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The waves that can be found in the middle of an ocean ("swell") are the raw material from which actual surfing waves rise when they hit a suitable beach. Unbroken waves, even big ones, aren't yet suitable for surfing, because the energy in the wave is distributed too much, and not enough of it is found in the surface. The waves need to be "broken" by more shallow water, so that the energy in the wave is brought to the surface. There are three main types of breaks:

The beach break, where the wave is broken by the sandy seabed, which gets progressively more shallow. This means that most beaches are by default beach breaks. The disadvantage of beach breaks is that the waves are often not quite as big as with other breaks and they can break less predictably, which means that it is more difficult to surf the edge of the wave that is just breaking. The advantage is that they are less risky, though one should still watch out for sea currents etc.

The point break is a wave that breaks on a rocky point, producing potentially bigger and more predictable waves.

The reef break is a wave that breaks on a coral reef. Usually the biggest waves are made by reef breaks, but unfortunately reef breaks are also the most dangerous, because a sharp coral is an uncomfortable thing to fall on. In recent years even some artificial surfing reefs have been constructed. They are obviously a bit safer.

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