Waves come in different shapes and sizes, and break over different surfaces. Most people will start their surfing journey on a beach break, since this is the type of wave that is easiest to catch and has fewer risks than reef or point breaks. However, at some point you might want to give a reef break wave a shot. Or you are at a destination where there aren’t any beach breaks. Well if you do you better be prepared, but we have got you covered.
What is a reef break?
A reef break is a wave that breaks over a rocky surface such as coral, the reef or just regular old rocks. Because the surface is fixed instead of sand banks that tend to move around when the waves roll over them. Because the bottom is fixed the wave breaks more consistently, and stays the same throughout the day. If you want to know more about different types of waves then check out the article in the link. However, these rocky seabeds do have a downside, especially compared to beach breaks. The reef is often covered in sharp corals or rocks. This is something you not want to hit during I wipeout. Later in this article we will go over the dangers pf surfing a reef break and give some tips on how to surf as safe as possible.
Well known reef breaks
Most of the beautiful waves you see in surfing movies and magazines are reef breaks. This is because they offer the highest quality wave and the biggest waves. Some well-known reef breaks are pipeline in Hawaii and Teahupoo in Tahiti. Both of these destinations are home to the Billabong pro contests, and every year the craziest big waves are surfed here. The spots are not for beginners, but are places every surfer propably wants to surf at some point. Before you try these breaks, it is better to try your luck at a more accessible wave. And when you do, we have some useful tips for you.
Surfing your first reef break
When you feel confident enough to surf your first reef break there are a couple of things to keep in mind. This is exactly why we have created this list of things to remember and or prepare for. Use this information wisely!
Observe the waves from the beach
Reef breaks often have a channel though which the water flows back into the ocean after the waves break. In this channel there are no waves which makes it the perfect place to paddle out. While you are in the channel check for the best place to take off. Usually it is better to find a smooth take of place to learn how the wave feels. We also recommend that you surf the wave with somebody who knows the wave. They will always be able to recommend the best places to surf for a first timer.
Don’t drop in on anyone
This is rule surfers take very seriously no matter where you are, but when surfing a reef break it can get really dangerous. When you interfere with a surfer he or she is forces to go straight into the white water, where the reef is lurking a few feet below the water. The changes of getting injured are much higher, so don’t be the one sending another surfer out there.
Try out reef boots
It is human nature to try to land on your feet, even when you are under water. On a sharp reef break this is something you don’t want to do if you like having your feet in one piece. To offer protection for the sharp rocks it is advised to wear reef boots. This makes getting in and out of the water a lot easier and can safe your feet during a wipe out.
Now that we’re talking about wipeouts, there is another important thing to remember. Because the reef is usually quite shallow you want to stay as close to the water surface as possible. You do this with the starfish method. Spread your arms and legs out like a starfish and try to fall as flat as possible. By doing so you make it harder for your body to be pulled down into the sharp reef. Never ever fall with your head or feet first.
When surfing a reef break, fear is good but panic is problematic. You are going to wipe out, and it probably is going to be scary, but the last thing you want to do is start to panic. Fear on the other hand keeps you sharp and sane. When you are under water in a wipe out, counteract the motion you are being pushed in. try to pull yourself the other wat to get out of the washing machine that is an underwater wipeout.
Surfing a reef break is not without it’s risks, but the reward is priceless. The hollow and powerful waves are on another level compared to beach breaks. Being able to surf these waves is a show of the surfing level you have, and something to be proud of!