The Different Types of Surf Spots | An Overview

Few other sports rely on the grace of Mother Nature like surfing. Not only are surfers reliant on the above-ground weather patterns that create waves and influence conditions, but surfers must equally acknowledge what’s happening below the waves along the ocean floor. The small contours of a coastline and underwater bathymetric features are vitally important to the quality of the breaking waves on the surface. Nature has done an excellent job in creating some thrilling waves for surfers to enjoy like Pipeline, Puerto Escondido, and Jeffery’s Bay. These are some of the best surf spots in the world and half the story is above water in their geographical positioning and local weather patterns while the other half of the story lays beneath the wave itself. Let’s dive in a little deeper; let’s examine the different types of surf spots around the world and the types of waves you can expect from each.

Beach Break

This is the most common type of surf spot. A beach break is a sand bottom beach that is receptive to oncoming ocean swell. Beach breaks are ideal for beginner surfers because of limited hazards. There’s much variation in the types of waves you’ll find at a beach break. Some days can be peaky and clean while other days can be messy and closed out. Beach breaks are highly dependent on the above-surface weather conditions due to the general uniformity on the ocean floor. Witch’s Rock (Roca Bruja) in Costa Rica is an example of a world-class beach break. Not only are the sandbars deposited perfectly because of an adjacent estuary, but the famous rock 500-meters off the beach refracts the incoming swell so that there are consistent, peaky waves with long lines in the surf zone. Geographically, Witch’s Rock is positioned to received offshore winds most days of the year grooming the oncoming waves to perfection. If you haven’t been to Witch’s Rock, you must add it to your surfing bucket list.

Point Break

Point breaks are dreamy because of the higher percentage of ridable waves and the overall length of ride is increased. As the swell approaches a protruding point along the coastline with an uneven ocean floor, the wave will break along the shallow water while the unbroken wave sweeps over the adjacent deeper water. This allows for the wave to break uniformly around the point creating a perfect canvas for surfers. Costa Rica is blessed with some of the best point breaks in the world. If you want leg burning lefts, head down south to Pavones. If you want to live out your Endless Summer fantasies like Robert August, cruise up to Ollie’s point for a regular footers dream session.

Reef break

Mostly reserved for advanced surfers, reef breaks are powerful surf spots that pick up the brunt of open ocean swell. Normally, the slope in the sea floor is very drastic leading up to a reef break so the wave will unload all of its force in a single moment. Furthermore, the underlying reef allows the waves to break uniformly while the energy is magnified and focuses along the reef itself. Probably the most photographed reef break in the world with a heavy reputation is the Banzaii Pipline on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii.

River mouth

Tamarindo is a prime example of a proper river mouth wave. The meandering estuary separating Tamarindo and Playa Grande deposits sand right in front of Witch’s Rock Surf Camp creating fun, sand-bottom waves with consistent form. The sand from the river is deposited into a triangular form which allows the wave to peel perfectly across the uneven bottom. Because a river mouth is constantly meandering, the wave quality and shape will change from one season to the next. Over the past 10 years, Tamarindo river mouth has gone from a top-to-bottom right hander, to a mushy and lengthy left hander, to a split peak left and right. Check out our Live Surf Cam to see what the Tamarindo rivermouth is doing right now.

Tamarindo River Mouth


The power of 2 waves is greater than 1. A proper wedge can be some of the funnest, most powerful, and ultimately most dangerous waves that exist. Basically, a wedge is when 2 wave collide at the perfect angle to create 1 powerful peak with mutant double-up tubes. In most cases a wedge is formed from a jetty or cliff that the wave will bounce off and re-connect with the following oncoming wave. Surfing a wedge can be tricky, but if you find yourself in the magic pocket of the wave, get ready to be sling shotted down the line. The most famous wedge wave in the world is “The Wedge” located in Newport Beach California. Drop us a comment below if you’ve surfed this wave and can live to tell the tale.

Wedge WAve

Man-made wave

Until recently, man-made waves were a weak alternative to ocean waves. The most reputable form of a man-made waves was probably Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando, Florida which produced a gutless, chest high roller. However, when Kelly Slater exposed us to his ground-swell technology at the Surf Ranch in Leemoore, California in 2015, the flood gates opened for wavepools and we are currently still in the boom 5 years later. Some of the best wavepools in the world are located in Waco, Texas; Melbourne Australia; and Palm Springs, California. The technology is getting better each year and now getting chlorinated tubes is a reality. This is an exciting part of surfing that will spread the sport’s popularity to inland locations around the world.

Pool Waves

Overall, surfers are looking for 2 main characteristics when it comes to waves,  power and shape. Costa Rica is blessed with a variety of surf spots that offer just that. Want to discover a few on your next surf trip with us. Let’s  start planning?

Contact us today at 1-888-318-7873. or email us at

See you out in the water!

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