Accelerometers, which can be installed inside a floating platform on the sea, are among the most commonly used sensors for operational ocean wave measurements. To examine the non-stationary features of ocean waves, this study was conducted to derive a wavelet spectrum of ocean waves and to synthesize sea surface elevations from vertical acceleration signals of a wave buoy through the continuous wavelet transform theory. The short-time wave features can be revealed by simultaneously examining the wavelet spectrum and the synthetic sea surface elevations. The in situ wave signals were applied to verify the practicality of the wavelet-based algorithm. We confirm that the spectral leakage and the noise at very-low-frequency bins influenced the accuracies of the estimated wavelet spectrum and the synthetic sea surface elevations. The appropriate thresholds of these two factors were explored. To study the short-time wave features from the wave records, the acceleration signals recorded from an accelerometer inside a discus wave buoy are analysed. The results from the wavelet spectrum show the evidence of short-time nonlinear wave events. Our study also reveals that more surface profiles with higher vertical asymmetry can be found from short-time nonlinear wave with stronger harmonic spectral peak. Finally, we conclude that the algorithms of continuous wavelet transform are practical for revealing the short-time wave features of the buoy acceleration signals.