Wave power is a potential technology for generating sustainable renewable energy. Several types of wave energy converters (WECs) have been proposed for this purpose. WECs operate in a harsh maritime environment that sets strict limitations on how and when the device can be economically and safely reached for maintenance. Thus, to ensure profitable energy generation over the system life cycle, system reliability is a key aspect to be considered in WEC development. In this article, we describe a reliability analysis approach for WEC development, based on the use of reliability block diagram (RBD) modelling. We apply the approach in a case study involving a submerged oscillating wave surge converter device concept that utilizes hydraulics in its power take-off system. In addition to describing the modelling approach, we discuss the data sources that were used for gathering reliability data for the components used in a novel system concept with very limited historical or experimental data available. This includes considerations of the data quality from various sources. As a result, we present examples of applying the RBD modelling approach in the context of WEC development and discuss the applicability of the approach in supporting the development of new technologies.