- 01 September 2014 | Surfing
How do waves break? How will a wave break? It's one of the most frequent questions in surfing, and you'll forever learn where to paddle to. Left, right or no-go.
Reading waves and the direction they break is one of the most important skills in surfing. Whether you're a beginner, weekend warrior, intermediate or pro surfer, you should definitely learn how to read a wave.
Choosing the wave we'll be riding involves observation, and it will open a wide new world of advantages over other fellow surfers - you'll be catching the best waves, more waves, you'll experience less wipeouts, you'll get less tired and, above all, you'll surely have more fun.
Experienced surfers know exactly how will waves bend and break, even if they're not familiarised with the surf spot. Therefore, they will paddle for quality rides only.
The first lesson is the simplest one. Surfing is not possible in closeout waves because the whole wave crashes over, and you're not able to get the surfboard trimming its face.
So, if you must not catch waves that will close, how do you decipher a wave's genetic code. Will it break left or right? Here's what you should know about unbroken waves:
1. Look at the horizon's straight line.
2. When a set is coming, compare the skyline with the wave's angle.
3. Identify the highest point of the wave.
4. The side with the steepest angle/slope down is the direction of the breaking wave.
5. The direction of the breaking wave is the direction you should ride.
Now that you've identified a left-hand and a right-hand wave let's pay attention to a couple of possibilities that will also occur out the back - a closeout and a split peak.
The split peak, also known as "A-frame," appears when the coming wave has an even angle on both sides, like an inverted "V". In this case, the wave will break both left and right. So if you're perfectly positioned in the peak - the take-off point - you can choose whether to go left or right.
Closeouts are usually impossible to surf. You'll notice that the wave line is parallel to skyline. There are no angles or slopes, which means the wave will break simultaneously across its face.
As a general rule of thumb, the highest point or peak is usually where the wave will break first, and the spot where you should be. Now, start reading those waves at your home break. You'll rapidly get it right.