When it comes to learning how to surf, some waves are better than others. For the beginning surfer, spilling waves are the best.
A spilling wave occurs when a gradually sloping ocean floor causes the wave to become steeper and steeper until the crest spills down the face of the wave in a rush of foaming whitewater. The wave continues in this manner until its energy is dissipated in a froth near the shore.
Spilling waves break for a longer time than other waves, providing ample energy at the start of the ride and a gentle decrease in power as the wave nears the shore. For beginners who are just learning to stand and balance on the board this is ideal.
When a wave breaks over a sandy bottom, it’s called a beach break. When a wave breaks over an obstruction, like a rocky bottom or a reef, it’s called a reef break. Reef breaks produce plunging waves which, while they are highly favored by experienced surfers, are difficult for beginners.
Plunging waves rise quickly and become steeper, almost vertical at the crest, before plunging suddenly into the trough, creating a barrel or tube as they break along their line. To catch a ride inside that tube is the ultimate surfing experience.
However, the suddenness and force of a reef break can be too much for a beginner. What’s more, the rocky bottom can result in a painful battering if the wave crashes down full force on a fallen surfer.
Finding the right beach to learn on should be one of the chief concerns for aspiring surfers. Yet many surf schools make no mention of the importance of learning on the right waves, taking all levels of surfers to the same beach.
At the Uvita Surf School, in Bahia Uvita, Costa Rica, beginners are taught at Colonia Beach in Ballena National Marine Park. Colonia has a beach break and produces plenty of vigorous spilling waves to learn on. The gradually sloping sandy bottom at Colonia is most forgiving to surfers who fall in the course of their lessons, dramatically reducing the chance of cuts and abrasions, and Colonia is not frequented by experienced surfers, who prefer the plunging waves further up the coast at Dominical.
Waves are not all the same. Some are better than others. For beginners, a spilling wave that results from a beach break is the best kind of wave to learn on. ♦
Author and Client: This post was written by Malcolm Logan for Uvita Surf School at Uvitasurfcamp.com