The Different Wave Types for Surfing

Knowing the best place to surf on any given day ultimately determines how fast you will progress as a surfer and how much you will enjoy each session. The ideal surfing location depends on a variety of factors, such as swell size and direction, wind speed and direction, and tide. In addition, the perfect location will also depend on your level of surfing experience. For example, if you’re a more advanced surfer, you may be looking for a wave with a barrel or end section to air off of. Such a wave is more typical of a reef break and beach break respectively. If you aren’t familiar with the different types of breaks, you might be saying to yourself,” Wait! What are these reef breaks and beach breaks you speak of?” Don’t panic, we’ll go into more detail on the different wave types for surfing below.

Wave Types for Surfing

1. Beach Breaks

The defining characteristic of a beach break is its sandy bottom, which allows the wave to be more user friendly—especially for beginner surfers. However, if the wave size is large, beach breaks may also be more challenging to paddle out to.

Because of the sandy bottom of beach breaks, the consistency of the wave’s shape and power can vary. This inconsistency is due to the ocean’s currents moving the sandy bottom, which alters the sandbars that cause waves to form and crash.

2. Point Breaks

Like a beach break, point breaks can also have a sandy bottom. However, they are primarily made of rocky cobblestone. The defining characteristic of a point break is how the swell/waves wrap along a headland, which creates some of the longest waves ever ridden. Because of the varied bottom contour and multitude of possible swell directions, point breaks can provide mellow cruiser waves like Malibu, CA, or big long barrels like the ones that are found at Skeleton Bay in Namibia.

3. Reef Breaks

Unlike beach breaks, reef breaks consist of a more permanent and sedentary bottom, which typically consists of rock or coral reef. Because of the inactive nature of the ocean floor at reef breaks, waves are often more predictable.

Reef breaks also usually have a deep-water channel adjacent to the reef. This channel provides an easy route to and from the waves. Most of the world’s biggest and heaviest waves break over reefs, although there are plenty of friendlier, more forgiving reefs around. Even so, beginner surfers should generally avoid reefs.

The main danger of reef breaks is the reef itself, which often lurks just a few feet below the water’s surface. Often in tropical locations, these waves break over live coral, which can lacerate a surfer’s skin at the slightest contact, leaving cuts that will easily become infected if not properly treated.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your surfing skills so you’re more equipped to take on more challenging breaks, consider investing in a rail-to-rail surf balance board. At Ebb & Flo, we specialize in crafting exceptional surf balance boards that simulate an experience similar to riding an actual wave. Serving as an effective surf training tool, our boards can help you enhance your style, fluidity, and balance in and out of the water. To start improving your surfing skills, purchase an Ebb & Flo surf balance board today.