"Surf" instead of "wave"

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panzerfaust0

Senior Member
mandarin
Hello. I usually encountered the word "surf" as a verb however recently I saw it in the noun form and it really confuses me.

Context: you want to know how to seduce the girl of your dream? Suggest to her a stroll along a moonlit beach. Gaze at the moon. Hold hands. Then do the Burt Lancaster bit and pull her down into the surf at the edge of the sea. Taken from this book I have and slightly paraphrased.

My questions: why did the author say "surf" instead of "wave"? Does "surf" in the above context even make sense to you? What will happen if I use "wave" instead of "surf"?

Thanks.
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In this context, the surf is the frothy part of the wave when it breaks on the beach, and which I assume runs over Burt and Debbie as they roll around in a romantic clinch that would cause young girls in the cinemas to swoon.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Surf is the cumulative effect/activity of a lot of waves over time (from a few hours to a day).

    "The surf is up today" = "The waves are big today"
    "How's the surf?" = "How big are the waves?"

    If the context refers to staying on the beach rather than going out onto the waves, then it can be the "foam" that can accumulate because of the waves, or the strip of wet ground where the waves keep hitting and then pulling back from.
     

    panzerfaust0

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    Thanks to you guys for your responses. I now know that "surf" is the frothy part of waves after they (the waves) have crashed on the beach. However, just in the spirit of discussion, what will happen if I substitute "wave" for "surf" in my original sentence? How will this affect things? Thanks.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    what will happen if I substitute "wave" for "surf" in my original sentence? How will this affect things? Thanks.
    "...into the waves at the edge of the sea. If it were just one wave, they'd need to only be there for a few seconds.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I would not use "waves", as it suggests you are not lying on the wet sand at the very edge of the sea (which is the intended image), but are instead out in deeper water where pulling her down will result in very unromantic drowning.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    I would not use "waves", as it suggests you are not lying on the wet sand at the very edge of the sea (which is the intended image), but are instead out in deeper water where pulling her down will result in very unromantic drowning.
    I agree completely. Forget about "waves" in this sentence.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    The surf is normally the part of the water where the waves are starting to break. You have to imagine that this can be a several feet to a few hundred yards out from the water's edge. Waves have all kinds of forms (I'm not an expert) so you have to specify which kind you mean. The "surf" is limited to the shore area, as far as I know. And as Delvo suggests, the tide and wind have a large influence on the quality and area.

    You could try some poetic and romantic alternatives. The crashing waves. The water lapping at the shore. The mounting and slackening breakers. Where the viscous foam slakes into the receptive sand. In the frothy sea redolent of Nature herself. Some of these are tending into purple prose (you might not actually want to use these word for word). It just depends on how sappy you want to get. :D Seriously though, this is the quantum stage of learning to write where you can't find easy answers.
     
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