All About Surf Breaks



Knowing what types of surf breaks the incoming swell are breaking over will help you accurately read a surf report. This can remove trial, error, & frustration when trying to score some good waves. The three types of breaks are beach breaks, point breaks, & reef breaks.

Beach Breaks

More likely than not your local break is a beach break. They are the most common ftype of surf break. Beach breaks are waves that break over a sandy bottom. Typically these waves break 100 yards from shore or less, sometimes on a sand bar, sometimes right on shore. These waves are in state of constant change due to the sandy ocean floor. The wave will finally break when it strikes a surface shallow enough for it to unleash it's power. Along the same stretch of beach a wave can break better in some places than others. This is dependent on how the sand has shifted. Growing up in Florida beach breaks were 99% of the waves we surfed and the sand could change quite easily from day to day. Also, because of this sand shifting the wave can way less predicable than other types of surf breaks. The sand can change from a variety of reasons. These reasons can be from currents, storms, tides, seasons, and of course mankind. Which was all part of the fun.

We have beach breaks here in Cabarete. On the east side of town, near the river mouth. These waves are great on an east swell, even with short periods. The waves are know to be hollow there & keep us frothing all summer long! Bellow is a photo of Kelly Slater surfing Trestles, a world famous beach break & the place for an anual ASP surf contest. The second photo is of our local beach breaks on the north coast of the Dominican Republic courtesy of Dominican Republic Surf Adventures

Photo courtesy of Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP)


Point Breaks

A point break is a wave thats power is unleashed when it hits a headland. A headland is a place that the coastline comes to a point. A headland can be a natural point or a manmade structure like a rock jetty or fishing pier. Point breaks form fairly predictable waves. They break either left or right, but never both as would a beach or reef break. Some waves from point breaks can peel for hundreds of yards, like Jefferies Bay South Africa, featured below.


A quality point break will except incoming swell on shallow rocks or sand and tapper off to deeper waters on the inside of the break. On good days the swells will look like corduroy & usually brings loads of surfers. Below is another well know point break Bells Beach Australia on an unusually uncrowded day.


Photo courtesy of Association of Surf Professionals (ASP)

Reef Breaks

Reef breaks are my favorite type of wave to surf & a very common type of surf break here on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. They create pipe dreams that dance in most surfer's heads. Reef breaks are formed when swell hits either coral reef or rock beds. When waves hit reefs from open ocean a fast hollow dream like wave can be the result. Waves in surf breaks like the Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu are the perfect example of a flawless reef break. These waves are the most photographed and videoed.

Encuentro is a reef break, but quite tame for one, most of the time. Reef breaks are usually quite shallow & break from top to bottom, which makes them steep and hollow. The reward can be like nothing ever experienced, but the wipeout can be painful. These waves are the most photographed and videoed. Open any magazine or watch any surf video and you see surfers getting barreled or making jaw dropping speed maneuvers on reef breaks. Usually reef breaks are not for beginners, excluding Encuentro, which is prefect for beginners. Below is a classic photo for Gerry Lopez, "Mr. Pipeline", at the break that gave him his nick name. The second photo is of Encuentro my local reef break going off!

Gerry Lopez at Banzai Pipeline

Surf Encuentro Cabarete

Photo courtesy of Geno Lopez




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