The work is concerned with long nonlinear internal waves interacting with a shear flow localized near the sea surface. The study is focused on the most intense
resonantinteraction occurring when the phase velocity of internal waves matches the flow velocity at the surface. The perturbations of the shear flow are considered as ‘vorticity waves’, which enables us to treat the wave–flow resonance as the resonant wave–wave interaction between an internal gravity mode and the vorticity mode. Within the weakly nonlinear long-wave approximation a system of evolution equations governing the nonlinear dynamics of the waves in resonance is derived and an asymptotic solution to the basic equations is constructed. At resonance the nonlinearity of the internal wave dynamics is due to the interaction with the vorticity mode, while the wave's own nonlinearity proves to be negligible. The equations derived are found to possess solitary wave solutions of different polarities propagating slightly faster or slower than the surface velocity of the shear flow. The amplitudes of the ‘fast’ solitary waves are limited from above; the crest of the limiting wave forms a sharp corner. The solitary waves of amplitude smaller than a certain threshold are shown to be stable; ‘subcritical’ localized pulses tend to such solutions. The localized pulses of amplitude exceeding this threshold form infinite slopes in finite time, which indicates wave breaking.