Types Of Waves & Surf Breaks

Surfing is a multifaceted skill; it’s not just about athleticism and being able to stand up on a board. It’s also something that can teach you about the natural world. As you learn more about surfing, you’ll gain a greater appreciation of the various types of waves for surfing and the areas they appear. Being aware of the tides, the types of waves you’re likely to encounter at a given site and the surrounding ocean conditions will also make you better prepared for when you’re actually on your board too.

Although the individual topography of a given spot will affect the waves and breaks at any given spot, some common features can be found across them.

The four types of surfing waves:

  • Spilling waves

Mushy and sloppy, these types of waves are often seen close to the shore. Further out, they’re fun for messing around in and building up your skills — but not where the best action is to be had.

  • Plunging waves

When the swell hits a sudden change in depth beneath the water, it can push a wave up rapidly. It can be a great opportunity for a solid ride, but proceed with caution — it tends to barrel more quickly than expected and explode on the trough with a huge crashing noise to accompany it. Make sure you’re moving at speed!

  • Surging waves

The result of multiple swells hitting a beach with a steep incline at the same time, surging waves are often deceptive and dangerous. Although they look friendly at first glance and present the opportunity for a lengthy ride, they can also bring backwash with them which can leave you being thrown off and sucked down.

  • Collapsing wave

A hybrid between a surging and plunging wave, a collapsing wave never quite fully forms — eventually, it collapses on itself (as the name suggests) rather than breaking properly.

The three main types of surf breaks:

  • Beach breaks

The most common kind of break you’ll encounter — waves crashing down on a sandy shore. It’s the best place for new surfers to learn and work on their technique. Not to say they can’t present challenges even for experienced riders, though! Every beach is different and has its own unique features.

  • Point breaks

No, it’s not an early 90s action film — it’s the waves that occur at a rocky headland or curved shores that mimic the feel of a natural bay. Under the right conditions (factoring in wind direction, wind speed and overall swell) point breaks can present intermediate and experienced riders with a fantastic ride that’s both lengthy and zippy. They’re not usually recommended for beginners as there’s the potential for being dumped in a very uncomfortable position — but they do represent a goal for many beginners to aspire to.

  • Reef breaks

Reef breaks can offer incredible waves — particularly barrels — but they’re also usually recommended for experienced surfers only. They can be very volatile and a wrong move can get you thrown straight onto a selection of jagged rocks and coral, which can leave you seriously injured. If you’re looking at surfing a reef break, make sure you consult with the locals about any known jagged areas or caves ahead of time.

Discover how to ride different types of surf breaks

Here at Kalon Surf, we pride ourselves on our surfing experiences. Get in touch with our team today to discover how you could have the time of your life on one of our surfing trips — even if you’ve never surfed before!

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