The Best Waves for Beginning Surfers to Learn On

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Flag of Costa Rica  , Province of Puntarenas,
Saturday, March 26, 2011

When it comes to learning how to surf, some waves are better than others. For the beginning surfer, spilling waves are the best.

Spilling waves occur 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.

At the Uvita Surf School, in Bahia Uvita, Costa Rica, Tito teaches beginners 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. 

Waves are not all the same.  Some are better than others.  For beginners, spilling waves resulting from a beach break are the best waves to learn on.   

    


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