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What are the 5 things you need to understand about waves and surf?

A Surfer’s Guide to Waves and Tides

When you’re just starting out at surfing, there is so much information out there that might confuse you. There is so much information at your disposal that you may feel overwhelmed as someone new to surfing. Here are a few pointers:

1. Size

This describes the height of the wave from the top to the bottom of the lip or vice versa. However, be wary of the different descriptions from surfers. Some describe them using ft. The thing is, it’s not the actual ft but “surfer’s feet”. Plus the kiwi surfer’s ft varies from the Hawaiian ft to the American ft. The best description involves terms like overhead, double overhead or shoulder height. 

2. Power

This might not be obvious for a novice surfer and comes with experience. Power describes the intensity of the waves breaking and the amount of water that is involved. You can have thick waves and thin ones and surfers also describe them as “heavy” or “fun”. As a beginner, be on the look for gentle breaking waves as they are the best for learning.

3. Shape

There are basically two shapes: hollow or fat. Hollow waves are described as tubing, sucky or barreling. Fat waves are often soft, weak or mellow and they are the best for beginners.

4. Surfing conditions

This is a no-brainer. They are both smooth and clean or in extreme conditions, choppy and bumpy. Go for cleaner surfing conditions.

5. Tides

Tides generally go out or in with low and high tides being 6 hours apart. Tides affect surfing in the following ways. When you have lower tides, the water is going to be shallower where the waves break. This makes a steeper wave shape that breaks fast. Higher tides mean deeper and fuller water with weaker waves and will mean you will take slightly longer to get up and riding.