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There are three main types of surf breaks which are known as beach, reef, and point breaks.
There are also two other wave break types as well found in rivers and those wave breaks produced artificial in pools.
Wave breaks are created when the downward motion of a wave’s energy is forced up by the change of depth of the ground.
When a wave breaks its profile becomes stretched out thinly and the ratio of the height and the length are set with the length exceeding the wave’s height.
Understanding the types of surf breaks not only helps you understand how they affect your surfing and movements. It also explains how the different topographies affect how the wave break occurs.
What is a surf break?
A surf break, or wave break, occurs when a wave crashes in on itself due to two factors: its profile and its depth.
As mentioned, surf breaks are traveling in a downward motion with their energy.
However, as the shoreline comes closer and pushes the force up the wave will begin to crash.
Depending on where you are surfing at will affect the speed of a surf break.
The layout of the water’s floor below and the differing of the tides will cause the force to come upward at a different time and pace as a wave moves.
Other than the ground and tide of the water, the profile or shape of the wave will also matter.
As a wave draws closer to the shoreline, its height will increase. As the wave’s height rises, the crest of the wave will begin to fall and collapse due to the effects of gravity.
The height and length of a wave need a proper ratio in order for the wave to be stable.
The greater the height, the more stretched out the wave will be. This will lead to instability and cause it to break.
Wave break and the tide
Whether you are out in the water surfing during high or low tide will impact the surf break you are dealing with and the speed at which it occurs.
The tide affects the water’s depth.
If the tide is low which can cause the surf break to occur much quicker than normal.
In contradiction, a higher tide level will allow for the waves to break at a much slower pace as the depth of the wave is extended.
While the ideal tide and break level will work differently depending on the location you are surfing at, you will most likely want a higher tide in order to ride the waves for an extended period of time before they crash.
Skill levels of surfers
Your level and skill as a surfer will also play a role into what type of wave break you are best equipped to handle.
Faster paced wave breaks may not be the best for beginners, as they may not yet be equipped at reading waves.
The break may occur faster than they are expecting, causing them to get caught as the wave collapses on itself.
Knowing and trusting in your own skill level is recommended.
If a wave feels too big for you to take on or feels outside of your comfort zone, then try a smaller sized wave.
Never take on a wave that feels too big as it can very easily cause you to lose control.
As a beginning level surfer, you will be able to complete some of the basic techniques needed for surfing.
This includes paddling techniques, understanding of your equipment, how to curve and turn on their board, and how to hold a strong position on the board.
Beginners will know how to pass out of wave breaks and are beginning to strengthen their wave reading abilities.
Intermediate surfers may not have to struggle with larger waves as much as a beginner.
You will be able to read waves more easily and will have advanced your skills enough to handle larger sized waves.
You will also be advancing the types of equipment you are using which will allow you to choose equipment for specific wave conditions and to allow you to perform more advanced move due to increased speed or other.
You will be completing a number of more challenging techniques as well like the bottom turn, improved cutback maneuvers, and duck diving.
Advanced surfers are the best at handling the waves that are larger in sizes and therefore break at a more intense speed.
These surfers will be able to read waves with greater ease and will not struggle to catch a wave and exit it before the wave crashes without issue.
This is due to an advanced surfer having a vast amount of surfing knowledge, both from teachings and from their own personal experience in the water.
Beach breaks and sand floor
Beach breaks occur whenever a wave breaks over the water’s floor that is composed of sand.
These sand breaks are safer to surf around as the sandy floor will not cause any great injuries if ever you accidentally impact it.
Due to sand being the main component of the ocean’s floor, the breaks shift as the tides and currents of the water move and reshape the ground.
This allows the waves to always change and move as well over time. Sometimes, waves move within a few months or even week to week.
This can make them unpredictable as they move around. However, even though the waves and breaks move, beach breaks are a great option for beginners.
Beach breaks are softer and also feature a safer floor, as it is sand, which makes these breaks the best for beginners to practice on.
The waves require less time to swell in order for a good wave to form which in turn allows for a greater consistency with a surfer’s line up.
The waves produced within the waters that feature beach breaks offer gentle waves but for those advanced surfers, you can find stronger waves closer to the shore breaks.
Reef breaks and rocky grounds
Reef breaks create waves that are very similar in size and very great for all surfer types to rely on for their sport.
These waves break over the water which features coral reef or rocks. Coral and rocks, unlike sand, will not move or cause irregularity in the wave’s position and reliability.
Even with its predictable nature, reef breaks can be more dangerous due to the possible injuries rocks or reefs can have whatever you impact them while surfing.
Rocks and reefs can easily damage your board and lead to cuts and other advanced injuries that can easily become infected with bacteria.
Beginners should be cautious whenever they surf in these breaks due to the extremely shallow nature of these waters and the rocks that lie beneath the water’s surface.
While the floor of these breaks is unchanging, there are other factors that might cause some changes within the waves.
The swell direction of the oncoming waves and the tide are the main factors that affect this. These two can separately cause minor changes in the wave’s strength, height, and speed.
Reef breaks break much steeper than those of beach waves. This makes the waters of reef breaks perfect for barreling waves.
Point breaks from extended shoreline
Point breaks are wave breaks that occur on shorelines that extend out into the water, like a natural bay.
This creates a headland area of water that the wave will hit causing it to peel across the shoreline to either the left or right.
These break types allow for long waves that are well formed so they are not likely to break in front of the wave.
One disadvantage of these waves is that point breaks do not feature multiple take off points as they travel in only one direction.
You may have to wait for a wave then as you cannot have multiple people riding a point break wave type too closely.
The waves and breaks are impacted the most by the wave’s swell angle along with the direction and speed of the wind.
This affects how large and impactful the wave is and makes a high-quality wave break more rare to happen.
Beginners are not recommended to be in the areas with these breaks for that reason.
River and artificial surf breaks
Both river and artificial breaks are not as commonly known as other water breaks, especially for surfers who will often be out in open ocean waters.
River breaks are not in an open water space, but rather a river as the name suggests.
These are inland surfing spots where the waves are considered sheet flow waves due to the bottom curve of the wave’s shape.
River breaks can also occur whenever fast-moving water begins to slow due to the downstream water’s force and current.
These break types occur very frequently in river breaks due to the similar conditions of rivers.
An artificial surf break is created by humans in a controlled environment.
These are often found at places like pools, wave machines, water amusement parks, and such.
Waves created in these areas are either standing waves or else peeling waves.
A standing wave is ideal for a constant surfable wave while a peeling wave is rideable for less than a minute at a time before the wave crashes.
Types of surf breaks
Surf breaks or water breaks are caused by the crashing of a wave which is a combination of gravity, the wave’s profile, the tide, and the floor of the water.
Beach breaks feature sand as the ground of the waves and breaks. This allows for changing waves as the sand will move frequently due to the current and tide.
These breaks are ideal for beginners as they are soft and ideal practice waves for beginning surfers.
If you follow off your board in these break areas, you will not suffer any extreme injuries as the ground is sand.
Reef breaks are good for a variety of surfer types, though intermediate surfers will benefit the best from these breaks.
Reef breaks work to produce predictable waves that break on a reef or rocky floor.
This can be risky for beginners as impacts can lead to injuries and other damages.
Barrel waves are the most common wave types associated with reef breaks.
Point breaks are breaks and waves that fit best with advanced surfers. The waves require a singular lineup so you may have to wait for a wave.
The waves will break over a shoreline or bay causing the wave to peel to the left or right.
The waves are long and do not break in the front of the wave.
River and artificial waves are often not explored by surfers as surfers go to ocean areas rather than rivers or places where artificial waves are made.
These waves are verily predictable and easily to ride with.