- This article focuses on stand-up surfing. For
other uses see Surfing
Surfer in wipeout
is the term is used for a surface water sport
in which the person
surfing moves along the face of a breaking ocean wave
(the "surf"). However, surfing
is not restricted to saltwater, but can sometimes take place on
rivers, using a standing wave
use of the word "surfing" is for riding waves using a board on
which the surfer stands. Other forms include bodyboarding
, in which the individual riding
the wave only partly raises his upper body from the board surface,
and from bodysurfing
, where no board at
all is used.
Two major subdivisions within contemporary stand-up surfing are
, reflecting differences in
surfboard design and riding style.
In tow-in surfing
(most often, but
not exclusively, associated with big
), a surfer is towed into the wave by a motorized
water vehicle, such as a jetski
because standard paddling is often ineffective when trying to match
a large wave's higher speed.
Depending on wave size, direction, and on wind conditions, sailboats
can also surf on larger waves on open
sailing waters. Unlike "surfers", sailors usually do not surf in
beach waves, and they usually do not go out in order to
surf; instead, the wave and wind conditions may allow them to boat
surf during a sailing trip. More recently, the same principle of
craft-based surfing has been increasingly used by kayakers
, notably in the sport of playboating
, which is mostly carried out on
rivers (see playspot
Surfing-related sports such as paddleboarding
and sea kayaking
do not require waves, and other
derivative sports such as kitesurfing
rely primarily on wind
for power, yet all of these tools may also be used to ride
Recently with the use of V-drive boats, wakesurfing has grown.
is surfing behind a boat,
riding the wave or wake
which is created by the
Surfing was a central part of ancient Hawaiian
culture, and the chief was the most
skilled wave rider in the community with the best board made from
the best tree. Moreover, the ruling class had the best beaches and
the best boards, and commoners were not allowed on the same
beaches, but they could gain prestige by their ability to ride the
surf on their extremely heavy boards. According to the same website
, surfing permeated ancient Hawaiian society, including religion
, and Hawaiian chiefs would
demonstrate and confirm their authority by the skills they
displayed in the surf.
The art of
surfing was first observed by Europeans in 1767, by the crewmembers
of the Dolphin at Tahiti.
Later, Lieutenant James King, wrote about the art when completing
the journals of Captain James Cook
Cook's death in 1779. When Mark Twain
visited Hawaii in 1866 he wrote “In one place we came upon a large
company of naked natives, of both sexes and all ages, amusing
themselves with the national pastime of surf- bathing.”
A wave breaking.
is generated when wind blows
consistently over a large area of open water, called the wind's
. The size of a swell is
determined by the strength of the wind and 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
Local wind conditions affect wave quality, since the ridable
surface of a wave can become choppy in blustery conditions. Ideal
surfing conditions include a light to moderate strength "offshore"
wind, since this blows into the front of the wave making it barrel
The 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 bar front becomes stretched by diffraction
; 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; therefore, it takes a
commitment for surfers to find good waves (a skill dubbed
"broceanography" by a few California surfers).
That is why enthusiasts have
traditionally regarded surfing as more of a lifestyle than merely a
sport. Nowadays, however, surf
is aided by advances in information technology,
whereby mathematical modeling graphically depicts the size and
direction of swells moving around the globe.
A large wave breaking.
The 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
to become undulated, redirecting
swells at regular intervals toward the tropics.
East 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
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
During summer, heavy swells are generated when cyclones form in the
tropics. Tropical cyclones
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.
Tropical Cyclone Kerry wandered for three weeks across the
Sea and into Queensland before dissipating.
The 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
- Tube shape defined by length to width ratio
- Square: <1:1></1:1>
- Round: 1-2:1
- Almond: >2:1
- Tube speed defined by angle of peel line
- Fast: 30°
- Medium: 45°
- Slow: 60°
The value of good surf has even prompted the construction of
and sand bars to
attract surf tourism. Of course, there is always the risk that
one's vacation 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.
The availability of free model data
from the NOAA
has allowed the creation of several surf forecasting
artificial reef known as Chevron Reef,
was constructed in El Segundo, California in hopes of creating a new surfing area.
However, the project was a failure, and the reef failed to produce
any quality waves.
Surfers and surf culture
Surfers 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. Within the United States, surfing culture is
most dominant in California, Florida and Hawaii.
historical markers of the culture included the woodie
, the station wagon used to carry surfers'
boards, as well as boardshorts
, the long
swim suits typically worn while surfing.
The sport of surfing has become so popular that it now represents a
multi-billion dollar industry specially in clothing and fashion
people make a career out of surfing by receiving corporate
When the waves were flat, surfers endured in sidewalk surfing
, which is now called
skateboarding. Sidewalk surfing had a similar feel to surfing and
made it possible to do it wherever, whenever. To create the feel of
the wave, surfers sneaked into empty backyard swimming pools or
bowls to ride in.
Surfing begins when the surfer finds a ridable wave on the horizon
and then attempts to match its speed (by paddling or sometimes, by
tow-in). Once the wave has started to carry the surfer forward, the
surfer jumps to his 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"). A common problem for beginners is being unable to
catch the wave in the first place, and one sign of a good surfer is
the ability to catch a difficult wave that other surfers
A surfer going for the tube.
Surfers' skills are tested not only in their ability to control
their board in challenging conditions and/or catch and ride
challenging waves, but 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. Some of these maneuvers are now executed
to extreme degrees, as with off-the-lips where a surfer
over-rotates his turn and re-enters backward, or airs done in the
same fashion, recovering either with re-rotation or continuing the
over-rotation to come out with his nose forward again.
"Tube 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.
"Hanging 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 of the surfer's toes
off the edge, also known as noseriding
Hanging Five is having just one foot near the front, toes
off the edge. Hanging Ten was first made famous by
James (rip) Carman from the early Californian surfing
- Regular/Natural 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
- Snaking, Drop in on, cut off, or "burn" - taking off on a wave
in front of someone closer to the peak (considered
- Duck dive - pushing the board underwater, nose first, and
diving through an oncoming wave instead of riding it
- Rolling- Flipping a Longboard up-side-down, nose first and
pulling through a breaking or broken wave when paddling out to the
- Snaking/Back-Paddling - paddling around someone to get into the
best position for a wave (in essence, stealing it)
- Pop-up - Going from lying on the board to standing, all in one
- Bottom turn - the first turn at the bottom of the wave
- Shoulder - the unbroken part of the wave
- Cutback - a turn cutting back toward the breaking part of the
- 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 can suck the surfer off of the bottom and draw him
or her "over the falls."
- Pump - an up/down carving movement that generates speed along a
- Stall - slowing down by shifting weight to the tail of the
board or putting a hand in the water
- Floater - riding up on the top of the breaking part of the
wave, and coming down with it (invented at Terrigal Beach, Central
- 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 (i.e. left foot forward or right foot forward) -- like
- Tube riding/Getting barreled -
riding inside the hollow curl of a wave
- Carve - turns (often accentuated)
- Pearl - accidentally driving the nose of the board underwater,
generally ending the ride
- Off the Top - a turn on the top of a wave, either sharp or
- Snap - a quick, sharp turn off the top of a wave
- Fins-free snap (or "fins out") - 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 to ride.
- Grom/Grommet - young surfer (anyone younger than you)
- Wipe Out- Falling off your surfboard while riding a wave.
Accident while involved with surfing .
- Close-out - When the wave breaks in front of, or potentially on
top of, the rider. A wave is said to be "closed-out" when the wave
breaks at every position along the face at once.
- Snake - When a surfer who doesn't have the right of way, steals
a wave from another surfer.
- Hang-loose-Generally meaning "go for it" or "way to go". This
displayed by having ones thumb and pinky fingers up while the
index, middle and ring fingers remain in the palm. Then twistng
ones wrist as if they are waving "hello" or "good bye" over and
Learning to surf
Many popular surfing destinations, such as Hawaii, California,
Ireland, Australia and Costa Rica, have surf schools that offer
surfing lessons and surf camps. Surf camps for beginners and
intermediates are multi-day lessons that focus on the basic
fundamentals of surfing. They are designed to take new surfers and
help them become proficient riders. All-inclusive surf camps are
surf camps which typically offer overnight accommodations, meals,
surfing lessons and surfboards. Most surf lessons begin by
instructors pushing students into waves on longboards. The
longboard is considered the ideal surfboard for learning, due to
the fact it has more paddling speed and stability than shorter
Typical surfing instruction is best performed in a one-on-one
lesson format, but can also be done in a group setting.
surf locations such as Hawaii and Costa Rica offer perfect surfing conditions for beginner
surfers, as well as more challenging conditions for advanced
Surf spots more conducive to instruction typically
display a different criteria of conditions suitable for learning.
Of these, sand bars
or sandy bottom breaks
with consistent waves are of the utmost importance. Also, having
plenty of room to practice is a big plus.
Learning to surf can be broken into several steps: drop in
positioning to catch the wave, the pop up, and positioning on the
wave. Each step takes time and practice to master. Paddling out
requires strength but also the mastery of techniques to break
through the oncoming waves (duck diving, eskimo roll). Drop in
positioning requires experience at predicting the wave set and
where they will break. The pop up must be completed quickly as soon
as the wave is comfortably carrying the surfer. The positioning on
the wave is determined by experience at reading the wave features
including where the wave is breaking.
Waxing a surfboard
Longboards in Waikiki beach
Surfing can be done on various pieces of equipment, including
surfboards, longboards, Stand Up Paddle boards (SUP's), bodyboards,
wave skis, kneeboards and surf mats.
were originally made of solid
wood and were generally quite large and heavy (often up to long and
100 pounds / 45 kg). Lighter balsa
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.
Most 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
Even newer surfboard designs incorporate materials such as carbon fiber
Equipment used in surfing includes a leash
(to stop 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 surfer's 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.
designed or particularly
suitable for surfing may be sold as "boardwear", although the term
is also used in snowboarding
. In warmer
climates swimsuits, surf trunks or boardshorts
are worn, and occasionally rash guards
; in cold water surfers can opt to
, boots, hoods, and gloves to
protect them against lower water temperatures. A newer introduction
is a rash vest with a thin layer of titanium to provide maximum
warmth without compromising mobility.
There are many different surfboard sizes, shapes, and designs in
use today. Modern longboard
generally 9 to in length, are reminiscent of the earliest
surfboards, but now benefit from all the modern innovations of
surfboard shaping and fin design. Competitive longboard surfers
need to be competent at traditional "walking" manoevres, as well as
the more modern, high performance turns normally associated with
The modern shortboard
life in the late 1960s evolving up to today's common "thruster"
style shortboard, defined by its three fin design, usually around 6
to in length. The "thruster" was invented by Australian shaper
Midsize boards, often called funboard
, 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
There are also various niche styles, such as the "Egg", a
longboard-style short board targeted for people who want to ride a
shortboard but need some more paddle power. The "Fish", a board
which is typically shorter, flatter, and wider than a normal
shortboard often with a split tail (known as a swallow tail). The
"Fish" board often has two or four fins and is specifically
designed for surfing smaller waves. For big waves there is the
"Gun", a long, thick board with a pointed nose and tail (known as a
pin tail) specifically designed for big waves.
Surfing, like all water sports, carries the inherent danger of
. Although a surfboard may assist a
surfer in staying buoyant
, it cannot be
relied on for floatation, as it can be separated from the user. The
use of a leash, which is attached at the ankle or knee, keeps the
surfer connected to the board for convenience but is not used as a
safeguard to prevent drowning. The established rule is that if the
surfer cannot handle the water conditions without his or her board
then he or she should not go in.
Some drownings have occurred as a result of leashes becoming caught
on reefs, holding the surfer underwater. In very large waves
such as Waimea or Mavericks, being attached to the board may be undesirable, as
the board can be pulled for long distances in the whitewater,
holding the surfer underneath the wave.
Surfers will often surf in pairs or groups as a safeguard
A surfer exiting a closeout
Under the wrong set of conditions, anything that a surfer's body
can come in contact with is potentially a danger, including sand
bars, rocks, reefs, surfboards, and other surfers. Collisions with
these objects can sometimes cause unconsciousness, or even
Many surfers jump off bridges, buildings, wharves and other
structures to reach the surf. If the timing is wrong they can
either damage themselves or their equipment, or both.
A large number of injuries, up to 66%, are caused by impact of
either a surfboard nose or fins with the surfer's 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 the risk of infections.
Being knocked off your surfboard by a wave, a collision with
others, or generally hurting oneself whilst surfing is commonly
referred to as a wipeout.
Various types of sea life
sometimes cause injuries and even fatalities. Depending on the
location of the surfing activity, animals such as sharks
sometimes be a danger to surfers.
Local surfers can sometimes use intimidation and violence, in an
attempt to guard their surf break
use by outsiders in an attempt to avoiding crowding. This is called
"localism." Some surfers have been known to form gangs that surf a
certain break, and fiercely protect their spot from outsiders.
These surfers are typically referred to simply as "locals".
- History of Surfing Surfing for Life
- surf camp
- The quick guide on how to surf
- Ocean Safety
- Hard Bottom Surf Dangers
- Dangers of Surfing - Sharks, Sandbars, and
- The Dangers of Surfing
- Surf Dangers Animals