What Causes Waves?!

Surfers know the secret behind this phenomenon...

Find it Out

I have traveled to beaches and lakes on both the east and west coast of the United States. I have visited Long Beach on the Coast of California during early spring, Hilton Head in South Carolina during mid-summer, Panama City Beach in Florida in late spring, Lake Michigan in the late summer, and Jacksonville Beach in Florida in during early summer. All of these bodies of water were extremely different. Some contained warm water, some were freezing. Some beaches had nice white sand, other beaches surrounded by sharp rocks. The ocean water was salty and host to creatures like dolphins, bull sharks, stingray, and octopus, whereas the fresh lake water in Michigan contained nothing more dangerous than a catfish. All of these waterways, however, had one thing in common: Waves. Where do these waves come from?
Recently, the waves I encountered at Jacksonville Beach brought the phenomenon to my attention as well as the attention of my friends. These waves were huge. Surfers were delighted. We wondered - what was the force behind them? Simply put, Dictionary.com defines "Wave" as "A disturbance on the surface of a liquid body, as the sea or a lake, in the form of a moving ridge or swell. This broad definition can be broken down significantly into different shapes and sizes, and behind it all lies fundamental principles of physics. At the basic level of physics, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration describes that "waves are energy moving through the water, causing the water to move in a circular motion." The administration goes on to describe that at open sea, water itself does very little moving - instead, energy moves.
Waves on the coast, however, are a different phenomenon. These waves, the ones professional surfers love to tackle, are created by an imbalance. As the wave approaches the shallow shore, the lower part of the wave slows down while the top portion comes crashing down. This answers the questions about where waves come from, however, where does the energy behind the waves come from? Wind, adverse weather, earthquakes, storms, and landslides all factor in to the energy behind waves.

Try it Out

1.) You can search waves surrounding your area to get information on the best waves, high tide, low tide, and when the water is dangerous for swimming. Surfers use this to decide when to head out. Browse through the gallery, and post your own pictures!

2.) Once you improve your surfing skills, consider purchasing a GoPro. This is the camera of choice to capture the best picture and video footage of big swells. There is several accessories that go along with a GoPro to ensure you capture accurate footage of your surfing adventures!