Basically, it is all about the relationship between the water and the land as well as the relationship between the water and the wind. The tide is what determines how high and large waves are, and that makes more of a white wash appear in the waves the bigger they are. The tide is created by the pull of gravity on the Earth.
The white color you see in waves is due to something called “turbulent flow.” This occurs when water cannot flow in a stream line fashion, and instead becomes very chaotic. When this happens you see the bubbles. Below is a description of how this occurs and how it relates to fluid dynamics.
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