Types of Ocean Waves

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Types Of Ocean Waves


This article is not meant for Kelly Slater, Kai Lenny or Alana blanchard but rather for those who just got hooked to surfing recently or been surfing for a while yet not very familiar with the technical details of it.

Here are some really serious stuff about waves and how they are classified in a first ever simplified format.

What are Ocean waves:
Simply put, waves are generated by wind blowing on the surface water. Waves can form on any water body that includes lakes even ponds, depending on the ‘Fetch’ (the uninterrupted distance over which the wind blows on water). Bigger the fetch bigger the waves.  Waves in the oceans can travel thousands of miles before reaching land. Wind waves range from small ripples to whopping 100 feet monsters. So be sure we’re talking about wind waves here and not the ones caused by seismic activities or black holes on Miller's planet in Interstellar.
Surf breaks and their types

Primarily these are spots where one can surf. There are three types of surf spots as far as we last checked. We all know that waves break on shallow obstacles, normally the obstacles in the sea are sand bars, rocks or corals and occasionally James cameron’s film crew. Some of these spots are accessible from the beach ( like beach breaks), while the others are only accessible by boats (like some point or reef breaks).

Beach Break

The beach break is where the waves break on a sandy seabed by the beach.  Its best to get beaten by these waves here, as you have nice smooth sand at the bottom when you wipeout. Beach breaks are by far the best spots to start surfing. Ideal for beginners and kids and the only choice for skimboarders.

Point Break

Now it's getting serious. A point break is a spot where waves break onto a rocky point. Characterized by visible and submerged rocks. Catching bank robbers with Keanu Reeves on these spots will only break your ego, amongst other things. Point breaks are perfect spots to truly understand the phenomenon behind breaking waves and where you will find some great surfing action.

Reef Break 

Reef breaks are where waves break over a coral reef or a rocky seabed. These waves are usually the classic ones that you will see on surfing videos. But be careful what you wish for! These waves can be unforgiving if you have a nasty wipeout , but they can be the most rewarding in their perfection. If you’re a beginner, you’ll soon realize that after a wipeout, it’s easier finding Nemo than your surfboard. Reef breaks are pure fun.

Now that you are familiar with the three surf breaks now let's move onto the types of Ocean waves.


Lefts(also called a ‘minus’) & Rights

A wave is either a left or a right, depending on which direction the wave breaks from the point of view of a surfer paddling for the wave. While paddling for a wave if the surfer will have to turn left to get on the wave, then this wave is a left. As from a beach goers point of view the wave will be seen to be breaking to the right, sorry folks but only the surfer's point of view counts here. If you’re dyslexic, like me, prepare to stay confused! Look at the picture and you will get it.

A FRAME-  A favorite among two timers

A frames or peaks are waves that have rideable lefts and rights on the same wave. The crest briefly forms a noticeable shape of the alphabet ‘A’ before it starts breaking on both sides. Simply put, two surfers can surf the same wave in opposite directions without having to fight with each other.

Waves are further classified based on their overall quality and rideability. They are as follows.


These waves break all at once instead of peeling slowly making it unsurfable . They create a lot of whitewater without providing a clean wave face for surfing. Being inside a closeout was considered, ‘an act of a madman’ by ancient surfers. Too many closeout usually lead to a bad day. But even a bad day of surfing is better than your good day at work.


These gentle breaking waves are not very steep, fast, or hollow and are produced when the bottom contour is more gradual. Also referred to as “mushy” waves as they not very powerful. It’s the perfect amount of whitewater to help you balance and improve your stance. The forgiving nature of crumbly waves makes them perfect for beginners.


This type of wave, breaks and then dies down as it hits deeper water before “reforming”. This is caused due to depth variations at the bottom. Depending on the spot and the conditions. Experienced surfers may kick out before the wave hits deeper water, donating the reforming wave to beginners as the wave turns crumbly soon after.

Tubes a.k.a ‘The Barrel’

The dream. These hollow waves or barrels are created when a swell rolls through deep water and suddenly hits a very shallow area. Highly sought after by experienced surfers. Novices! We know that there is no point talking you out of this. Remembering your basic wipeout skills (covering your head with both your arms and getting into foetal position) will avoid busting your privates on your board ( and protecting your head. of course, but we all know which hurts more). These monsters will show you exactly how it feels inside your washing machine feels when its set on the ‘spin dry’.


When two forces collide.

Double ups happen when a wave meets a strong backwash and their crests and troughs align. This wave quite literally doubles up into a much larger wave.These can get quite dangerous when they break. Even experienced surfers don’t get out without a few love bites to remember her by.

Wow we almost covered most of it, now go ahead a take on the waves, show off your newly acquired lingo, Have fun, stay hooked.

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