This paper concerns the numerical description of breaking waves and the resulting water particle kinematics. A fully non-linear multiple flux Boundary Element Method (BEM), developed by Hague & Swan [1], is applied to simulate the extreme nature of overturning waves. This BEM differs from traditional boundary integral approaches in that smoothing is not required and that neither re-gridding nor the redistribution of nodes is performed at any stage during the simulation. Plunging breakers resulting from two types of waves are examined. The first kind is produced by solitary waves propagating up an impermeable plane slope. The second concentrates on a realistic (JONSWAP) sea state spectrum to produce an overturning unidirectional irregular wave group in deep water. The water surface profiles and the resulting water particle kinematics produced by the two types of waves are analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Furthermore, the numerical description of the solitary wave is compared to new laboratory observations of the water surface elevation and the validity of existing breaking criteria examined. The practical implications of the findings on extreme wave loading are then addressed.

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