What are the parts of a wave? Surfing wouldn't be a sport without waves. Without waves, surfers wouldn't be able to walk on water. Let's take a look at the different components that make a wave... a wave.
There are several things we know about waves. We understand - probably since we were children - thatwaves break, waves travel, and that waves have different heights. That's the easy part.
The majority of us know that every wave is different, that some waves are more powerful than others, and that they usually come in sets of three or six. Right?
The best waves for surfing come from groundswells. Scientists and oceanographers have studied how waves travel thousands of miles until reaching the coastline and breaking into whitewater. Energy dissipates, end of the story.
A wave can be broken down into three main components. They are:
Crest: it's the top of the wave; the highest point of any wave.
Trough: it's the bottom of the wave; the lowest region of a wave; the opposite of the crest. The trough is often constant for waves traveling in the open ocean. When they're about to break, waves have deeper troughs.
Face: it's the front of a breaking wave; the vertical distance between the crest and the trough is the wave height; the wavelength is the distance between two adjacent crests or troughs; the wave period is the time period between the crest of one wave, and the crest of the next wave.
You might have noticed that objects and people bob up and down, forward and backward with the passage of each wave. That's the orbital motion of the water, i.e., floating objects do a complete circuit every time a wave passes through, ending up in more or less the same spot.
In deep water, the floating object has no significant net movement at the surface of the waves, but when in shallower water, there is a subtle net forward movement called Stokes drift.
Do you want to learn more about waves, wind, and swells? Take a look at the best surf forecasting books.