Kw-logo-smaller

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.

Related Stories:

 

3 Comments

latest videos

F1152042751375

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.

related stories

Micro_chasing-micro
Read all about Chasing Mavericks the inspirational true story of real life surfing phenom Jay Mor...
Micro_chasing-micro
Our EXCLUSIVE interviews with the stars of the new surfing film “Chasing Mavericks”
Micro_a m
Board Sports are the coolest of all the performance sports. Most of these board sports such as sn...
Micro_a mic
Whoa California! Get down to Huntington Beach and sink into the ultimate Californian lifestyle… a...

Random in the forums

-Karpov-
-Karpov- posted in Debating:
"Boysrock50" wrote:If it's causing pain/death then I'd try to avoid it as much as possible Even if it's the almost guaranteed pain/death of mice & rats is it still bad if it provides immense benefits towards people and higher animals? 
reply 7 minutes
-Karpov-
-Karpov- posted in Say Anything:
It could mean a lot of things. Look up anhedonia. You're probably just a little burnt out if this is the only issue.  
reply 17 minutes
Heyyyyy_
Heyyyyy_ posted in Debating:
u can have a boyfriend i mean idc but in love? u dont kno wht love is yet. u kno how it feels to like someone, but tht doesnt mean ur in love.
reply 42 minutes
vinyl
vinyl posted in Debating:
"Flitterfrost" wrote:Well, yeah...if you are talking about romantic love. You can have a boyfriend who is a boy-friend as in a boy who is your friend. But I don't think you start having actual "boyfriend" boyfriends until you are older. What, at your age, your sharing animal crackers and Capri Suns? No, thats not truly a relationship. That is a child having a crush.  sharing animal crackers and caprisuns huh? nu. dats 5 years olds. :P 
reply about 1 hour
Flitterfrost
Flitterfrost posted in Debating:
No, I don't believe so. When you're dead, you stay dead. There is nothing. You are gone. End of story.
reply about 1 hour

play online games