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What Are The Different Parts Of An Ocean Wave?

   April 11th, 2022   Posted In: Articles  

What Are The Different Parts Of An Ocean Wave?

If you have found yourself here, you most likely have a deep love and profound reverence for the ocean. No matter what attracts you to the ocean, whether it be surfing, boating, diving, etc. knowing the parts of an ocean wave can be incredibly beneficial. Not only does knowing these terms give you the vocabulary to talk to other ocean enthusiasts, but it also gives you a baseline for understanding the physics behind waves.

Why Is It Important to Know the Parts of a Wave?

As the wind blows over the surface of a body of water, the energy of the wind transfers to the water. This transfer of energy and the creation of friction creates what we know as waves. As humans, we typically only have the ability to view what is going on on the surface of the ocean. Underneath a wave, there is a dance of energy that is pushing and pulling water in different directions and changing the topography of the shoreline.

If you have been sucked under an ocean wave, you know exactly what we mean. Similarly, with this knowledge, you can learn how to read waves for surfing and other ocean activities. That is why it can be beneficial to know the different parts of a wave.

Different Parts of a Wave

There are three main parts of an ocean wave, the crest, the trough, and the face.


When looking at a wave from the side, there are a series of high and low points. The highest point or the peak of the wave is what is known as the crest. 


Similarly, the lowest point of the wave is known as the trough. 


The face of a wave is what is viewable from the shoreline. It is the flat area of the wave that rises from the trough to the crest. When a wave breaks on the shore, the face is what collapses and dissolves into white bubbles.

What Are The Parts Of a Wave

In addition to the main parts of an ocean wave, there are a few other terms that are useful to know when it comes to the anatomy of a wave. They are the wavelength, the wave height, the wave frequency, and the wave period. Knowing these terms in addition to the others can make it easier to understand the lingo that boaters, surfers, and other water-based sports fans use.

Wave Length

The wave length is the measurable distance between two crests of subsequent waves. The wave length can also be measured by the distance between two troughs of subsequent waves.

Wave Height

This is the distance between the highest point of a wave (the crest) and the lowest point of a wave (the trough). 

Wave Frequency

The wave frequency measures the number of waves that pass by a fixed location within a given amount of time. For example, during storms, there are typically more waves because there is more wind that is disturbing the surface of the water, so therefore the frequency of the waves will be higher. In contrast, when it is a calm, wind-free day, there may be fewer waves and a lower wave frequency. 

Wave Period

Finally, the wave period is the time it takes for a wave to travel the wavelength. Think of it like this, if you are staring at a group of waves, how long does it take for one wave to replace the one in front of it? That amount of time is the wave period.

Wetsuits Strong Enough to Take on the Waves

As mentioned earlier, ocean waves are strong and have the ability to pull us under. When it comes to your wetsuit, you need to make sure that it is designed to take on these currents. Whether you are swimming, surfing, or diving you are guaranteed to find a wetsuit that meets your requirements. 

Hannah lives in Virginia Beach with her two cats and her fiance. She loves to read, write, and binge watches YouTube videos. Her favorite hobbies are tending to her overgrown houseplants and traveling. To contact Hannah please email hannahb2713@gmail.com.

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