Ocean waves -how fast ??

Hey Sing, et ux:

Approximately how fast are the ocean waves, (breakers) traveling as they are approaching the beach?

I know I can’t outsprint them at about 7 MPH so I am curious as to what they are going.

Jack L

Depends on Size and Period…

Suffice to say, swells will move faster than someone paddling.


Good info

Just don’t give me a test a few weeks from now.

I am going to show the info to my wife. She is the brains of the family, and will really enjoy and remember it.

Thanks again,


50 Footer At Mavericks Can Go 35MPH
That is why you can’t catch them by paddling, They have to be towed in on jetskis

Shallow water waves are different
The dependence of wave speed on period (or wavelength) only applies for deep water waves… the wavelength is less than twice the depth of the water. When waves approach a beach, they start to steepen when they ‘feel the bottom’. They also slow down. At this point they start to transition to shallow water waves. When the water depth becomes 1/20th of the wavelength, the waves are true shallow water waves and the wave speed is dependent only on the depth of the water.

speed of shallow water wave = SQRT(g*h)

where g is the acceleration due to gravity

and h is the depth of water.

Well JackL
After Nanci has a chance to figure it out then I want a lesson.

I thought wind was the major contributor to waves and therefore would have thought that wind speed would come into play. And, if the speed of deep water waves are wholly dependant on the period, (dont understand that) then they have to transision into shallow water waves and there is not that far from twenty feet deep to the shore. And looking at the formula of getting the square root of the speed due to gravity times the depth of the water does not take into account the initial speed of the wave nor the wind.

Oh well, I dont want a test either. Sounds like they go faster than you can paddle so they go way faster than I can paddle.

Happy Paddling,


Wave Reading…
is an essential skill for good wave riding. You have to figure out where to catch the wave. Basically in anticipation, you begin to stroke before the wave arrives to get the boat to start moving right at the “critical” spot on the face as it pitches up. From there, gravity and a couple more extra strokes sends you along a the speed or above the break/power pocket.


two kinds of waves

– Last Updated: Jun-27-06 3:23 AM EST –

it took me a long while to understand this but there are two types of waves. Wind waves often called runners which are dependent on local wind conditions and are slower and thus easier to catch in deep water. There is also waves created by wind far away that by the time they get to you the wind has died away often called ground swell. These are more powerful and faster . They typically can only be ridden when breaking on the beach/reef(typically good shaped waves will usaully be with windless or offshore conditions) or when wind waves are superimposed on them.
The way I think about it is long boat waves because you use your speed to catch them ie wind waves from local conditions(ground swell is usaually too fast to catch in deep water). Think of surfski long skinny fast boat. There are also short boat waves (think surfboard or surfkayak) were you catch breaking waves based on there shape which is dicated by the shape of the underwater floor.
When wind is blowing on shore it is a good long boat day paddle out and turn around wind blows you home and you ride runners. The onshore wind blows the tops over on the breaking waves so they don't have good shape and are not good for short boats. If there is ground swell and there is no wind or offshore wind then it is a short boat day were you can ride breaking waves and turn and do manuevers etc... I get nervous paddling away from land if wind is offshore because you can get blown away and wind gets stronger as you get further away from land b/c the fetch gets longer (ie the farther away from shore you are the less protection you have from shore blocking wind).
I will be in nags head paddling this weekend and will have a surf boat and probably bring my surfski as well. Don't know if you are near the coast or not but if you have never seen these kind of boats there different styles can illustrate these points in visual form.

The good ones are always faster.
Practice here.


Was on a sur ski once, and that
was enough.

It was Gregs from Florida Bay outfitters.

It was 15" wide, and I made one big circle in it and decided that it wasn’t for me.

When I first got on it, I was shaking so bad, I thought I was going to hemmorage, but then Greg yelled paddle and away I went.

So I can honestly say I have never tipped in a surf ski, and never will.



Jack, you gotta try one of the newer

– Last Updated: Jun-27-06 7:14 AM EST –

generation 'stable' skis ..... If you tried out a HUKI S1-R you would never get off or get knocked off it. Anyone who can paddle the 700 can move in a S1-R with confidence.

I couldn’t get it to work.
I am not sure why ?

I paddled a outrigger OC-1 last year after the Wrightsville Beach race and absolutely loved it.



I think Keizo is updating some stuff
because it was flickering for me too.