How Waves Break

Surf lessons rely on reliable equipment, careful students, and, most importantly, good waves. Unfortunately, that last item tends to be the most unpredictable. Waves rely on weather, wind, and a whole host of other factors. The best waves are even, clean, and glassy with a minimal break. Waves break when they eventually hit a shallow bottom. It’s kind of like when a person runs but trips over a speed bump. Waves breaking too early lead to white foaminess—not fun to surf on.

One thing a surfer must know is when and how waves break.
One thing a surfer must know is when and how waves break.

Let’s take a look at a few of the different ways that waves break.

Beach Break

If you’re enrolled in Pacific Beach surf lessons or have a local surf spot, you’re surfing on a beach break. With a beach break, waves break on a sandy bottom, often within a hundred yard of shoreline.

Beach breaks tend to be the most common type of break but also the most unpredictable. The waves are at the mercy of the sand, and if you’ve tried to hold a handful of wet sand and water in your hand, you know that it doesn’t exactly stay in one place. The contours of the ocean floor are constantly changing based on currents, storms, tides, and human interference.

On the same stretch of beach, some waves will break differently than others, and waves won’t always break in the same spot, making it difficult to spot the next wave to catch.

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