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A surf break (also break, shore break, or big wave break) is a permanent obstruction such as a coral reef, rock, shoal, or headland that causes a wave to break, forming a barreling wave or other wave that can be surfed, before it eventually collapses. The topography of the seabed determines the shape of the wave and type of break. Since shoals can change size and location, affecting the break, it takes commitment and skill to find good breaks. Some surf breaks are quite dangerous, since the surfer can collide with a reef or rocks below the water. Surf breaks are often defended vehemently by surfers. In 2008, surfers and environmentalists opposed a toll road project in Orange County, California that would have changed sediment patterns and affected the world-class Trestles surf break north of San Onofre State Beach which attracted 400,000 surfers in 2007.
In 2007, the NSW Geographical Names Register began formally recognizing names of surf breaks in Australia, defining a surf break as a "permanent obstruction such as a reef, headland, bombora, rock or sandbar, which causes waves to break".
There are several types of breaks.
A point break refers to the place where waves hit a point of land or rocks jutting out from the coastline. Bells Beach in Australia and Jardim do Mar in Madeira, Portugal are examples of point breaks.
A shore break is a wave that breaks directly on, or very close to the shore. This happens when the beach is very steep at the shoreline. Oahu in Hawaii is known to have some of the largest shore breaks in the world, measuring up to a height of 3 - 4 meters during the winter months.
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