Why do some waves break differently?

Understanding tides, beaches and why waves break the way they do.

Wind and storms at sea form pressure differences on the ocean surface. As these thousands of miles they gather together to form swells. As the swell approaches the land and the sea bottom gets shallower, the waves become higher and narrower and the distance between each wave becomes shorter. The wave becomes higher until it collapses and topples over. This is called surf.

Different waves

Hollow waves

Hollow waves break suddenly with a lot of power. Hollow, dumping waves that break on the shore are called a shore break. Tubes and barrels can be found in hollow waves.

Spilling waves

This type of wave occurs when the crest (or top) of the wave tumbles down onto its own face as it breaks. In surfers terms, these can sometimes be referred to as fat waves. These are good introductory waves when you are learning to take off on and ride unbroken waves.

Surging waves

A surging wave may never break as it approaches the beach. This is because it is very deep beneath the wave. Surging waves often occur around rocks. You can’t and wouldn’t surf a surging wave.

Beaches and waves

This beach has an even sand bottom that is not very steep. Generally the waves will spill as they get closer to the beach. Conditions at low tide might be quite different than high tide.

At this beach there will be more spilling waves at high tide. When the tide goes out there is less water covering the sand bar, the waves will start dumping on the sand bar due to the steepness of the sand bottom.

At this beach the waves will be spilling at low tide. When the tide comes in and the waves hit the steep rise they will start dumping. This is commonly called a shore break.

Getting out past white water on a longboard

Longboards are super buoyant and stable. This makes them ideal for learning on, but impossible to duck dive under waves.

The method of gliding over waves uses the speed and floatation of a longboard to drive you through a wave rather than under it. The wave simply passes between you and your board. It works on small waves and is the best way to begin getting yourself out passed the white water.

How to glide over an oncoming wave

-Approach the wave straight on and with maximum speed – the faster you go the more control you will have
– Keep your board perpendicular to the horizon
– 2 meters before the wave, tightly grab a hold of your rails, arch your back and lift your chest up high
– Keep weight in your thighs or toes
– The white water will pass between you and your board
– Kicking one leg up can help propel you up and forward
– Once the wave has passed by, paddle powerfully to keep yourself from being dragged backwards with the energy of the passed wave.

Common Problems

Sometimes the nose of your board will shoot up high. This makes it tricky to keep your body above your board. Hold on tight to your rails and try to lunge body weight forward as you feel your board descend and you might be able to gain control of your board again. Play around with kicking one leg up in the air behind you and pushing down with the other knee.

Sometimes your board will shoot up so high that it’s impossible to stay on and you will fall backwards with it. This usually happens when attempting to glide over a wave that is simply too big / powerful for this technique, or because you didn’t have enough paddle speed.

Powerful paddling is essential for this technique. Both when the wave approaches and as soon as it has passed.

Gliding over a wave works well on small waves. As you improve you will naturally test the limits of wave size with this method. Always be aware of others in the water around you, particularly behind you when you are using this technique.

surf pilates part 2

Riana from blue mat pilates takes you through a 15 minute surf specific pilates class.

In order to understand the fundamentals behind the cues in this video and to gain the benefits from this class, it is important to go through the surf pilates part 1 video in the previous module.

Riana’s group and private pilates classes are available in Mt Maunganui and Hamilton, New Zealand.