All You Need To Know About The Different Types Of Surf Spots

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Silene Vega Walking to Beach with surfboard

Not many beginner surfers or outsiders know the importance of choosing the right surf break, especially in Costa Rica. The perfect surf spot is one that matches the day’s conditions and your skill level. The point break might be firing and producing froth-worthy wave after wave, whereas a surf spot further down the beach could be a windy, choppy mess. Choosing the right surf break can make the difference between a great session that helps you progress and leaves you feeling stoked, and a crappy surf that makes you want to throw in the towel.

So, if you don’t know much about the different types of surf spots — including how to identify the various types of surf breaks, and which level they are suitable for — read on to find out, and give yourself the best chance to have great surf every time you paddle out.

The 3 main types of surf breaks and who are they suitable for

When it comes to surf breaks, there is actually less of a variety than people would think. While surfboards, wetsuits, and waves come in almost endless variations of sizes and shapes, surf breaks can be categorized into 3 main types:

1. Beach break

Beach breaks are surfing spots where the waves break over a sandy bottom. As they often offer several options to choose from, beach breaks are great for surfers of all levels. They are considered the best places to learn to surf as gentle waves breaking over long, shallow sandbanks provide enough power to push beginners along in a straight line while they come to grips with balancing and popping up. For grommets and wave-hungry surfers facing a dry spell, a shore break might be the ultimate (or only) wave to catch. When the conditions are right, with banks, swell size, and direction all lining up perfectly, beach breaks can have gorgeous waves breaking left and right, and even offer tubes or sections for aerials — any surfers’ dream come true.

  • Main benefit — Variable conditions suitable for different levels and multiple swell directions.
  • Main drawback — Continuously changing conditions, harder for beginners to come to grips with.
  • Suitable for — Complete beginners to pros — depending on banks and conditions.

2. Point break 

Point break waves typically break around a rocky headland or jetty. These are some of the best types of waves, as they can break far from the shore and offer a long ride that doesn’t break in or close off. Most point breaks only work on one side, meaning you’ll always be surfing in a certain direction. Being confident enough to take off sideways and ride in that direction is a must if you want to tackle a point break and have fun. When the conditions are right for a particular point break, surfers converge there from all around the coast. This means they usually get very busy when firing, and beginners to green intermediates might struggle to get a turn.

  • Main benefit — Consistent waves, always breaking in the same spot — easier to be in the right position and get on.
  • Main drawback — It can get crowded as it often only has one or two take-off spots. 
  • Suitable for — Advanced beginners to pros — need to be able to go sideways.

3. Reef break

Reef breaks work the same way as beach breaks, with the waves breaking when they hit a shallow high point in the ocean bed — except it won’t be over soft sand but a sharp reef! They are the most advanced type of surf break, since they have the highest stakes. Come unstuck on your takeoff, and you won’t just be falling in water but on a sharp coral reef or a hard, rocky bottom. The dear consequences if something goes wrong are compensated by the high-quality waves you can catch there. When the conditions are right, reef breaks create flawless waves, one after the other. From beautiful faces to trash with snappy maneuvers, to picture-perfect tubes to disappear within, at a quality reef break session you’ll be spoilt for choice.

  • Main benefit — Steeper, more powerful waves.
  • Main drawback — High chances to get hurt if you fall off.
  • Suitable for — Experienced surfers.

Enlist the help of surf experts and always score the perfect wave

At Kalon Surf, we offer an all-inclusive luxury resort experience in Costa Rica that includes daily surf coaching for all levels. Whether you are a beginner wanting to catch your first wave or an advanced surfer interested in finessing your technique and learning new maneuvers, our surf coaches will make your experience unforgettable. During the day, we’ll take you to the best places to learn to surf or introduce you to secret local spots. At night, you’ll be pampered and cared for in our exclusive eco-friendly resort. If it sounds like a dream come true, contact us today and let our dedicated team turn it into a reality for you.

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