The concept of using high-frequency (HF) radio pulses to remotely probe the ocean surface has been around for decades. In this paper and the companion paper by Teague et al. (1997) we strive to introduce this technique to a broad oceanographic audience. Teague et al. (1997) provides the historical context plus an outline of different system configurations, whereas we focus on the measurements of primary interest to coastal oceanographers, i.e., maps of near-surface currents, wave heights, and wind direction. Another goal of this paper and, indeed, this entire issue is to present a realistic assessment of the state-of-the-art in HF radar techniques vis-á-vis coastal oceanography. When evaluating any new measurement technique, it is important to separate issues related to system design from fundamental limitations of the technique. The former are engineering shortcomings, which are subject to continuous improvement. The latter are real limitations in the use of the particular geophysical signal in the presence of realistic noise. Most of the “myths” about HF radar measurements, in our view, stem from the confusion of these two issues.