Currently available data on wave pump efficiency is reviewed. The obtainable efficiency is an important consideration in the design of practical devices for the extraction of wave energy and the analysis of natural systems (e.g., coral flats and rip currents). We find that the peak efficiency is 0.5 for very steep ( 40–45°) ramps where the waves break over the top of the ramp. For flatter (< 30°) ramps, the breaking process is more gradual and the peak efficiency is less than 0.1. We have identified natural atoll lagoon systems where the flushing is wave driven and successfully modeled it as driven by a wave pump. The same is the case for rip currents. For both of these natural systems, the pump efficiency is around 0.035. In addition a numerical swash model is used to estimate wave pump efficiency and is seen to match the experimental results for natural systems or breaking wave scenario.