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The Science of Surfing

Surfing is way more than a modern fad - it was invented hundreds of years ago by the Pacific islanders of Polynesia. Kidzworld takes a look at the science behind the wettest sport the summer has to offer.

How Waves are Formed

When wind blows over the vast expanses of the open water, it creates waves. Three factors influence how big those waves are - the speed of the wind, distance the wind travels over the water (also known as "fetch") and the length of time it travels for. The biggest waves are created by storms far out at sea. They start out as huge, choppy waves and gradually decline into strong, smooth peaks (swell). The swell drags against the ocean floor as it gets nearer to the beach. That dragging causes friction, which causes the wave to grow taller, slow down and eventually break.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

The shape of the ocean floor and the direction of the wind are the two main factors that cause a wave to break (crash). The best surfing waves are usually caused by underwater features like sand banks, rocky points or reefs. To get the hollow tubes that surfers love, the ocean floor has to slope steeply. Waves tend to break more gently and farther out if the slope of the ocean floor is gradual. Surfers also prefer it when the wind blows from the beach out to the sea, which is called offshore because it helps to maintain clean waves, which are better to surf. If the wind blows from the ocean to the beach (onshore) or across the beach (cross-shore), it will cause the waves to be messy and choppy.

Riding the Wave

Balance is the key to surfing. The center of gravity is towards the tail of the surfboard. To ride a wave, the surfer has to straddle the center of gravity. If the surfer's weight is too far toward the nose of the board, the board will tip forward and the nose will sink. If the surfer's weight is too far towards the tail, the board will tip and the tail will sink. The surfer wants to catch the wave just as it is breaking, which is when it has maximum velocity (speed). In order to catch the wave, the surfers' momentum must be equal to the wave's momentum. When this happens, the surfer will feel the board being carried along by the wave. The rider stands and uses balance and the shifting of his body weight to control his direction.

Did U Know?

  • Some Australian universities offer degrees in "Surf Science and Technology".
  • Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku is often credited as having introduced surfing to the world.
  • Surfboards were originally made of wood but most are now made from polyurethane foam and then wrapped in fiberglass.

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What's Your Fave Water Sport?

  • I'm a total surf lover!
  • I like SCUBA diving.
  • I'm in to skimboarding.
  • I love plain old swimming.

Random In The Forums

unicornsrule626
"angelover4" wrote:in my opinion when ur at a younger age like 7 8  9 or 10.....youd like homeschooling better but wn u start getting older up into ur teen yrs I think public or private school is better cuz it gives u more of a social life. And its just better that way. because I've been homeschooled since 3rd grade and I'm in 8th grade now,  I have a very small social life. I have done stuff like dance and cheerleading but still, I only have one good friend (actually she is AWESOME!)
reply about 8 hours
unicornsrule626
"rainbowpoptart" wrote:It depends on the person. Homeschooling may be better for this guy, but public school may be better for that one. Overall, neither is "better" than the other. They both have their ups and downs, coming from someone who has [technically] done both.All of the problems, of course, can be fixed. I'll use the two most common complaints I hear as examples.Homeschooling doesn't give you enough social interaction with real life people? Go outside. Ask your local school if you can participate in any extracurriculars.You don't think the curriculum in public school is flexible enough for you, but you don't want to convert to homeschooling? There are plenty of educational books, videos, and websites that are easily accessible online or from the library (seriously, Khan Academy and Crash Course saved my life, bless those men). nice! I have asked my local school but they refused because I'm not vaccinated (we don't believe in vaccines) but NY is one of the strictest  states for homeschool. we are moving and I might be able to go to high school but I could always stick with homeschool. With the social side, i have lots a lot of my social skills so now I'm really shy but i can work and fix that
reply about 8 hours
MarshmallowHeart
I'm 17, I joined Kidz World when I was 12! in just 3 months I'll be 18
reply about 8 hours
rainbowpoptart
It depends on the person. Homeschooling may be better for this guy, but public school may be better for that one. Overall, neither is "better" than the other. They both have their ups and downs, coming from someone who has [technically] done both. All of the problems, of course, can be fixed. I'll use the two most common complaints I hear as examples. Homeschooling doesn't give you enough social interaction with real life people? Go outside. Ask your local school if you can participate in any extracurriculars. You don't think the curriculum in public school is flexible enough for you, but you don't want to convert to homeschooling? There are plenty of educational books, videos, and websites that are easily accessible online or from the library (seriously, Khan Academy and Crash Course saved my life, bless those men).
reply about 8 hours
PunMaster
PunMaster posted in Say Anything:
("wow.. Maybe I can help you some time." PunMaster offered) he landed on a rock below, and Paperjam was about twenty ahead of him. "Great Job! Now let's go!" 
reply about 9 hours