is a surface water sport in which the participant
is carried by a breaking wave usually on a surfboard
to the shore. As well as surfboards surfers make use
of kneeboards, body boards, kayaks, surf skis and
their own bodies. Derivatives of surfing make use
of other elements, such as the wind, these include
kitesurfing and windsurfing.
sub-divisions reflect differences in surfboard design,
such as long-boards and short-boards. Additional Tow-in
surfing involves motorized craft to tow the surfer
onto the wave, this is associated with big wave surfing,
where standard paddling is unwise due to the the waves
rapid forward motion.
Surfing was first recorded in Hawaii by Lieutenant
James King, who's task it was to complete the journals
of James Cook after his death in 1779. However, by
this time surfing had already become an integral part
of Hawaiian culture  with surfers riding waves
lying down or standing on long hardwood boards.
was as much as a part of Hawaiian life as many major
sports are part of western life today. It permeated
every part of Hawaiian society including religion
and myth. Hawaiian Chiefs would demonstrate their
leadership by the skills they possessed on the surf.
The Science of Surfing Waves
factors influence the shape and quality of breaking
waves. These include the bathymetry of the surf break,
the direction and size of the swell, the direction
and strength of the wind and the ebb and flow of the
is generated when wind blows consistently over a large
area of open water, called the wind's fetch. The size
of a swell is determined by the strength of the wind,
the length of its fetch and its duration. So, surf
tends to be larger and more prevalent on coastlines
exposed to large expanses of ocean traversed by intense
low pressure systems.
wind conditions affect wave quality, since the rideable
surface of a wave can become choppy in blustery conditions.
Ideal surf conditions include a light to moderate
strength "offshore" wind, since this blows into the
front of the wave.
factor which most determines wave shape is the topography
of the seabed directly behind and immediately beneath
the breaking wave. The contours of the reef or sand
bank influence wave shape in two respects. Firstly,
the steepness of the incline is proportional to the
resulting upthrust. When a swell passes over a sudden
steep slope, the force of the upthrust causes the
top of the wave to be thrown forward, forming a curtain
of water which plunges to the wave trough below. Secondly,
the alignment of the contours relative to the swell
direction determines the duration of the breaking
process. When a swell runs along a slope, it continues
to peel for as long as that configuration lasts. When
swell wraps into a bay or around an island, the breaking
wave gradually diminishes in size, as the wave front
becomes stretched by diffraction. For specific surf
spots, the state of the ocean tide can play a significant
role in the quality of waves or hazards of surfing
there. Tidal variations vary greatly among the various
global surfing regions, and the effect the tide has
on specific spots can vary greatly among the spots
within each area. Locations such as Bali, Panama,
and Ireland experience 2-3 meter tide fluctuations,
whereas in Hawaii the difference between high and
low tide is typically less than one meter.
order to know a surf break, one must be sensitive
to each of these factors. Each break is different,
since the underwater topography of one place is unlike
any other. At beach breaks, even the sandbanks change
shape from week to week, so it takes commitment to
get good waves (a skill dubbed "broceanography" by
California surfers). That's why surfers have traditionally
regarded surfing to be more of a lifestyle than a
sport. Of course, you can sometimes be lucky and just
turn up when the surf is pumping. But, it is more
likely that you will be greeted with the dreaded:
"You should have been here yesterday." Nowadays, however,
surf forecasting is aided by advances in information
technology, whereby mathematical modelling graphically
depicts the size and direction of swells moving around
regularity of swell varies across the globe and throughout
the year. During winter, heavy swells are generated
in the mid-latitudes, when the north and south polar
fronts shift toward the Equator. The predominantly
westerly winds generate swells that advance eastward.
So, waves tend to be largest on west coasts during
the winter months. However, an endless train of mid-latitude
cyclones causes the isobars to become undulated, redirecting
swells at regular intervals toward the tropics.
coasts also receive heavy winter swells when low pressure
cells form in the sub-tropics, where their movement
is inhibited by slow moving highs. These lows produce
a shorter fetch than polar fronts, however they can
still generate heavy swells, since their slower movement
increases the duration of a particular wind direction.
After all, the variables of fetch and duration both
influence how long the wind acts over a wave as it
travels, since a wave reaching the end of a fetch
is effectively the same as the wind dying off.
summer, heavy swells are generated when cyclones form
in the tropics. Tropical cyclones form over warm seas,
so their occurrence is influenced by El Niño &
La Niña cycles. Their movements are unpredictable.
They can even move westward, which is unique for a
large scale weather system. In 1979, Tropical Cyclone
Kerry wandered for 3 weeks across the Coral Sea and
into Queensland, before dissipating.
quest for perfect surf has given rise to a field of
tourism based on the surfing adventure. Yacht charters
and surf camps offer surfers access to the high quality
surf found in remote, tropical locations, where tradewinds
ensure offshore conditions. Since winter swells are
generated by mid-latitude cyclones, their regularity
coincides with the passage of these lows. So, the
swells arrive in pulses, each lasting for a couple
of days, with a couple of days between each swell.
Since bigger waves break in a different configuration,
a rising swell is yet another variable to consider
when assessing how to approach a break.
Wave intensity classification
geometry of tube shape can be represented as a ratio
between length and width. A perfectly cylindrical
vortex has a ratio of 1:1, while the classic almond-shaped
tube is nearer 3:1. When width exceeds length, the
tube is described as "square".
breaks can be grouped according to their intensity.
There are two variables to consider in determining
the intensity of a surf break: the shape of the tube
and the angle of the peel line. Tube shape indicates
the degree of upthrust, which is roughly proportional
to the volume of water being thrown over with the
lip. The angle of the peel line reflects the speed
of the tube. A fast, "down the line" tube has a peel
line with a smaller angle than a slower, "bowly" tube.
shape defined by length to width ratio
Tube speed defined by angle of peel line
Wave intensity table
Fast Medium Slow
Square The Cobra Teahupoo Shark Island
Round Speedies, Gnaraloo Banzai Pipeline
Almond Lagundri Bay, Superbank Jeffreys Bay, Bells
Beach Angourie Point
The value of good surf has even prompted the construction
of artificial reefs and sand bars to attract surf
tourism. Of course, there is always the risk that
one's holiday coincides with a "flat spell". Wave
pools aim to solve that problem, by controlling all
the elements that go into creating perfect surf, however
there are only a handful of wave pools that can simulate
good surfing waves, owing primarily to construction
and operation costs and potential liability.
availability of free model data from the NOAA has
allowed the creation of several surf forecasting websites.
Surfers and Surf Culture
represent a diverse culture based on riding the naturally
occurring process of ocean waves. Some people practice
surfing as a recreational activity while others demonstrate
extreme devotion to the sport by making it the central
focus of their lives.
sport has become so popular that surfing now represents
a multi-billion dollar industry. Some people make
a career out of surfing by receiving corporate sponsorships,
competing in contests, or marketing and selling surf
related products, such as equipment and clothing.
Other surfers separate themselves from any and all
commercialism associated with surfing. These soul
surfers, as they are often called, practice the sport
purely for personal enjoyment and many even find a
deeper meaning through involving themselves directly
with naturally occurring wave patterns and subscribe
to ecocentric philosophies, or ecosophies.
begins with the surfer eyeing a rideable wave on the
horizon and then matching its speed (by paddling or
sometimes, in huge waves, by tow-in). A common problem
for beginners is not even being able to catch the
wave in the first place, and one sign of a good surfer
is being able to catch a difficult wave that other
the wave has started to carry the surfer forward,
the surfer quickly jumps to his or her feet and proceeds
to ride down the face of the wave, generally staying
just ahead of the breaking part (white water) of the
wave (in a place often referred to as "the pocket"
or "the curl"). This is a difficult process in total,
where often everything happens nearly simultaneously,
making it hard for the uninitiated to follow the steps.
skills are tested not only in their ability to control
their board in challenging conditions and/or catch
and ride challenging waves, but also by their ability
to execute various maneuvers such as turning and carving.
Some of the common turns have become recognizable
tricks such as the "cutback" (turning back toward
the breaking part of the wave), the "floater" (riding
on the top of the breaking curl of the wave), and
"off the lip" (banking off the top of the wave). A
newer addition to surfing has been the progression
of the "air" where a surfer is able to propel oneself
off the wave and re-enter.
riding" is when a surfer maneuvers into a position
where the wave curls over the top of him or her, forming
a "tube" (or "barrel"), with the rider inside the
hollow cylindrical portion of the wave. This difficult
and sometimes dangerous procedure is arguably the
most coveted and sought after goal in surfing.
Ten" and "Hanging Five" are moves usually specific
to longboarding. Hanging Ten refers to having both
feet on the front end of the board with all ten of
the surfer's toes off the edge, also known as noseriding.
Hanging Five is having just one foot near the front,
and five toes off the edge.
Regular foot - Right foot on back of board
Goofy foot - Left foot on back of board
Take off - the start of a ride
Drop in - dropping into (engaging) the wave, most
often as part of standing up
Drop in on (or "cut off") - taking off on a wave in
front of someone else (considered inappropriate)
Duck dive - pushing the board underwater, nose first,
and diving through an oncoming wave instead of riding
Snaking - paddling around someone to get into the
best position for a wave (in essence, stealing it)
Bottom turn - the first turn at the bottom of the
Shoulder - the unbroken part of the wave
Cutback - a turn cutting back toward the breaking
part of the wave
Fade - on take off, aiming toward the breaking part
of the wave, before turning sharply and surfing in
the direction the wave is breaking towards
Over the falls - When a surfer falls and the wave
carries him in a circular motion with the lip of the
wave, also referred to as the "wash cycle", being
"pitched over" and being "sucked over" because the
wave sucks you off of the bottom of the reef and sucks
you "over the falls."
Pump - an up/down carving movement that generates
speed along a wave
Stall - slowing down from weight on the tail of the
board or a hand in the water
Floater - riding up on the top of the breaking part
of the wave
Hang-five/hang-ten - putting five or ten toes respectively
over the nose of a longboard
Hang Heels - Facing backwards and putting the surfers'
heels over the edge of a longboard.
Re-entry - hitting the lip vertically and re-rentering
the wave in quick succession.
Switch-foot - having equal ability to surf regular
foot or goofy foot -- like being ambidextrous
Tube riding - riding inside the curl of a wave
Carve - turns (often accentuated)
Off the Top - a turn on the top of a wave, either
sharp or carving
Snap - a quick, sharp turn off the top of a wave
Fins-free snap - a sharp turn where the fins slide
off the top of the wave
Air/Aerial - riding the board briefly into the air
above the wave, landing back upon the wave, and continuing
Surfing can be done on various pieces of equipment,
including surfboards, bodyboards, wave skis, kneeboards
and surf mat. Surfboards were originally made of solid
wood and were generally quite large and heavy (often
up to 12 feet long and 100 pounds / 45 kg). Lighter
balsa wood surfboards (first made in the late 1940s
and early 1950s) were a significant improvement, not
only in portability, but also in increasing maneuverability
on the wave.
modern surfboards are made of polyurethane foam (with
one or more wooden strips or "stringers"), fiberglass
cloth, and polyester resin. An emerging surf technology
is an epoxy surfboard, which are stronger and lighter
than traditional fiberglass.
used in surfing includes a leash (to keep a surfer's
board from washing to shore after a "wipeout", and
to prevent it from hitting other surfers), surf wax
and/or traction pads (to keep a surfers feet from
slipping off the deck of the board), and "fins" (also
known as "skegs") which can either be permanently
attached ("glassed-on") or interchangeable. In warmer
climates swimsuits, surf trunks or boardshorts are
worn, and occasionally rash guards ; in cold water
surfers can opt to wear wetsuits, boots, hoods, and
gloves to protect them against lower water temperatures.
are many different surfboard sizes, shapes, and designs
in use today. Modern longboards, generally 9 to 10
feet in length, are reminiscent of the earliest surfboards,
but now benefit from all the modern innovations of
surfboard shaping and fin design.
modern shortboard began its life in the late 1960s
evolving up to today's common "thruster" style shortboard,
a three fin design, usually around 6 to 7 feet in
boards, often called funboards, provide more maneuverability
than a longboard, with more floatation than a shortboard.
While many surfers find that funboards live up to
their name, providing the best of both surfing modes,
others are critical. "It is the happy medium of mediocrity,"
writes Steven Kotler. "Funboard riders either have
nothing left to prove or lack the skills to prove
are also various niche styles, such as the "Egg",
a longboard-style short board, the "Fish", a short
and wide board with a split tail and two or four fins,
and the "Gun", a long and pointed board specifically
designed for big waves.
Surfing, like all water sports, carries the obvious
inherent danger of drowning. Although a surfboard
may go some way to helping a surfer stay buoyant,
it can not be relied on as can be separated from the
user. Surfing should be carried out by confident swimmers
in case the rider gets into trouble or separated from
their board, however, strong currents can quickly
over tire the strongest swimmers. Frequently when
waves exceed 10 feet (faces), a surfers' surfboard
will come to the surface up to 7-15 seconds after
the surfer does.
A large amount of injuries, up to 66%, are caused
via impact of either a surfboard nose of fins to the
surfers body. Surfboard fins can cause deep lacerations
and cuts as well as bruising due to their shape. While
these injuries can be minor, they can open the skin
to infection from the sea, groups like SAS campaign
for cleaner waters to reduce this risk.
is also a danger of collision from objects under the
water surface. These include sand, coral and rocks.
A bad wipe out can cause a surfer to hit these hard
causing unconsciousness and other injuries including
There are a number of sealife that can cause injuries
and even fatalities.
are one of the most serious dangers to surfers with,
many attacks and fatal attacks reported each year.
Injuries are can also be caused by many other creatures
including, stingrays that swim the sea floor and jellyfish.
deaths by shark attack go unrecorded for surfers.
They are frequently listed as "lost at sea" in obituaries,
yet they were last seen surfing.
Famous surf breaks
Some of the best known surf breaks:
Gold Coast Superbank
Cape St. Francis
Main article: List of surfers
2005 World Tour Top 10