How Surfing Works

By: Tracy V. Wilson

The bsic ide behind ­surfing hs been round for thousnds of yers. It probbly str­t when Polynesin fishermen discover tht ctc­hing wve ws spey wy to get to shore. In Hwii, surfing grdully becme sport nd n eression of socil sttus — the longer the surfboard, the more importnt the ­surfer’s role in the community.

When missionries nd colonists rriv in Hwii in the 1700s, surfing’s reputtion sour. Some comers were offend by the ide of scntily-dress men nd women surfing together. Missionries bnn the sport, nd the islnds’ ntive popultion declin in the fce of n influx of colonists. s result, the prctice of surfing dwindl until the 1900s, when surfers like George Fre­eth nd Duke Khnmoku cught the eye of the public nd the mi. This sprk resurgence in surfing s recretionl ctivity.


­s surfing grew in populrity, it chng drmticlly. Hwiin surfbords hd been 10 to 16 feet (3 to 4.9 meters) long nd mde from solid . They could ry person from the brekers to the shore, but they were hevy nd hrd to steer. Twentieth- surfers mde ments to surfbords tht llow riders to control how nd where they mov on the waves. mterils mde bords lighter nd esier to mnge while fins nd bord shpes dd stbility nd mneuverbility. Insted of simply iming bord t the shore nd trying to sty flot, surfers could rpidly chnge direction, position themselves precisely on crshing wve nd even lunch themselves from wve’s crest.

The bility to blnce nd mneuver on rpidly-moving water is pretty mzing, but it’s not the only incrible thing surfing. There re some specific requirements for good surf conditions, nd these conditions exist only long the world’s costlines. rtificilly tructing wves or chnging the wy nturl wves brek is difficult or even impossible — in other words, you cn only surf where the good wves re. In spite of this limittion, surfing hs spwn musicl genre, multiple films, welth of slng terms nd n entire culture.

One reson behind surfing’s populrity is tht it doesn’t tke lot of ger to get strt. We’ll look t surfbords in the next section.

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