The Best Waves for Beginning Surfers to Learn On

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.

Many surf schools make no mention of the importance of learning on the right waves, taking all levels of surfers to the same beach. Finding the right beach to learn on should be one of the chief concerns of aspiring surfers. When shopping for a surf school, take the time to inquire what kind of breaks are most prevalent on their instructional beaches. Reef breaks are okay as long as there are beach breaks there as well.

Point breaks are waves that break off an outcropping of land or "point". Beaches with point breaks and reef breaks are usually populated with experienced who may resent the presence of newbies, so bear that in mind as well when choosing a surf school.

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.

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