Waves start as lines on the horizon that eventually transform into waves, as they get closer to the shore and reach shallower depths. The seabed rises the closer you get to the beach, creating a shallower area for the water. The swell keeps moving at the same speed whilst the bottom part is slowed down as it hits the seabed, resulting in the top half spilling over in the formation of a wave. When they break, they can be categorised into 4 different waves:

  • A left wave

When a wave breaks or  ‘peels’ to the left, from the surfer’s perspective, it’s a left hand wave, allowing the surfer to ride to the left when taking the wave.  The direction of a wave is left or right according to the surfer’s perspective in the lineup, looking towards the beach.

  • A right wave

When a wave breaks or peels to the right, it’s called a right hand wave.  This means the wave is breaking on your left first and peeling to the right. Turn right on the wave to ride the open (unbroken) face of the wave as a right hander.

  • An a-frame wave

An a-frame or ‘peak-shaped’ wave is only found on a beach break and has both right and left open faces. This type of wave allows two surfers to ride in opposite directions, one going right and the other left – something we call ‘splitting the peak’.

  • A closeout

A close out is a wave that ‘closes all at once’ which means it’s impossible to ride either right or left.


  • Is it a closeout?

Sometimes you will see a closeout where an experimented surfer sees a good wave. Look closely and you might see a peak and a small open face. Always move around the water to find opportunities for waves.

  • Facing an a-frame

When you are the only person paddling for an a-frame, you can choose to go either right or left. However if another surfer is also paddling for the same wave, communicate your intended direction, so you can ride one direction and they can ride the opposite.


Once you are on your board, look at the horizon and try to find a line with a shape (ie a peak) coming towards you. Once you identify the peak, paddle towards it to catch your wave at the highest point, where you will have the easiest takeoff.  Don’t paddle for a wave that’s coming at you with a straight line, as the drawing shows above, without a peak the wave will close out and leave you no time to ride an open face.

The sooner you identify the peak, the better. This will give you more time to paddle to the optimal position to catch the wave.


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