Shore-break is a common characteristic of surf along the Southern California coast. It exists at any beach with an abrupt change in bottom depth. Shore-break is responsible for many neck and back injuries because the waves break abruptly in shallow water. The force of shore-break waves can throw unsuspecting swimmers and surfers down into the bottom.


Swells traveling through deep water remain intact until they encounter shallower water near shore and break as waves. Shore-break occurs when swells encounter an abrupt change in bottom depth and unleash all their energy in a short distance close to shore in extremely shallow water. Beaches that have steep slopes or berms that lead into the water should always be considered for shore-break conditions.


Shore-break presents many hazards. Waves can appear small and harmless, but even one foot shore-break waves can possess enough power to injure bones, pin swimmers to the bottom, and wash beach goers (especially small children) off the shoreline into the surf zone. The abrupt change in bottom depth and steep shoreline at shore-break beaches can also make it difficult to return to shore once you are beyond where you can touch the bottom.

Shore-break is also common at beaches where rocky outcroppings exist. These areas can appear to be harmless and perfect for fishing or exploring, however, waves wash over these areas on a regular basis and can be extremely hazardous. Never assume a rocky outcropping is safe or protected from surf washing over it.

The most common injuries at shore-break beaches are neck and back injuries. These injuries occur when the powerful surf throws a swimmer or surfer head first into the bottom. It is extremely important to protect your head and neck whenever you are in the breaking waves by keeping your hands in front of you at all times.