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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Categorizing the Types of Surfing Breaks around Jetty Structures


Coastal modifications to control erosion, maintain navigation channels, and create harbors are often undertaken near surfing breaks. Surfing conditions can be improved by these activities, but they can also adversely affect existing surfing breaks. Jetties are coastal structures that on occasion improve surfing conditions. Even though there is an increasing volume of literature on the ways ordinary waves transform into surfing waves, the mechanics of surfing breaks around jetties has not been explored in detail. Four main types of surfing breaks that are created or enhanced by jetties have been identified. The types are dependent on the length of the jetty relative to surfzone width and the degree to which the ebb delta influences wave propagation. Case studies clearly show the behaviors of the different types of jetty breaks. Monochromatic wave refraction modeling of each site has identified the surfing break components that produce the surfing waves. Understanding the effects of a coastal structure on sediment transport, ecology, water quality, shoreline position, and recreation is important to minimize and mitigate any potential negative effects and to streamline coastal permitting. The effects on surfing conditions are being considered more often as the social and economic value of surfing to coastal communities is realized. This research helps to better predict the impact of jetty construction or alteration on surfing conditions.

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