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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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"esthery27" wrote: "simran88" wrote: "esthery27" wrote: I would rather be happy. It is much obvious that in this society nowadays smart people have the most advantages of being successful and socially acccepted based on their careers, position, personal success, fame, power and all that upper middle class stuff. But at the same time while being 'smart', they are also facing all kinds of stress and struggles such as trying the best at showing the perfect them to the society, mantaining all the success, fame and power all the time while the list goes on and on. But happy people on the other hand, or in other words, are happy because they live in the moment. They don't care , or don't need to care what others think of them because they are not living under the eyes and sayings of other people. They enjoy being themselves in their way. Although nothing is perfect, but they tend to make the best out of the many things. And they don't get easiy tired of trying to become the best of the bests, as most smart people tend to do. So if i would choose, i would rather be happy than smart. Well, then the 'smart' people you've spoken about are not really all that smart after all,  are they? Cuz if they were really all that smart they would've realised that they shouldn't care about what others think about them. Am I right? Great point ! Thanks for the reminder ! But smart people as i mentioned above ,they still have to face all kinds of turbulence, stress, and difficulties in life. They may be able to go through them with their intelligence, but there are still things such as depression as results to the circumstances they have to face that might be inevitable to them. Happy people on the other hand, even though there will still be difficult times, but they are still happy anyway. It is already a certainty to them , it is literally the way of living their lives ! What could be better than that? Hmm yes. But the way I perceive a smart person to be, the person has the smartness to deal with all the problems in life and knows how to react, what to accept and what to forget and ignore from the inevitable situations and circumstances. So, being smart automatically makes you happy, or something very close to happy which I feel is good enough. :)
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