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Surfing: Surfers will ride the waves wherever they break.

Surfing: Surfers will ride the waves wherever they break.

Surfing is commonly linked with warm ocean beaches, such as those found in the United States states of Hawaii and California, as well as nations like Australia.

BY Palitha Weerawansa

Surfers, on the other hand, are not limited to warm weather or ocean waves. Surfers chase waves off the coast of Antarctica by removing a foot of snow from their surfboards. In Southeast Asia, they walk through jungles to reach beautiful beaches. In South Africa, they share the water with great white sharks. They even ride the "silver dragon," China's Qiantang River's massive tidal bore.

Because the principle is basic, surfing is achievable in all of these locations. The sport requires only a breaking wave, aboard, and a daring participant. (You don't always need the board.) This is known as bodysurfing.)

The concept is straightforward, but the execution is difficult. Surfers paddle or are pulled into the surf line, which is an area of open water where waves break as they approach the coast. Surfers sit on their boards and watch the waves sweep in. Experienced surfers evaluate a variety of features in each wave. A wave must be powerful enough to ride but not so powerful that it tosses the surfer when it breaks. Surfers must be able to ride and leave the wave safely—not too near to the beach or rocks. Surfers watch river waves or those at manmade surfing facilities develop before jumping directly into the breaking wave.

Surfers paddle rapidly to catch a rising wave when they spot one they can ride. Surfers hunch on their boards and jump from their stomachs to their feet when the wave breaks. The ability to stand up is a sign of a skilled surfer. Surfers surf the breaking wave as it approaches the beach. Surfers can leave the wave as it falls and loses force by turning their boards back into open water. Surfers can also depart by lowering themselves back on their boards and paddling out again. The velocity of the wave, of course, can end surfers' rides by smashing on or over them. Surfers can be thrown above or below a wave. The procedure of paddling out to the surf line is then restarted.

Surfers must be mindful of both their physical abilities and the environment. Surfing may be classified into numerous categories (longboard, shortboard, or big-wave, for instance). Each demands a unique set of abilities. All surfers must be mindful of weather patterns and beach topography, or surface characteristics. Bathymetry, or the depth of a body of water, is another something that experienced surfers are familiar with. They must be capable swimmers. Surfers must also have a strong sense of balance and the ability to respond rapidly to changes in the environment. (As a result, skating is a popular activity among surfers, and surfing is a popular hobby among skateboarders.)

Surfing is done by men and women from all over the world, and the surfing community is concerned about the ocean's ecology.


Surfing is based on hydrodynamics, which is a branch of physics. The study of water in motion is known as hydrodynamics. Hydrodynamics must be understood by oceanographers, ship captains, and engineers.

Surfers seek out large waves known as swells. Swells are long-lasting waves that originate far from the coastline. Storm systems or other wind patterns create swells.

The strength of a wave is determined by two factors. First, the intensity of the winds that create the swells has an impact on them. Swells can assist forecast the strength of a storm as it approaches land. Most storm systems that originate far out at sea never have the intensity to reach land. They do, however, happen from time to time. These storms arrive in the form of hurricanes or typhoons. Large and regular swells indicate the coming of a storm hours before it hits land. Because the swells are so regular and powerful, surfers have been known to disregard hurricane warnings and stay out on dangerous beaches.

The wind's fetch is the second factor that determines swell strength. Fetch is a geographical word that refers to the quantity of open water that wind has blown across. Because of the length of fetch, ocean swells are often stronger than lake swells. A wave's fetch might reach thousands of kilometers in the open ocean.

Offshore storm systems and the length of a wind's fetch may both be predicted via weather forecasting. Surfers use these surf zone forecasts to track swells all over the world.

However, not all waves are swells. The majority are wind waves, which are smaller and more unpredictable. Swells are a form of wind wave (they are generated by wind), however, the phrase often refers to wind waves with a shorter fetch. Wind waves are choppier than swells. Chop is defined as the number of briefs, irregular shifts in wave creation. Because the direction and power of the waves fluctuate from minute to minute, choppy water may be perilous for surfers.

Breaking Waves

Wind waves and swells must both break (crash) to be useful to surfers. A quiet day with little wind is ideal for beachgoers, but it is terrible for surfing. Surfers require a consistent set of breaking waves, which necessitates moderate offshore wind.

The undersea topography is the most important component in how waveforms. The surface features of a region are referred to as its topography. Topographical characteristics of the seafloor can either reduce or intensify waves.

Surf breakers are permanent structures that encourage waves to break in predictable patterns. Common surf breakers include reefs, sandbars, and huge submerged rocks. Submarine canyons and ocean trenches can also influence how a wave breaks. Surfers must account for sea life, such as a kelp forest, which is a thick concentration of big seaweed. A breaking wave can be slowed by seaweed.

When the base of a wave (the water under the surface) can no longer support its height, the wave breaks. Waves break near the coast because the water becomes shallower as it approaches a beach. The shallower a wave's base, the more probable it may break. The surf line is the area of water where waves begin to break. Waves slam ahead, their tips foamy and white. A breaking wave may collide with another wave. Other waves curl in on themselves, producing a tube around the crest, or top, of the wave. Many surfers believe these tubular wave breaks to be the best.

Waves are classified into four kinds. All four varieties can be ridden by experienced surfers, however, each has its unique set of challenges.

Rolling waves (1) are the most common and preferred form of the wave by most surfers. These waves break in a consistent manner. A flat, sandy beach is generally characterized by rolling waves. The moving waves off the shore of Hossegor, France, in the Inlet of Biscay can arrive at statures of in excess of 6 meters (20 feet).

Dumping waves (2) are more erratic. These waves are caused by a sudden shift in bottom topography. Dumping waves can be caused by a steep undersea cliff or mountain. Because these waves are hazardous, they are generally reserved for skilled surfers. Surfers can be thrown far beneath the water's surface by dumping waves.

Dumping waves can be caused by point breaks. When a wave meets a rocky outcropping protruding into the water, it creates a point break. Agadir, on Morocco's Atlantic coast, has many powerful point breaks.

Reef breaches can also cause dumping waves. Reef breaches occur when waves crash into a coral or rocky reef. Reef breaks may be deadly if the surfer is thrown onto the reef by a wave. Reef breaks, on the other hand, offer some of the most gratifying waves. Cloudbreak, a reef break in Fiji, attracts a large number of experienced surfers.

The most hazardous are the surging waves (3). They are most commonly seen on steep or rocky beaches. Surging waves, unlike rolling or dumping waves, do not break as they approach the beach. They only break on the beach. Surging waves, for example, are visually stunning when they crash against steep cliffs. They may throw surfers onto rocks or reefs, as well as drag them back to the water.

Large storms frequently create soaring waves. Surfers can surf waves ahead of storms or waves created by storms striking distant land. Surfers in western Florida, for example, raced to beaches in 2008, when Hurricane Ike struck the western Gulf of Mexico.

Standing waves (4) can also be referred to as stationary waves. These waves are continuous and never weaken. The elements that contribute to these waves, such as the region's geology, water movement, and wind patterns, remain constant. River rapids and artificial wave generators, known as wave pools, are examples of standing waves. Wave pools (typically found in water parks) allow surfers in landlocked locations to practice without having to travel. The first wave pool in the United States was constructed in Tempe, Arizona in 1969.


Of course, the most crucial piece of equipment a surfer possesses is a surfboard. Surfboards are typically hollow and weigh 4 to 10 kilos (9-22 pounds). They are often built of man-made materials like plastic and fiberglass. To aid with balance, most surfboards have slightly raised edges. “Fins” beneath the board's tail provide surfers more control over their ride. Longboards and shortboards are the two types of surfboards. They are each around 5 cm (2 in) thick and 48 cm (19 in) broad. The only significant variation between them is their length.

A longboard is usually 3 meters (9 feet) long. The nose of the surfboard, or the front section of the board, is rounded. Longboards can be a little broader and thicker than short boards, which makes them more stable and buoyant (able to stay afloat). This steadiness serves two purposes. For starters, it enables surfers to catch smaller, weaker waves. Longboards are therefore great equipment for novice surfers. Second, stability enables experienced surfers to do more sophisticated tricks, such as walking to the nose of the board and “hanging ten,” or curling all 10 toes over the edge.

Shortboards are around 2 meters (6 feet) in length. Longboards have a more pointed nose and typically have more fins. Shortboards are less buoyant than longboards because of their size and form, thus the waves they catch must be powerful and steep. Shortboards are far more maneuverable. They're harder to ride, but they're popular because they give surfers more control.

Of course, there are as many different varieties of surfboards as there are surfers: “funboards” (approximately 2.5 meters, or 8 feet) span the gap between longboards and shortboards; “fish” boards have a split tail end; and “guns” are teardrop-shaped and excellent for big-wave surfing.

Other equipment is used by both longboarders and short boarders. The board might get slick if there is any water on it. Surf wax is used to help surfers "stick" to dry surfboards. For the same reason, traction pads can be placed on the deck or top section of the board.

Most surfers use a leash to connect their surfboard to their ankles. When a surfer exits a wave, the leash prevents the surfboard from being lost. Leashes keep surfboards from washing ashore or from springing up and harming other surfers.

Surfers may use protective gear depending on the conditions (weather, wave type, and wave intensity). Warm-water surfers use wetsuits or swimsuits that have been modified. Full-body wetsuits with hoods, boots, and gloves are available for cold-water surfers.

Ways to Surf

Longboarding and short boarding need distinct abilities. Athletes can also specialize in big-wave surfing, wake surfing, or bodysurfing.

Longboards provide surfers with more balance than any other type of surfboard. Longboarders can do gymnastics on their surfboards due to their balance and stability. Longboard surfers must be able to "walk" on their boards. Aside from "hanging ten," surfers may also "hang heels," in which they spin around and place their heels over the nose of the surfboard. Athletes with a sense of adventure can even perform handstands on their longboards.

Shortboards provide more mobility. Shortboarders practice a wide range of turns. Turns that drive the surfer back into the breaking wave are referred to as “cutbacks.” Difficult “off the lip” spins lift the surfer fully off the peak of the wave and into the air. Surfers with advanced skills may turn in mid-air.

Big-wave surfing is exactly what it sounds like: riding really large waves. The majority of surfers ride waves that are 3 to 6 meters (9-20 feet) high. Big waves maybe four times that height, measuring more than 25 meters (82 ft). Big-wave surfers cannot be seen on lakes or rivers since these waves only develop in the open ocean. Tow-in surfing is a technique used by experienced large wave surfers in which a boat or other watercraft tows surfers past the surf line to where massive ocean swells break. At the point when huge wave surfers get a wave, the towline is delivered, the boat or watercraft pulls away, and the surfers are passed on to confront the pile of water all alone.

Underwater topography has the potential to create large waves. The magnificent waves at Mavericks, near Half Moon Bay, California, are caused by a unique structure on the Pacific Ocean seafloor. Bathymetric studies conducted in 2007 indicated that the region leading up to Mavericks has a ramp or a rising slope. The waves going up the incline have more opportunity to create and can draw on the more settled waters on one or the other side of the slant. As a result, waves often exceed 9.15 meters (30 feet) in height. Surfers from all over the globe come to Northern California to ride Mavericks.

Wakesurfing is similar to water skiing while riding a surfboard. Wakes are the wave tracks created by fast-moving boats or other heavy objects in the sea. Surfers with shortboards trail after vessels and ride the wakes they generate.

Huge ships known as oil tankers are a regular sight in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, Texas. Tankers transport petroleum to and from Galveston's port facilities. These tankers are popular among wake surfers. Tankers are trailed by boats, and surfers “tank surf” the wakes. The wakes are little, seldom taller than 1.5 meters (5 feet), yet they might be 1.5 kilometers (right around a mile) long.

The art and science of riding a breaking wave without a board are known as bodysurfing. Bodysurfers frequently use specialized swim fins or plastic flippers on their feet. On their hands, they can employ similar gadgets. Bodysurfers ride on their torso, or upper body, like aboard. Bodysurfers approach a wave by throwing one arm straight above the water and using their other arm and legs to steer and stay buoyant in the water. Bodysurfers ride slower waves closer to shore since the human body is not as big or buoyant as a surfboard. This, however, does not make bodysurfing any simpler or less risky than other types of surfing.

Surfing Safety

All kinds of surfing necessitate the athlete's ability to swim well. Surfers must be able to swim back to shore if their boards are destroyed or lost. The sport involves a danger of drowning because of the incredibly high waves and currents. Drowning can occur as a result of being dragged beneath water or dragged out to sea. Surfboards are buoyant, however, they cannot be used as flotation devices.

Every surfer, in every style of surfing, will eventually wipe out. A wipeout is when you fall off your surfboard while surfing a wave. Wipeouts are more likely in areas with larger, stronger, or more unpredictable waves. Surfers can be thrown to the bottom or back into the open ocean by large waves. Surfers can also be thrown onto underwater rocks or reefs by waves. (It is because of this that point breaks and reef breaks are deadly.)

Wipeouts are much more hazardous in big-wave surfing. The incredible force of the waves may propel a surfer up to 15 meters (51 feet) underwater. Worse, the swirling waves can obscure visibility, making it impossible for the surfer to determine which direction is up. Wipeouts require big-wave surfers to respond fast.

Even seasoned big-wave surfers are vulnerable. Mark Foo, a Hawaiian surfer, was killed in Mavericks in 1994. He went down in what was, for him, a medium-sized wave (6 meters, or 20 feet). Foo perished as his leash became entangled in the rocks beneath the waves. Foo was a champion competitor who advanced large wave riding, and his passing came as an amazement to the local area.

Surfers can also be endangered by sea creatures. Kelp is a type of big seaweed that may grow to be 9 meters (30 feet) tall. Kelp forests sprout from the ocean floor and rest on the ocean's surface. Surfers are at risk from kelp in a variety of ways. It might make waves delayed down, tangle surfers, offer natural surroundings for hunters like sharks and impede the perspective on the seafloor. Surfers who cannot assess the depth and topography of the ocean floor are at risk. This is why many surfers choose to surf in water that is quite clean.

Animals in the surf can endanger surfers. Bull sharks, tiger sharks, and great white sharks pose the most danger. When viewed from below, surfers surfing on their boards might resemble seals or sea turtles. Sharks feed on both seals and turtles. Sharks' exploratory bites can hurt or kill surfers. Bethany Hamilton, an American surfer from Hawaii, is one of the most well-known shark victims in surfing. In 2003, she was attacked by a tiger shark and lost her left arm. She went back to surfing as soon as she was able.

Surfing History

Hamilton is a professional surfer, which means she competes for money and awards against other surfers. Professional surfing is a 20th-century creation, despite the fact that the activity is likely a thousand years old. European explorers of the South Pacific were the first to describe surfing. Polynesians in the 18th century surfed in the same places as current surfers do—Hawaii, Fiji, and Tahiti. Surfing was enjoyed by both men and women, just as it is now. In contrast to today, they went surfing naked.

The first surfboards were approximately the same length as current surfboards, but much thinner. Surfers who paddled or rode on their bellies were more likely to utilize them. Early stand-up surfboards were significantly heavier than current surfboards. These boards weighed up to 90 kilos and were made of solid wood (such as balsa or mahogany) (almost 200 pounds). They were significantly bigger than current longboards, reaching lengths of up to 7 meters (23 feet). These massive surfboards, known as olos or olo boards, were designed for the Hawaiian aristocracy.

Until Olympic athlete Duke Kahanamoku popularized surfing in the early 1900s, it was more of a passion than a sport. Kahanamoku won three gold medals in swimming, in the Olympics in 1912, 1920, and 1924. Kahanamoku, a native Hawaiian, was an enthusiastic surfer. The administrations of the United States and Australia invited him to show the sport, and it quickly caught on in both countries. At the time, Hawaii was not a part of the United States, and Kahanamoku was instrumental in making the islands a prominent tourist destination. He was the first individual to be inducted into both the Swimming and Surfing Halls of Fame.

Kahanamoku rode huge, hefty solid wood surfboards. In the 1940s, inexpensive new materials such as plastic and fiberglass were introduced into surfboard design, making surfing even more popular and widespread.

Surfers emerged as environmental campaigners in the 1970s and 1980s. Surfers are among the first to notice changes in aquatic environments. They notify authorities of algal blooms in North America's Great Lakes, for example. Surfers are familiar with coral bleaching, which occurs when corals lose their color. According to some studies, sunscreen, which shields swimmers from the sun's damaging rays, may lead to coral bleaching. Surfers were among the first to respond to this prospect, and many chose to wear light wetsuits instead of bikinis. As a result, sunscreen was no longer required.

Pollution and other hazards to beaches and the ocean are of concern to organizations such as Surfer's Environmental Alliance. Beach pollution can limit access to beaches and make it harder for surfers to utilize beach access paths. Surfing may become unsafe and unpleasant as a result of ocean pollution.

Surfers have filed lawsuits against corporations and governments in order to preserve the shore and its waterways pristine. They have compelled paper mills to reduce runoff, oil firms to safeguard their underwater pipelines, and states to modify the way sewage is processed.

The Surfrider Foundation, formed by surfers from Southern California, is a pioneer in environmental preservation and conservation. Surfable waves, like minerals, forests, and petroleum, were identified as a natural resource by these surfers.