To the untrained eye, all waves seem the same. However, the difference lies beneath the surface. Here are three main types of waves you’ll encounter on your surf adventures and how they differ!
1. Beach break
Beckie surfing at Desaru beach
Beach breaks are created when waves break onto the sandy bottoms of beaches, hence its name. These can be formed in two ways: by a sandbar, or by a wave forming against the shoreline.
Due to the nature of sand and sandbars, beach breaks produce the least consistent waves as the sand beneath is prone to shifting from the elements – mainly, storms and rough swells. This means that the waves produced by beach breaks vary depending on the time of year.
Like everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to this surf break. They’re great for beginners and advanced surfers alike because you don’t have to paddle too far out in order to reach the break, and wiping out on these breaks are more forgiving on novice surfers as compared to reef and point breaks.
However, paddling out is often more challenging as the waves break all over the place, the rip currents aren’t as predictable, and beach breaks don’t break as soft as other types of wave breaks. That being said, beach breaks are seen as the safest place to learn how to surf.
Popular beach breaks: Kuta beach, Desaru Public beach, Weligama beach in Sri Lanka
2. Reef break
Beckie surfing at Batu Bolong Beach, wearing Sun Flower in size S
Reef breaks occur when water breaks over reef on the sea bed. As reef tend to be permanent fixtures, waves that break over reef is more consistent. This makes it easy to know where to paddle out to, although reef breaks tend to be further from shore and thus require a long paddle out. This does give you a longer wave to ride, though!
However, there are a few things to take note of if you’re planning on surfing a reef break – although not common, you may fall victim to coral cuts. You’ll also want to take note if you’re surfing a reef break – it’d be a good idea to wear reef-safe sunscreen.
Reef breaks are safer to surf during mid to high tide, as the reefs will be deeper under the water. Waves over reef breaks are the favourite of more advanced surfers as they tend to generate the best waves.
Popular reef breaks: Batu Bolong beach in Canggu, Baby Padang beach in Uluwatu, Cloud 9 beach in Siargao
3. Point break
Beckie surfing at Riyuewan Bay
In layman terms, point breaks occur when waves break around land rather than directly towards it. This occurs when land juts out from shore, or around formations like cliffs. As swells come in from the ocean, the water slows down around the obstacle, causing the water underneath to rise above, creating perfect waves!
These waves are the best for longboarders, as they tend to be long and smooth, producing a long green wave for surfers to ride on. Point breaks are not characterised by the seabed below, and thus can have sand, rock or reef bottoms.
Under the right conditions, point breaks are perfect for beginner and intermediate surfers who want to improve and practise their surfing manoeuvres. During a big swell, point breaks also produce draining barrels or high-speed muscular walls, making it more suited for advanced surfers, like the famous Padang Padang beach in Uluwatu.
Popular point breaks: Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka, Riyuewan bay in Hainan, Padang Padang in Bali