All About WAVES!

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Waves are a surfer's ultimate pursuit. Of course surfers speak their own lingo, as most subcultures do. Especially when it comes to ocean conditions. To a beginner this language can be confusing, this page is devoted to what a surfer talks about most often WAVES!

This illustration shows a surf swell's height compared to a surfer's body, a very common system of measurement. Often you hear surfer's saying "it was shoulder to head high" or "knee to thigh high." When we say this we are basing it on a 6ft(1.90cm) tall man.

When it get bigger than head high a surfer will go back to feet plus head high. Like 7 to 8ft will be said 2 to 3ft over head. At 9 to 12ft will be called double overhead. Which means it is 2 times higher than the surfer on it. This is medium surf. Once it get to triple overhead, it is considered large surf.

Types of Waves

Swell size, period direction, tides, local winds, and Types of Breaks can tell what type of wave it will be. For information about this check out Surf Reports & How to Read Them The results of these conditions can tell what types of conditions can be found at any given break. Let's start of with the good, move onto the bad, and end with the ugly!


A.K.A tubes, barrels, or pipelines: These are are the Holy Grail to most experienced surfers. They are formed when swell comes in from deeper waters and quickly hits a shallower area. If you are just staring out tubes are not for you, but hang in there and you will be spending time in the greenroom before you know it. This photo is of Encuentro, my local spot when Hurricane Katia brought in some epic tubes.

Photo courtesy of Hooked Cabarete


Peeling or peelers are great for advancing from beginner to intermediate. They have moderate power and seem to peel off the peak or crest in either a left of right. Peelers give you ample time to pop-up & to aim down the face of wave. They are great for getting to spend time on blue open water, instead of white water. Peelers give you opportunity to work on generating speed which is essential to doing tricks and maneuvers.

Dominican Republic Surf

Photo courtesy of Swell Surf Camp


Mushy or crumbly refer to a wave that does not have a great deal of power usually from a short swell period. They tend to be very forgiving and are great for leaners to advance.


Choppy, chop, or wind chop is formed from local winds. They can really kill a good surf session. Someplaces in the world all they rely on is wind chop to form a wave for example the Great Lakes. Yes there is a Great Lake surf scene! Check out this video! It completely changed my mind about wind chop! Courtesy of Redbull.


Closeouts are when the entire length breaks all at once, rendering it pretty much unridable. These can be pretty nasty if you are caught on the inside section of them. In many cases a "clean-up" set will break. A clean up set is a consecutive set of big closeouts breaking further out than the earlier sets & washing all except a lucky few back towards the beach. Some surfers that are great at air tricks catch closeouts to get ramps to make big airs.

Surfing is more than a water sport. It's a lifestyle. If you are interested in more information checkout my other pages about it.

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