Oscillating wave surge converters (OWSCs) are a class of wave power technology that exploits the enhanced horizontal fluid particle movement of waves in the nearshore coastal zone with water depths of 10–20 m. OWSCs predominantly oscillate horizontally in surge as opposed to the majority of wave devices, which oscillate vertically in heave and usually are deployed in deeper water. The characteristics of the nearshore wave resource are described along with the hydrodynamics of OWSCs. The variables in the OWSC design space are discussed together with a presentation of some of their effects on capture width, frequency bandwidth response and power take-off characteristics. There are notable differences between the different OWSCs under development worldwide, and these are highlighted. The final section of the paper describes Aquamarine Power's 315 kW Oyster 1 prototype, which was deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre in August 2009. Its place in the OWSC design space is described along with the practical experience gained. This has led to the design of Oyster 2, which was deployed in August 2011. It is concluded that nearshore OWSCs are serious contenders in the mix of wave power technologies. The nearshore wave climate has a narrower directional spread than the offshore, the largest waves are filtered out and the exploitable resource is typically only 10–20% less in 10 m depth compared with 50 m depth. Regarding the devices, a key conclusion is that OWSCs such as Oyster primarily respond in the working frequency range to the horizontal fluid acceleration; Oyster is not a drag device responding to horizontal fluid velocity. The hydrodynamics of Oyster is dominated by inertia with added inertia being a very significant contributor. It is unlikely that individual flap modules will exceed 1 MW in installed capacity owing to wave resource, hydrodynamic and economic constraints. Generating stations will be made up of line arrays of flaps with communal secondary power conversion every 5–10 units.