July 4, 2022

Four types of waves

There are no two identical waves, but it is quite possible to divide them into types

Surfers like to say that waves are never precisely the same. However, the locks on the same spot are still very similar.

And different areas sometimes give out similar waves. And the speech here is not about such characteristics as “sharp,” “fat,” “trumpeting,” but about more general features.

It turns out that waves can be conditionally divided into several types.

If length is the fundamental element in the classification of surfboards, then the break formation scheme plays a decisive role in the case of waves.

There are four main types of locks: beach break, reef break, point break, and river mouse.

A distinctive feature of beach breaks is the “walking” peak

The English term Beach break can be translated as “breaking on the beach.” This type includes waves breaking on a sandbank near the coast.

The sand is constantly moving along the bottom, so the shape of the shallow changes, but as a result, the wave begins to break either to the left or to the right, but this makes it possible for surfers to disperse on the lineup and interfere with each other less.

Playa Zicatela, Mexica

Beach breaks are considered the best spots for learning to surf because the shallow sandy bottom makes this type of wave the safest.

However, beach breaks are different – due to underwater currents at the bottom, sharp drops in depth can build up, and the tide will be pretty intense.

In addition, on such spots, more often than on others, waves close along their entire length, and reverse currents can be unpredictable.

Examples of world-class beach breaks used by pros and big levers: Playa Zicatella, Puerto Escondido, Mexico, and Supertubos, Portugal

Like the previous type, the name indicates waves that break onto the reef.

Although waves falling on stones are also referred to as the same type, it does not matter; the point is that the bottom does not change over time.

Instead, the reef or rocks form a sharp drop in-depth, over which the wave breaks
The peak position can move higher or lower depending on the tide level, but in general, the riff break is much more stable than the beach break.

Waves of this type are usually sharp, the place where they arise can vary slightly on the left-right axis depending on the direction of the swell, but during the same surf session, the waves always come the same.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, a well-defined channel is visible to the side of the spot, through which surfers swim out.

Pipeline, Hawaii

Riffbreaks require more experience from surfers since the waves are sharp, often trumpeting, respectively, and ride them more often on shortboards.

In addition, rock or reef bottom is also a hazard, especially if the water is scarce and the lineup is not deep.

The most dangerous, but at the same time, the most beautiful waves on the planet, such as Teahupoo and Pipeline, are reef breaks

In a situation where a piece of land is thrown into the ocean, and the swell stumbles upon this ledge, the third type of wave is formed – a point break.

If we explain it on the fingers, then the most protruding part of the shallow is an obstacle, opposite to it, the wave begins to break, and further, the tide, as it were, bends around this land ledge, breaking only from the edge closest to the coast.

These waves are usually much longer than the previous two types of locks, but their shape depends on the bottom

If the base is gently sloping, then the waves will be gentle, and if the stones are shallow under the lineup, the lock will resemble a riff-break and may even trumpet.

J-Bay, South Africa

Waves of this type are ideal for perfecting maneuvers: more than a dozen turns can be made during travel of several hundred meters.

But the point break is also the most challenging spot because it is tough to take the wave off the shoulder.

Usually, it pushes only in the most critical place, near the foam, so you should continuously swim to the highest priority.

Therefore, point breaks are the most competitive.

Another conditional disadvantage of such spots is that the further you go, the longer it takes to swim back, but on the other hand, you can often go ashore and get around.

The best point break in the world is considered J-Bay in South Africa, which hosts one of the stages of the WSL World Tour every year.

Another legendary point is Skeleton Bay in Namibia.

The English River mouth is the mouth of a river, where it flows into the ocean.

The principle of the formation of waves here is something between a beach break and a point break: the river’s course forms a sharp sandbank under the water, along which the wave then breaks.

Waves of this type can be long or short, more often intense than gentle

Visually, this wave is most easily identified: it stands opposite the river’s mouth.

Mundaka, Spain

The main danger lurking at this spot is powerful currents: the water brought by the river combines with the one that is washed ashore by the waves, and as a result, a powerful outflow is formed, which can carry the tired surfer away in an unpredictable direction.

There are not very many quality river mouth waves in the world, but one of them, Mundaka in northern Spain, is one of the ten best waves in Europe

Is that all?

Technically not, not everything. Wikipedia identifies ten types of waves for surfing (11 if you count artificial waves), but the rest are rather special cases, like breaks over sunken ships or near piers.

Finally, I would note Outer banks; these are waves that rise in the open ocean because, at the bottom, there is a shallow, for example, a stone slab.

A prime example is the big wave spot Cortes Bank, located 82 kilometers from San Clemente, California.

Below there is a seamount, on which the area begins to work on a powerful swell. It gives a big wave right in the middle of the ocean.

Cortes Bank, North Pacific Ocean

Also, tidal waves in the river are considered a surf break, but in my opinion, this is an entirely different story.

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