Guide to Waves

May 05, 2016 | 0 Comment

Guide to Waves

Direction:  Wave direction is the direction which the wave breaks when you are looking from the surf back to the shore. The breaking wave is described as either a ‘left hander’ or a ‘right hander’, some waves can also break either direction which gives you the choice of either left or right! 

Different types of break: 

Beach breaks- These are the most common breaks, they are when the waves are breaking over a sandbar, as the sand shifts the waves change too and so can vary from year to year. Beach breaks are generally the safest to wipe out on so they’re perfect for beginners! 

Reef Break- Reefs breaks are when the waves break over a submerged reef or rock formation, as the reef remains in the same place it means that the waves will break there constantly year to year. Reef breaks can sometimes be dangerous to wipe out on as they’re usually pretty shallow so you can hurt yourself on the reef. Therefore, it’s important for surfer to look at where the waves are breaking as that will be the point where the reef is below them, so make sure you spread out your body like a starfish and fall flat if you do wipe out. 

Point break- Point breaks is when the surf breaks off and around a headland/outcrop. These generally create waves which are more uniform and therefore easier to predict where they’ll break. But watch out as these types of breaks can be dangerous as they often have many submerged rocks- so make sure that you dive shallow when you surf these breaks!


The three types of wind that you’ll hear surfers talking about are:

On-shore wind-  This is when wind blows from the ocean to the land. On-shore wind can make the waves messy as it usually flattens the wave causing them to lose their shape and crumble.

Off-shore wind- This is when wind blows from the land to the ocean. This is the best type of wind for surfers as the wind will help the face of the wave to stand up. This can also create a hollow which is perfection for tube rides.

Cross-shore wind- This is wind which blows side-ways across incoming surf. This can be good if you’re surfing a right hand break and the wind is blowing from left to right (when looking at the ocean from the beach) as the wind will be acting a bit like off-shore wind keeping the face of the wave up. Likewise the same applies to a left hand break when the wind is blowing from right to left.

Types of Waves:

Plunging- Also known as a dumper or close out, this is when the whole wave breaks all at once,they can be dangerous if you’re caught underneath it. These waves are not suitable for surfing.  

Peeling- The perfect wave for surfing, the peeling starts when the wave starts to break from one side to the other. 

Glassy-  When the surface of the water/waves is extremely smooth and not disturbed by the wind.

Choppy- When the surface of the water/waves has a rough surface and doesn’t break cleanly due to cross winds.

Parts of the wave:

Wave face- The unbroken part of the wave where most maneuvers are carried out.

Lip- Also known as the crest, the highest part of the wave.

Trough- The bottom of the wave

Wave curl- The part of the wave which peels as it breaks.

White Water- the broken part of the wave, also called the foam or soup.

Impact Zone - portion of the water where the lip of the wave will fall. The impact zone can often be the most dangerous part of the wave.

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