How to “read” waves

August 11, 2019

When surfing, one of the most frequently asked questions is: how do the waves break? How will a wave break over a particular ocean topography? And when you have the answers to these questions, you’ll always know when and where to paddle – left, right or if the wave is not even worth paddling for.
Knowing how to interpret when the waves will break and anticipate the direction in which they will break is one of the most important surfing skills.

Whether you are a beginner, an intermediate practitioner or a professional, you should always know how to read a wave. Choosing the right wave entails observation and opens up a whole universe of advantages over other surfers.By mastering this art, you will catch the best waves more often, fall less often, get less tired and, above all, have much more fun.More experienced surfers can understand exactly how the waves will break and flow even though they are not familiar with where they are.

Wave Reading: Closeouts Are Not Great For Surfing
The first lesson is the simplest of all: if you learned how to surf or is even using a shorter board already, waves that close completely are not good for surfing. They do not have a face to which the surface of the board can adhere.
Closeouts are good if you are still learning how to stand on a foam board. Foam boards are very floatable which makes them the best option to learn.

Now that you know about closeouts, how to crack a wave’s “genetic code” or how to figure out if it will break left or right?
When watching waves that are still forming, here are the things to watch out for:

Look at the horizon line:

1. When a wave set is emerging, compare the horizon line with the wave angle;
2. Identify the highest point (peak) of the wave;
3. The side with the steepest slope or angle indicates where the wave will break;
4. The direction in which the wave breaks is the direction in which it should be surfed;

Once explained how to know if a wave is left or right, let’s cover two other possibilities that may occur: an “A-frame” wave or a closeout.

An “A-frame” wave occurs when the peak in formation has an identical angle on both sides, such as an inverted “V”.In these cases, the wave will break left and right simultaneously. If you are perfectly positioned at the peak of the wave – the starting  point – you can choose to go left or right.

Closeouts are waves that close all at once and as mentioned earlier. Those are generally not great for surfing.

By observing them you will notice that the wave line is parallel to the horizon line. There are no angles or inclines, which means that the wave will break simultaneously all over the face.

As a rule, the highest point – the peak of the wave – is where the wave will break first, so this is where it should be positioned.Now that you know what you have to do, start observing and reading the waves on your time at the beach and you’ll quickly learn what you need to know.

If you don’t know how to surf and are eager to learn, we can help. We are the best surf school in San Diego and we are ready to have you for surfing lessons.
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