Home > Uncategorized > The Science in…Surfing?

The Science in…Surfing?

There are just some things in life you don’t think science has any interaction with. For a lot of people, that seems to be surfing. “So you just go the beach with your board and catch some waves? That’s so cool,” they say. And that makes sense. Hanging loose, doing whatever, and catching some waves seems to be the prevalent surfing culture.  However, there is a ton of science that goes into the art of surfing and surfers usually know way more about science than I, or you, would ever expect.

Surfers use satellites, moon phase charts, and physics to find the perfect wave. Wave size depends on what storms are in other parts of the world, the gravity from the moon phase, air pressure, and which side of an island you’re on. Swells in the winter are much bigger than swells in the summer. Surfers will predict the biggest waves on daily tide charts and catch “dawn patrol” before the wind picks up and chops the waves. There’s an article here that explains it in more detail. Even the act of surfing itself is related to Newton’s Laws of Motion. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, so one has to paddle to catch a wave. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so pushing down on one side of a board will cause it to turn.

Anyway, there’s more thought and science that goes into surfing than one would ever think. However, once you’re out on the ocean, it still feels like it’s just you, the wave, and the biggest feeling of peace you’ll ever feel. And I don’t think science has anything to do with the third.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    This past summer, I went surfing in Hawaii. Some of the locals I met there said something on the same lines as you posted. I completely agree with the fact that science and surfing have so much in common. Its actually pretty cool how much this sport is in tact with nature. I think that is why it is so peaceful. You really feel connected to the world, the big blue ocean, the sky and the waves while you surf. All of these elements are science in the broad sense. I miss surfing, it was loads of fun. But yes it’d be nice to be able to predict a wave than rather just going out there and sitting on flat water.

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