The Shape of a wave can be either hollow or spilling. Hollow may also be called as sucky, barrelling, or tubing while spilling waves can be considered as soft, mellow or fat and those are the ones you want to surf until you master the skills to handle a steep take-off.
Surface conditions is easy which can be either smooth and clean or choppy and bumpy in which the cleaner, the better.
Speed regards to how quickly the waves transform from a rolling swell to a broken wave or how long it takes the wave to break in a sideways direction. The ultimate goal of surfing is to surf across the unbroken wave surface so a slow breaking wave is the most suitable for a beginner.
Direction is simply left or right in which a left breaking wave is the one that the surfer is going to their left once riding and vice-versa for a right. Beginners may want to focus on right-handers for a while before moving on to the lefts.
Besides knowing what kind of waves are suitable, surfers also need to know what weather and location variables create these ideal waves which are:
Swell – size, direction, period, groundswell vs. windswell
Geography – which direction the coastline or surf-spot faces at local terrain
Wind – direction and strength
Profile of the sea floor – Tides
Type of Surfing Spot – beach break, point break, reef break, rivermouth, etc.
The Swell is the most important thing to know about as no swell means no waves to surf. Swell can be considered as unbroken waves rolling in the ocean until reaching a place where the sea-floor is shallow enough for them to break. Swells travel long distances and are essentially created by the high winds of the storms far out in the ocean. A ground swell is the one that travels from a long way away, packing more power, are more organised, and don’t die quickly. A wind swell is created by more localised winds and are generally less organised, choppy and short lived. Both types are great waves to surf, but, ground swell is usually better.