Breaking waves on coastal structures cause high magnitude impact pressures which may be important for the structural stability. In estimating the impact pressure distribution on the wall, there have been a lot of theoretical and experimental work. The present study is concerned with a theoretical approach which is based on the pressure impulse, to find the impact pressures on vertical wall. The numerical solution of the governing equation is carried out using the boundary element method. The theoretical impact pressures are determined using the experimental values of impact pressure rising time. The computational results of the impact pressures from the pressure impulse model are found to agree well with the experimental data of an earlier study. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.