significant wave height. Reanalysis data is used to estimate the sea-state motion which is modeled as a hidden Markov chain in a state space framework by means of an AR(1) process or in the presence of the dispersion relation. Parametric covariance models with and without dynamics are fitted to reanalysis and satellite data and compared to the empirical covariance functions. The derived models have been validated against satellite and buoy data. Copyright © 2010 JohnWiley & Sons, Ltd.