the reports use buoy data. 2-3 ft at short period is actually 2-3 feet. 2-3 ft swell hitting the islands at 18+ seconds is about head high. So yes, and no. That front of the wave vs back of the wave nonsense is just people trying to justify not knowing what they are talking about.
Thanks for bringing up the wave period. The longer the period the bigger the wave. You should remember this when you are looking at forecasts.