November 28, 2022
types of surfing breaks in san diego

3 Types of Surfing Breaks

Usually, surfing is a way of life for many people such as adventurers, travelers, and thrill-seekers. The one thing they share in common is a love for the ocean. But regardless of your love for the ocean, you can’t just charge off the beach, board in hand, ready to tackle monstrous waves. First, you need to be aware of the different types of surfing breaks.

Before you can take up a new surfing challenge, you need thorough practice and awareness. For this purpose, my post on learning how to surf offers helpful tips for new surfers. Here, you can find plenty of information on the different surfing spots in San Diego.

In this post, I’ll be covering some common surf terms, the three types of surfing breaks / waves, and where to find each while surfing in San Diego.

Surfing Lingo (terminologies)

Before you can hit the waves, you must know some core terms. Surfing, just like many other sports, has its own vocabulary. Here are a few you need to know, especially when speaking to an instructor.  

  • Wipeout: when a surfer goes off-board while riding waves
  • Pocket: the ‘energy’ area near the whitewash in a wave, where you get maximum surfing speed (steepest point of a wave)
  • Leash: thin or thick rope (depending on the size of waves you are surfing) that prevents you from losing your board in case of a wipeout
  • Kook: These are rookies who try mimicking a pro-surfer’s lifestyle- they are often careless and odd.
  • Aerial/ Punt: a stunt in which a surfer launches himself from the water and into the air. Then, they descend onto a decline wave ramp. It requires experience and excellent maneuver capabilities.

Parts of a Wave and Surfing Breaks

  • Face or Wall is the area where the surfer rides.
  • Peak is the steepest point of the wave, exactly where the surf ride should start.
  • Lip of a wave is the edge that imitates a falling pattern (falling lip).
  • Trough is, of course, the bottom of a wave.
  • Tube or Barrel refers to the long cylindrical space that imitates the motion of moving towards the surfer, who is on the wall of the wave. It is the long space between the open wall and the “lip” of a wave. Most surfers are in search of a glorious barrel ride 🙂

3 Types of Surfing Breaks / Waves in San Diego

But besides the different lingo, knowing the types of surfing breaks are equally important. Others call them the different types of surfing waves as well. There are three of them. These are prominently beach breaks/ waves, reef breaks/ waves, or point breaks/ waves.

Point Breaks / Waves

Surfing point breaks, or surfing point waves, originating from a “point” that keeps wrapping around a coastline. It may even wrap for minutes or miles along a coastline before it submerges to the shore. The ride is fantastic, and it definitely gives you an adrenaline rush. This is especially if you’re a fan of the popular 1991 film, Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. Like the characters in the film, you’ll have a great time testing your surfing skills in different point breaks.

A surfing point break/ wave is a long ride but epic to a great extent! It is one of the most desirable surfing breaks/ waves among surfers. Fortunately, San Diego has plenty of point break surfing spots. Some of my favorite point breaks in San Diego include Swamis Surf Spot, PB Point, and Terra Mar Point.

point breaks in san diego
Points Breaks are known for bodies of land that jut out from the coastline like Terra Mar Point (pictured above) in San Diego

Reef Breaks / Waves

Next up, we’ve got one of the most thrilling surfing breaks/ waves in San Diego. Yes, we are talking about the famous surfing reef breaks. If you never heard about them before, you will now. These waves typically break from a coral or a rock.

Two types of reef breaks: rock and coral reef breaks. Always look out for the boils in the water when trying out reef breaks (dry reefs). They usually have sea grass at the bottom. However, urchins are a common nuisance (but not in San Diego!), so don’t think of standing in shallow waters (when in a reef break) in tropical climates like the Caribbean. Be it a rock or coral reef break; surfers can normally predict where it will peak and break according to the swell direction.

Many reef breaks require swift maneuvering that are best left to skilled surfers. However, San Diego also has many mellow reef breaks that even a beginner can ride. Here a few well known reef breaks in San Diego along with my recommended level of surfing ability:

surfing breaks
Reef breaks are normally characterized by some type of rock, coral, or reef structure just below the water

Beach Breaks / Waves

Surfing beach breaks are waves that break on the sand floor of the beach. To put it simply, they are highly preferable for newbie surfers, helping them learn to surf. A sandy floor typically doesn’t hurt as much when you hit the bottom. Beach breaks occur often due to the discharge of sand and its buildup via a river mouth.

With that said, many beach breaks are also fast breaking waves. A fast breaking beach break can be hollow and powerful. As such, these types of beach breaks are better suited for intermediate and advanced surfers.

This fact entails that the consistency and quality of a beach break at a surfing spot will wholly depend on the positioning and the movement of the sand floor. It might shift in a week or even after an entire year! Therefore, beach breaks comprise mellow and/ or powerful/ hollow waves. Normally, there is less swell, which makes things easier for a new surfer.

Beach breaks are probably the most common type of surfing break found in San Diego. Below are some of my favorites – along with their recommended level of surf skill:

surfing beach breaks
Beach breaks are shallow and known for their sandy bottom

Conclusion on Types of Surfing Breaks in San Diego

So what are you waiting for? You’re aware of various surfing terms, three types of surfing breaks (beach breaks, reef breaks, point breaks), and where to find each in San Diego! Now, you should gear up and plan to spend a joyful and thrilling time on your next surfing trip to San Diego.

It’ll be a fantastic opportunity to make new friends, try new experiences, and cherish awesome memories! All things considered, a trip to San Diego to live out your surfer dreams should certainly be on your bucket list (just make sure to check the weather and ocean temperature before you go).


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