Waves are generated when wind blows consistently over a large area of open water. The size of the wave is determined by the strength of the wind. Local wind conditions affect wave quality. Ideal conditions include a light to moderate “offshore” wind, because it blows into the front of the wave, making it a “barrel” or “tube” wave. Waves could be Left handed or Right Handed depending upon the breaking formation of the wave, and can be recognized by the surfaces over which they break, for example: Beach breaks, Reef breaks and Point breaks.
There are four types of surfing waves: spilling wave, surging wave, plunging wave and collapsing wave.
Spilling wave is generated when the ocean floor has a gentle slope.
Surging wave is produced when long period swell arrive at coastline with steep beach profile.
Plunging wave is formed when the incoming swell hits a steep ocean floor or a sea bottom with sudden depth changes, a plunging wave is termed by surfers as a “barrel wave”.
Collapsing wave is a blend between surging and plunging wave.
Surf breaks are defined as a permanent or semi permanent obstructions that causing a waves to break. The obstruction can be a coral reef, rocks, shoal or headland. The topography of the seabed determines the shape of the wave and type of the break. Some surf breaks are quite dangerous, since the surfer can collide with a reef or rocks below the water.
The surf breaks can be generally categorized to beach breaks, reef breaks and point breaks.
Beach break happens when wave breaks on the sandy bottom of the sea bed. An example of a classic beach break is Hossegor in Southern France, which is famous for waves of up to 20 feet (6.1 m).
The waves in that break can change easily, cause the sand and shape of the sea bed is liable to changes.
Beach breaks are generally the best places to learn surfing.
One of the most popular beach break for beginners based in UK is Watergate Bay in Cornwall.
Reef break occur when a wave breaks over a coral reef or a rocky bottom of the sea bed. It can be close to the shore, or well offshore, breaking in open ocean.
Cloudbreak in Fiji, Pipeline in Hawaii and Teahupo’o in Tahiti are the most famous spots in the World, with waves breaking over the coral reef. They are also most dangerous ones.
Porthleven, Gilly Reef in Falmouth and Sennen Cove in Sennen are examples of reef breaks in Cornwall. If you are closer to the North of the UK you an find spots in Scotland (mosty East and North), for example Murkle Bay.
There are also examples of man-made reefs specifically designed and made for surfing.
Point break refers to a place where the wave is hitting a point of land or rocks jutting from the coastline. They are most likely to form alongside a headland, and waves can break either left or right. The bottom of the sea bed can be made of rocks, sand or coral.
The two of the most known point break spots in the World are Malibu in California and Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa.
Thurso East in Thurso, Scotland is known as one of the best point break wave in Scotland. Another example of a point break you can ride is in Lynmouth in Devon.
If you are intermediate or advanced surfer, point breaks can be very good places to improve your skills and style due to length of the wave. Those waves are also very predictable.