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We report on direct numerical simulations to examine the spectral behaviour of turbulence close to and at a flat, stress-free surface. We find, consistent with field measurements near such a free surface, that an inertial-range type of behaviour is obtained for the horizontal components of the velocity at and near the stress-free surface, at horizontal wavelengths for which the vertical velocity is much smaller than the horizontal components. At approximately an integral length scale from the stress-free surface, the flow has adjusted back to more classical isotropic turbulence. The behaviour of the turbulence near the stress-free surface is similar to that observed recently for strongly stratified flows, and we argue that the causes of that behaviour are the same in both flows: the suppression of the large-scale vertical velocity and the allowance of strong vertical shearing of the horizontal velocity leading to a downscale transfer of energy and to the development of the -5/3 spectra for the horizontal velocities.