Understanding The Ocean: Waves

Cabarete, the watersports capital of the Dominican Republic, has world-class conditions for kitesurfing, windsurfing, and surfing. Since it was first enjoyed as a tourist destination back in the 1980s by windsurfer Jean Laporte for its consistent trade winds, Cabarete has hosted millions of travelers from all over the globe wooed by the warm turquoise shimmer. With so many watersports fanatics and sun worshippers entering the ocean every day, we came up with a basic, “what you need to know” guide series about the ocean, how it works, and the things to educate yourself on. For our first installment, we’ll be teaching you the basics of waves!

Cabarete is blessed with about 350 days of surfable waves per year, luring beginners, pros and everyone in between! But where do these waves come from? Friction from the wind generates waves. Essentially, as the wind blows across the water, it creates ripples. Small ripples eventually turn into larger ripples AKA waves. Simple!

Not so simple is that many factors determine the strength and size of these waves. Firstly is the speed of the wind, the faster the wind speed, the larger the resulting wave. Secondly is the length of time the wind has been blowing on the wave, the longer the time, the larger the wave. There are obviously an infinite amount of variables that affect the size and power of the waves, but these are the main two we can summarize in a short article like this.

This is how waves are made

Interestingly, waves move energy, not water. The water is, in fact, moving, but only in a circular motion. The water particles work as rollers in a conveyor belt, as they rotate they move the “belt” on the top forward, but the water particles themselves do not go forward in the process. This circular motion makes it much easier for us to swim underneath the wave, below the rotation, rather than diving through the center of the wave.

As these waves move closer to our shore, the drag on the bottom of the wave becomes stronger causing the upper part of the wave to tilt forward. Once the bottom gets shallow enough, the wave tilts enough that it curls over and breaks.

It’s important to remember that as these waves get larger, they get more powerful so always consider your ability when going into the water.

Check out our next Understanding The Ocean articles on tides and and currents.

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