This physics concept of 'wave diffraction & wave refraction' (or 'turning of the waves') is explained and illustrated: Refraction/Diffraction
figures 2 & 3.
Refraction could explain what I saw in Mexico. The island was very narrow and I tried to snorkel on the ocean side, but the waves to were too difficult. They were only slightly better on the other side.
Would be interesting to know how much energy is in an ocean wave. Judging by how much the sound waves carry in our home from my son's small electric guitar amp sound waves can pack a punch :-)