Waves originally formed — along with neighboring Rodanthe and Salvo — a part of the larger settlement of Chicamacomico. Waves was known as "South Rodanthe" until 1939. In this approximate location a low sandy promontory known as Cape Kenrick is shown on colonial era maps associated with Wimble Shoals just offshore.
The northern border of Waves is generally considered to be the ditch that runs under Highway 12 just south of Resort Rodanthe Drive. The southern border, separating Waves and Salvo, is more ambiguous. Long-time residents indicate various "official lines" separating the two. Formerly Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo were each served by their own post office. Today a single post office, located in Salvo, serves the entire community and the former lines that separated the communities have become blurred.