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The Different Types of Surfing Waves You Should Know About

by Harsh Shah

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For any beginner in the world of surfing, imagining that you can paddle out to catch waves and pull off some crazy tricks can be both daunting and exciting at the same time. 

Surfing is a way of life, and once you get hooked on it, there is no coming back. 

Before embarking on your next surf trip, let's take a look at the types of waves that you might encounter. There are several types of surf breaks, and you need to have an idea about each of them before you charge them on your surfboard.


1. Beach breaks


Beach breaks are the ones where the waves break over a sandy bottom. The sand and the shape of the seabed shifts, which means the quality and shape of the waves at the beach are liable to change.

Many times, you can see a promising sandbank stay there for months, while at other times it will disappear within a matter of days. Certain beaches are known for producing consistently great sandbanks. The waves that you get as a result of the sandbanks are either powerful and hollow or gentle and long, depending on the time of the year.

Find out how to read a wave. The right way!


2. Reef breaks


At reef breaks, the waves break over a rocky bottom. The shape of the seabed remains consistent, and the line-up changes only according to the direction and size of the waves. You generally get a clear channel next to the line-up, and through that, you can paddle out.

Most of the world’s gnarliest waves break over reefs, but there is no reason to think that there are no forgiving reef breaks either. However, even the friendlier reef breaks are risky because of the treacherous seabed, and should be avoided by complete beginners.


3. Point breaks


When the lines of the swell hit a stretch of land at a perpendicular or an oblique angle, breaking around and along the shore rather than towards it, that phenomenon is known as a point break. Point breaks generally form beside a headland and can break over rock or sand.

The waves that form as a result of a point break peel for a longer time than reef or beach breaks. Point breaks like Malibu in California offer gently-rolling, mellow waves that are perfect for beginner surfers.


4. Rivermouth waves


Nice rivermouth waves are a rare and wonderful occurrence for any surfer. They are similar to point breaks, in the sense that they are produced where the river deposits sand onto well-defined sandbars and, along that point, the wave peels off in a predictable and neat manner.

The most famous and popular rivermouth wave is Mundaka in the Basque Country of Northern Spain. On a good day, it is widely considered the best wave in Europe, a delight for surfers, which also makes it a rather busy wave.

» Go on a surf camp in Spain.


5. Reform waves


This is a type of wave that can die down when hitting deep water and then break again or reform as a result of the varying depth of the bottom. Depending on the conditions and spot, advanced surfers can kick out before the reform waves hit deeper waters. This leaves the inside reform waves to the beginners. It is a relatively safe place to surf if you are less-experienced in tackling the reef or beach breaks of the world.


6. Crumbly waves


These waves break gently and are not too hollow, fast, or steep. They are produced when the bottom contour is more gradual than usual. Another name for crumbly waves is mushy waves, as they are not powerful or strong. The forgiving nature of crumbly waves is what makes them the perfect choice for beginner surfers, and they are present all over the main surfing spots of the world.


7. Double-up waves


This is the kind of wave that you get when two waves meet, and their troughs and crests align. The wave energy from the combined waves creates a wave that is large and highly powerful.

Double-up waves are ultra-hollow and also dangerous when they start to break. Even advanced surfers with years of experience can have a difficult time tackling these wild beasts. Try going for double-up waves only if you are in the mood for some daring adventure but know that you have experience on your side.

Once you have enough experience under your belt, you will be able to tackle all the types of breaks presented above. Till then, go slow and take it one wave at a time on a surf camp for beginners or on an intermediate surf camp.

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