Wave Tattoos

wave tattoo

Get amped at the sight of a perfect breaking barrel or capture a gleaming dolphin cresting a frothy wave, all without getting anywhere near a beach. A wave tattoo immortalizes your best moments on your board, your love of the ocean or your longing to live a life of freedom and endless possibility. Wave tattoos, solo or incorporated into a scene, adapt easily to body curves.

Wave Symbolism, Significance and Meaning

Wave tattoos vary from the visually appealing to the emotionally expressive - you just love the look or the wave has a deeper, more complex meaning to you. From ancient times to the present, water has been venerated as one of the four elements of the Earth. Different world cultures still attach particular meanings to water. Background on the history, symbolism, significance and meaning of water and wave tattoo designs can be found at The Vanishing Tattoo.

The significance and meaning of a particular tattoo also has to do with the story behind it. A sailor or marine biologist might choose a wave design because they work in the water. Perhaps swimming, surfing or diving is a favorite hobby. A wave design could also represent a specific place or moment in your life. In fact, it could even be a symbolic memorial tattoo for someone who loved the water.

Of course, some people will choose a design simply because they like it. The wavy lines or water might catch their eye or draw them to the design. Whatever the reason, wave designs are popular choices for tattoos.

Designs for Wave Tattoos

A tattoo with a wave does not have to be a realistic looking photo sketch of an actual crashing wave in the ocean. Wave tats range from a scenic image, complete with a beach or palm tree, to a simple tattoo of dramatic wavy lines within a tribal tat.

The wave is also a great way to connect larger tattoos together. The outline of a wave serves to connect smaller tattoos and turn them into a larger piece of body art.

The complexity of a wave motif can vary greatly. Some are extremely detailed and colored while others show a single wavy line that connects into something greater. This makes it a perfect tattoo design choice for tats of any size.


Sea life is a natural for realistic wave tattoos. Creatures such as sharks, turtles, whales, dolphins, fish and starfish are at home centered in a wavy design meant to represent swirling waters. Sometimes tattoos with waves are used to highlight other animals, like eagles or snakes.

whale tattoo

Seafaring Objects

Waves are often key elements of tattoo creations that include ships or anchors. Pirate or skull tattoos might have waves surrounding them. A mermaid atop a wave design is a sexy declaration of freedom.

anchor tattoo

Sports and Hobbies

Waves can help showcase a particular sport or hobby you have an interest in. Surfboards, sandcastles, diving boards, jet skis and fishing lures are natural extensions of a wave tat.

surfer tattoo

Cultural/Tribal Waves

Evocative waves have cultural significance. You may choose to honor your heritage with a wave element or to use it as part of a zodiac tattoo. Graphic tribal tattoos repeat wave patterns.

tribal tattoo

Inking Waves

Doing the ink for waves is much like getting any other tattoo done. You will need to choose the ink color, size and location on your body. Black and blue are popular choices for color while size varies greatly depending upon personal preferences.


Tattoos with waves can be put almost anywhere on the body, including:

  • Wrists: The wrist is a great spot for a small tattoo that can be covered with a watch or bracelet.
  • Biceps: Have a wave armband instead of barbed wire.
  • Shoulder Blades/Upper Back: Easily covered with a shirt, this is a great spot for placing bigger ink jobs, like a beach scene with waves crashing or a fierce shark coming out of ocean waves.
  • Lower Back: From small to large, just about any tattoo will work here, including waves.
  • Ankle: Get a simple wavy tribal pattern on your ankle.

More Inspiration

Look for wave tattoos in the collection of tattoos featured on the walls or in the portfolio books at your local tat shop or check out these online collections for inspiration:

  • Slodive 25 Cool Water Tattoos: View a range of amazing design from colorful lucky stars in waves to brilliant shoulder scenes with waves and sea life.
  • Slodive 25 Magical Wave Tattoos: Brilliant wave tattoos have a variety of choices: Choose from simple three-wave designs to full back designs with intricate waves.
  • Check out My Ink "wave" photos: Get inspiration for different looks ranging from wave patterns to detailed surfing and wave tattoos.

Your tattoo artist can create a unique design based on the examples you provide.

H20 in Motion

Wave tattoos are great for people who love the water or who want a simple, unfussy design. Give some thought to display when you decide where to place that image of high energy oscillation. A prominent wave tattoo is even cooler at the beach. Splash it down on some summer-exposed skin to rock your surfer or bikini bona fides.

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Wave Tattoos