Surfing is a surface water sport in which the surfer rides a surfboard on the crest and face of a wave, which is carrying the surfer towards the shore. Waves suitable for surfing are found primarily in the ocean, but are also sometimes found in lakes and rivers, and also in manmade wave pools.
Two major subdivisions within stand-up extreme surfing are longboarding and shortboarding, reflecting differences in board design, including surfboard length, riding style, and the kind of wave that is ridden.
Surfing – Early history
There is some disagreement as to whether surfing first started in Hawaii or in Peru.
Surfing – Peru
In Peru, physical evidence of surfing has been found which pre-dates human colonisation of the Hawaiian Islands (300–750 AD) by at least 1500 years, and possibly by 2000 years. Modern scientific archaeology indicates, as many Peruvians have long claimed, that surfing may have been invented on their north Pacific coast by pre-Columbian cultures using reed boats to surf the waves. These boats are similar in shape to surfboards, but are made from the hollow, buoyant reeds of a plant. Peru has the oldest archaeological and cultural evidence of surfing in existence. Pottery from as early as 1000 BC unearthed in Peru shows people wave riding. Additionally, it is clear that the lineage in Peru originates in the Pre-Incan period more than 3000 years ago. Surfing continues to the present in both the ancient and modern forms. As proven by archeologists, this tradition can be traced back to 1000 BC. Surfing is depicted on ceremonial vessels of the Viru Culture, 3000 years ago. On these vessels a man is shown standing aboard a little reed craft, surfing. This means that the earliest surfing in the world that has actual physical evidence took place in Peru. There is no anthropological or archaeological evidence for a Polynesian origin of surfing before the mid 1700s AD.
Surfing – Polynesia
It is a commonly-held belief that surfing originated in Hawaii. This plank surfing was different to the woven reed boat surfing presumed to have originated in Peru. Surfing very similar to its modern form was witnessed and described by European sources including Captain Cook during his explorations less than 300 years ago. It is safe to assume that surfing had been taking place for many years before that time, however, we cannot be certain how long before, because there is no physical evidence of earlier surfing in Polynesia.
For centuries surfing was a central part of ancient Polynesian culture. Surfing might have been first observed by Europeans at Tahiti in 1767 by Samuel Wallis and the crew members of the Dolphin who were the first Europeans to visit the island in June 1767. Another candidate is the botanist Joseph Banks being part of the First voyage of James Cook on the HMS Endeavour, who arrived on 10 April 1769 on Tahiti. Lieutenant James King was the first one who wrote about the art of surfing on Hawaii when completing the journals of Captain James Cook upon Cook’s death in 1779.
Surfing – Surf waves
Swell 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 and the length of its fetch and duration. Because of this, 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 surface of a wave can become choppy in blustery conditions. Ideal conditions include a light to moderate “offshore” wind, because it blows into the front of the wave, making it a ”barrel” or “tube” wave. Waves are Left handed and Right Handed.
Surfing – Artificial reefs
The value of good surf in attracting surf tourism has prompted the construction of artificial reefs and sand bars. Artificial surfing reefs can be built with durable sandbags or concrete, and resemble a submerged breakwater. These artificial reefs not only provide a surfing location, but also dissipate wave energy and shelter the coastline from erosion. Ships such as Seli 1 that have accidentally stranded on sandy bottoms, can create sandbanks that give rise to good waves.
An artificial reef known as Chevron Reef, was constructed in El Segundo, California in hopes of creating a new surfing area. Howevever the reef failed to produce any quality waves. In Kovalam, South West India, an artificial reef has however successfully provided the local community with a quality lefthander, stabilized coastal soil erosion, and provided good habitat for marine life. ASR Ltd., a New Zealand based company, constructed the Kovalam reef and is working on another reef in Boscombe, England.
Surfing – Surf Culture
Surfers represent a diverse culture based on riding the waves. Some people practice surfing as a recreational activity while others make it the central focus of their lives. Within the United States, surfing culture is most dominant in Hawaii and California because these two states offer the best surfing conditions. Some historical markers of the culture included the woodie, the station wagon used to carry surfers’ boards, as well as boardshorts, the long swim shorts typically worn while surfing.
The sport of surfing now represents a multi-billion dollar industry especially in clothing and fashion markets. Some people make a career out of surfing by receiving corporate sponsorships.
When the waves were flat, surfers persevered with sidewalk surfing, which is now called skateboarding. Sidewalk surfing has a similar feel to surfing and requires only a paved road or sidewalk. To create the feel of the wave, surfers even sneak into empty backyard swimming pools to ride in, known as pool skating.
Surfing – Maneuvers
Surfing begins when the surfer paddles toward shore in an attempt to match the speed of the wave. Once the wave begins to carry the surfer forward, the surfer stands up and proceeds to ride the wave. The basic idea is to position the surfboard so it is just ahead of the breaking part (white water) of the wave. A common problem for beginners is being able to catch the wave at all.
A surfer is respected if he catches a wave in the middle and maneuvers his way to the shoulder (or edge) of the breaking wave. Conversely, a surfer who takes off on the shoulder often becomes an obstacle for more skilled surfers taking off in the ‘impact zone’ and is deemed a shoulder hopper. Surfers’ skills are tested by their ability to control their board in challenging conditions, riding challenging waves, and executing maneuvers such as strong turns and cutbacks (turning board back to the breaking wave) and carving (a series of strong back-to-back maneuvers). More advanced HGH skills include the floater (riding on top of the breaking curl of the wave), and off the lip (banking off the breaking wave). A newer addition to surfing is the progression of the air whereby a surfer propels off the wave entirely and re-enters the wave.
Surfing – Tube ride
The tube ride is considered to be the ultimate maneuver in extreme surfing. As a wave breaks, if the conditions are ideal, the wave will break in an orderly line from the middle to the shoulder, enabling the experienced surfer to position him / her self actually inside the wave as it is breaking. This is known as a tube ride. If you are watching from shore, the tube rider may disappear from view as the wave breaks over the rider’s head. If the surfer succeeds in bulleting out of the tube, it was a great ride. The longer the surfer remains in the tube, the more successful the ride. Some of the world’s best known waves for tube riding include Pipeline on the North shore of Oahu, Teahupoo in Tahiti and G-Land in Java.
When a surfer gets a tube ride, it is often referred to as getting tubed or getting barreled.
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, with five toes off the edge.
Cutback: Generating speed down the line and then turning back to reverse direction.
Floater: Suspending the board atop the wave. Very popular on small waves.
Top-Turn: Turn off the top of the wave. Sometimes used to generate speed and sometimes to shoot spray.
Air / Aerial: Launching the board off the wave entirely, then re-entering the wave. Various airs include ollies, lien airs, method airs, and other skateboard-like maneuvers.
Surfing – Learning to surf
Many popular extreme surfing destinations have surf schools and surf camps that offer lessons. Surf camps for beginners and intermediates are multi-day lessons that focus on surfing fundamentals. They are designed to take new surfers and help them become proficient riders. All-inclusive surf camps offer overnight accommodations, meals, 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 boards. Funboards are also a popular shape for beginners as they combine the volume and stability of the longboard with the manageable size of a smaller surfboard.
Typical surfing instruction is best performed one-on-one, but can also be done in a group setting. Popular surf locations offer perfect surfing conditions for beginners, as well as challenging breaks for advanced students. Surf spots more conducive to instruction typically offer conditions suitable for learning, most importantly, sand bars or sandy bottom breaks with consistent waves.
Surfing can be broken into several skills: drop in positioning to catch the wave, the pop-up, and positioning on the wave. Paddling out requires strength but also the mastery of techniques to break through oncoming waves (duck diving, eskimo roll). Drop in positioning requires experience at predicting the wave set and where they will break. The surfer must pop up quickly as soon as the wave starts pushing the board forward. Preferred positioning on the wave is determined by experience at reading wave features including where the wave is breaking.
Balance plays a crucial role in standing on a surfboard. Thus, balance training exercises are a good preparation. Practicing with a Balance board or swing boarding helps novices master the art.
Surfing – Equipment
Surfing can be done on various equipment, including surfboards, longboards, Stand Up Paddle boards (SUP’s), bodyboards, wave skis, skimboards, kneeboards, surf mats and macca’s trays.
Surfboards were originally made of solid wood and were large and heavy (often up to 12 ft or 3.7 m long and 150 lb or 68 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.
Most modern surfboards are made of polyurethane foam (PU), with one or more wooden strips or “stringers”, fiberglass cloth, and polyester resin (PE). An emerging board material is epoxy resin and Expanded PolyStyrene foam (EPS) which is stronger and lighter than traditional PU/PE construction. Even newer designs incorporate materials such as carbon fiber and variable-flex composites in conjunction with fiberglass and epoxy or polyester resins.
Since epoxy/EPS surfboards are generally lighter, they will float better than a traditional PU/PE board of similar size, shape and thickness. This makes them easier to paddle and faster in the water. However, a common complaint of EPS boards is that they do not provide as much feedback as a traditional PU/PE board. For this reason, many advanced surfers prefer that their surfboards be made from traditional materials.
Other equipment includes a leash (to stop the board from drifting away after a wipeout, and to prevent it from hitting other surfers), surf wax, 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.
Sportswear designed or particularly suitable for surfing may be sold as boardwear (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 wear wetsuits, 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 longboards, generally 9 to 10 feet (3.0 m) in length, are reminiscent of the earliest surfboards, but now benefit from modern innovations in surfboard shaping and fin design. Competitive longboard surfers need to be competent at traditional walking maneuvers, as well as the short-radius turns normally associated with shortboard surfing.
The modern shortboard began life in the late 1960s and has evolved into today’s common thruster style, defined by its three fins, usually around 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 m) in length. The thruster was invented by Australian shaper Simon Anderson.
Midsize boards, often called funboards, provide more maneuverability than a longboard, with more floation than a shortboard. While many surfers find that funboards live up to their name, providing the best of both surfing modes, others are critical.