Wind gustiness in the marine atmospheric boundary layer affects significantly the dynamics of air–sea interaction. To understand the impacts of wind gust events, we perform large-eddy simulation of wind turbulence over a travelling wave to investigate the response of the wind field to an impulsive wind speed increase or decrease. It is found that the turbulence fluctuations and the terms in the turbulent kinetic energy budget equation have a delayed response to the change in the mean flow, while the response of the wave-coherent motions is quasi-stationary. The wave-coherent motions are investigated quantitatively through comparison with a viscous curvilinear model developed by Cao et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 901, 2020, A27) and Cao & Shen (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 919, 2021, A38). We observe an asymmetric hysteresis between the growing wind and the decaying wind in the evolution of the form drag and the viscous drag. We find further that the variation of the wave growth rate during the wind gust is related closely to the contribution from the out-of-phase component of the vertical velocity. Our discoveries provide evidence for the necessity of improving non-equilibrium turbulence and wind input modelling to account for the wind gustiness effect in future studies.