Types of Waves

Types of Waves

The Basics…

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. This is when the wave will ‘break’ and is what gets us surfers all excited.Waves generally arrive in groups, or what surfers call ‘sets’. Sets can be less than three minutes apart or on the other hand as far apart as thirty minutes. Usually arriving one after the other in threes, fours or more. Set waves are normally larger and more powerful than the other waves in between.

There are three different types of ‘waves’ or ‘breaks’, each defined by what causes the wave to crest and subsequently break. These are beach breaks, reef breaks and point breaks.

Beach Breaks…

A beach break is where a wave has moved from deep to shallow water over a sandy seabed. These types of wave are the best type of waves for beginners and amateur surfers as they generally break with less force than a reef break and are a bit kinder to those trying to master riding them. Although the waves are usually short, the risk factor is much lower as you are falling onto sand. However this doesn’t mean that all beach breaks are easy and not as powerful as reef breaks. Some of the largest, most powerful waves in the world are beach breaks such as the big wave spot Nazaré, in Portugal. A good example of a more common beach break is Hossegor in the south-west of France, just down the road from our Moliets surf camp.

Reef Breaks…

Reef breaks are where a wave breaks over a coral reef or rocky seabed. 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. 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. Generally with most reef breaks, the wave will come from deep in the ocean on to a shallow reef quickly creating a wave that requires a rather fast and butt clenching take off. A good example of this is the famous wave Pipeline, in Hawaii. Be careful when surfing reef breaks though, because if you fall off and hit the bottom, the coral is certainly more painful than sand!

Point Breaks…

A point break is when a wave breaks onto and along a rocky point, creating a wave that travels in just one direction. Point breaks are often some of the most popular waves in the world as they provide some of the longest and user friendly waves, some point breaks in Africa and South America can be surfed for over 3km! 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. A good example of a famous point break is Anchor Point, which can be found in Morocco right next to our surf camp in Taghazout. Point breaks are perfect for intermediates who have mastered the bottom turn and can ride on a waves face going sideways.

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