For a weak point source or dipole, or a small body operating as either, we show that the power from a wave energy converter (WEC) is the product of the particle velocity in the waves, and the wave force (suitably defined). There is a thus a strong analogy with a wind or tidal turbine, where the power is the product of the fluid velocity through the turbine, and the force on it. As a first approximation, the cost of a structure is controlled by the force it has to carry, which governs its strength, and the distance it has to be carried, which governs its size. Thus, WECs are at a disadvantage compared with wind and tidal turbines because the fluid velocities are lower, and hence the forces are higher. On the other hand, the distances involved are lower. As with turbines, the implication is also that a WEC must make the most of its force-carrying ability—ideally, to carry its maximum force all the time, the ‘100% sweating WEC’. It must be able to limit the wave force on it in larger waves, ultimately becoming near-transparent to them in the survival condition—just like a turbine in extreme conditions, which can stop and feather its blades. A turbine of any force rating can achieve its maximum force in low wind speeds, if its diameter is sufficiently large. This is not possible with a simple monopole or dipole WEC, however, because of the ‘nλ/2π’ capture width limits. To achieve reasonable ‘sweating’ in typical wave climates, the force is limited to about 1 MN for a monopole device, or 2 MN for a dipole. The conclusion is that the future of wave energy is in devices that are not simple monopoles or dipoles, but multi-body devices or other shapes equivalent to arrays.