Ancient geosynclinal coastal deposits, preserved and exposed for present-day examination, probably represent interior—and hence protected—shores, and were therefore characterized by low-to-moderate breaker energy levels, as is the modern Gulf of Mexico. Modern low-energy beach sand size distributions are distinguished by an inflection, here called the surf “break”, formed by a winnowing or statistical filtering process, by the breakers, in the finer sizes. The result is a two-segment curve having an intersection in many cases not far from 1.5 phi. If the energy level is very low, a tail of fines may be added, producing a three-segment curve having two inflection points. Along high energy beaches, the surf “break” occurs at such large grain sizes that it cannot be preserved in sand; whether or not it can be recognized in gravel is not known.

Ancient sandstones which represent the breaker zone, along a low-to-moderate energy coast, should also exhibit the surf “break”. The Lyons Sandstone, a known Permian beach deposit, provides an example. Other examples are cited.

Any useful indicator of the shoreline position, in lithified rocks, should have three characteristics: ease of recognition, high reliability, and strong probability of preservation. The surf “break” scores reasonably well on all three points. Hence it may be an important key to paleogeography. Nevertheless, there still remains a question inasmuch as certain river sands have similar inflections. Whether these kinks were inherited from near-by, but older, beach deposits, or were formed by stream action, is not known. The reliability of the surf “break” is estimated at 80% or better, except for the case where near-shore sands, of whatever age, are reworked briefly by running water.