Waves hitting the base of a cliff causes leads to air compression in cracks, joints and folds in bedding planes, causing repeated changes in air pressure. As air rushes out of the crack when the wave retreats, it leads to an explosive effect as pressure is released. This process is supported further by the weakening effect of weathering. The material breaks off cliffs, sometimes in huge chunks. This process is known as hydraulic action.
Find out more about coastal erosion.