There are many types of waves to surf and I will try to explain:
- Types of surf breaks
- How waves are created
- Types of waves
- How wind affects waves
Beach Break – A beach break is where a wave has moved from deep to shallow water over a sandy seabed. Wave shape, size, and peak location at beach breaks can vary significantly from day to day as the sand shifts. These types of wave are the best type of waves for beginners and amateur surfers as they generally break with less force.
Famous beach breaks are: Huntington Beach, and Trestles Beach, both in California, and Bells Beach in Victoria, Australia.
Point Break – Point breaks are simply areas where waves break on a section of land that juts out from shore. This is perfect for refining your surfing, as they usually create long rides with open wave faces, perfect for practicing turns and riding down the line. Point breaks are perfect for intermediates who have mastered the bottom turn and can ride on a waves face.
Famous point breaks are: Puerto Escondido in Mexico, Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, Noosa in Queensland, Australia, and Rincon in California.
Reef Break – Reef breaks are where a wave breaks over a coral reef or rocky seabed. However, depending on the shape of the reef and how quickly the depth of the water changes from deep to shallow they can produce waves of all shapes, sizes and power. Reef breaks normally break hard over shallow water and the hard and often sharp rocks and living reef can be at best intimidating or at worst deadly. This type of wave is normally more suited to intermediate or advanced surfers as they often break quickly with more power than a beach break and in shallower water.
Famous reef breaks include: Pipeline in Hawaii, Uluwatu in Bali, and the very famous Teahupo’o off Tahiti.
How Are Waves Created?
Waves are formed due to low pressure weather systems far out in the middle of the ocean. Much like dropping an object into a pool of water, waves spread out in a ripple like motion and can travel for hundreds and thousands of miles before hitting land or shallow water. When swells eventually reach shallow water they slow down and the wave energy is released in the form of breaking waves.
Types of Waves
The swell size and direction, as well as the tide, currents, and wind, heavily influence the conditions at every surf spot. Depending on the following variables, several different kinds of waves can be found at a break:
Closeouts: Waves that break all at once instead of peeling are called closeouts. They create a lot of whitewater without a clean wave face, making them not ideal for surfing.
Crumbly: These gently breaking waves are not very steep, fast, or hollow, and are produced when the bottom contour is more gradual. Crumbly waves are also referred to as “mushy” waves, because they don’t contain a great deal of power. The forgiving nature of crumbly waves makes them perfect for beginner surfers.
Reforms: This type of wave will sometimes break and then die down as it hits deeper water before “reforming” or breaking again.
Tubing/Barreling: These hollow waves and barrels are generated when a swell rolls through deep water and then hits a much more shallow area. This type of wave is highly sought after by experienced surfers.
Double-ups: This type of wave arrives when two waves meet and their crests and troughs align. This wave energy combines to create an extra powerful and larger wave. Double-ups can become ultra-hollow and even dangerous when they break.
Blowing In The Wind
When wind is blowing from the land towards the ocean, this is termed an “off-shore” wind. In medium sized surf, surfers prefer the off-shore wind because it makes for a clean, smooth wall for extended carves and holds up the falling lip to make hollow barrels for tube riding.
However, modern surfers have begun to enjoy choppier “onshore” winds as well (wind that is blowing from the ocean to the land) for the abundance of ramps for aerial maneuvers. Chops and bumps and soft whitewater landings are all positives for above the lip maneuvers.
“Cross-winds” usually make for mixed up waves that are difficult to predict and thus make for the least preferable winds.
As a beginner, you should start surfing at a beach breaks and stick to crumbly waves. As you improve, and if you wish you, can try the other types of breaks. I personally, enjoy surfing beach breaks and I’ve surfed in all types of conditions. I prefer very light off-shore winds, in the 4’ – 6’ wave height range and glassy conditions.
Thanks for dropping in and should you have any comments or questions, please post-it in the comment section of this page.