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Outdoor Exercise | Cape Town, South Africa

Types of Ocean Breakers

The Difference Between Waves and Breakers

Waves located on the ocean's surface are commonly caused by wind transferring its energy to the water, and big waves, or swells, can travel over long distances. A wave's size depends on wind speed, wind duration, and the area over which the wind is blowing.

In shallow water, waves slow and pile up, becoming higher and steeper, eventually falling over into what’s known as breakers or surf.

Types Of Breakers

Different types of breakers are formed according to the angle of the beach they break against.

  • Spilling breakers

When the ocean floor has a gradual slope, spilling breakers are formed. Spilling breakers are relatively gentle waves.

  • Plunging breakers

A plunging wave occurs when the ocean floor is steep or has a sudden depth change, such as from a reef or sandbar. A plunging wave breaks with more energy than a spilling wave.

  • Surging breakers

Surging breakers occur from low steepness waves and/or steep beach profiles. The outcome is rapid movement of the base of the wave up the slope with backwash and often foam.

Photo: OAS.org

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