Surfing is the act of travelling over waves in water that have been created from reefs, sand bars, submerged structures or shallow shorelines. Bodysurfing is when an individual only uses their body to surf, and there is the classical surfing by using a board to paddle, kneel or stand up on in the water. Surfing has really grown in popularity since the 1960’s due to it’s versatility as a water sport that can be enjoyed by all ages.

The construction of a surfboard consists of a plastic foam core centre (shaped by hand or machine) and an outer cover of resin and fibreglass. Size varies according to experience and performance- boards used by top competitors are around 180cm-200cm long and 47 wide, less than 6cm thick and weigh around 2.7kg. These surfboards are sometimes called shortboards.


Longboards are about 270cm in length and around 51cm-56cm wide, and have the same depth as shortboards, weighing in at about 7kg. The bottom of these boards have from one to five fins near to the tail. The most common design in the three fin ‘thruster’ board. The fins allow the board to provide forward drive, additional power and directional stability.

Shortboards are more commonly used for aerial manoeuvres and speed, although both boards can be used for professional or recreational purposes.


When a swell reaches the shallow shoreline of the sea, the top portion of the wave pitches forward and the wave begins to break. This is often when you see the crests of foam, or whitecaps. Subsequently, the forward motion and size of the wave start to reduce.

In surfing, the individual rides the unbroken sections of the wave for as long as he can, before the wave breaks. There are a variety of manoeuvres that surfers use to slow down, speed up and navigate around the wave. Experienced surfers can ride the whole wave until it has broken.

Surfing does require a lot of physical exercise, skill, agility and stamina. When a surfer is in the water, he paddles to a point where the waves are breaking and catches the wave using one of several methods.

Bottom Turn

The surfer turns his board sharply off the trough at the base of the wave, using the momentum and speed that has been gathered from the wave’s motion, to give the board direction to move up the face of the wave. The face of the wave is the smooth part just below the wave’s white crest.


The surfer who is riding the cutback rides the face of the wave and then turns his board in the opposite direction, going towards the breaking curl of the wave.


In a snap, the surfer makes a sharp turn off the top of the wave which redirects his momentum and speed back down the face of the wave.


Surfing a floater required the surfer to use speed and momentum to ride up and over the face of the wave, so that they are over the breaking section of the wave (or lip), and ride along the crest of the wave for as long as possible before dropping back down onto the face of the wave.


‘Aerials’ are moves that are made whilst in the air and have become very popular with more modern surfing fashions. Similar to the moves that can be made whilst snowboarding, or skate boarding, aerials involve spins, and flips whilst airborne. For example, a ‘360’ is a 360 degree turn made whilst the surfer is in the air.

Surfing competitions

People can compete in surfing competitions as long as there are waves to surf. Whether this be Hawaii, or and indoor artificial wave pool. Judges use a points system to score the surfers that gives marks for the distance ridden, the size of the wave, and the quality of moves performed.

In 1983, the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) was founded and it now acts as the international governing body of surfing. This replaced the International Professioanl Surfing tour, founded in 1975 by Randy Rarick, Jack Shipley and Fred Hemmings, all from the USA.

The professional surfing competition circuit is organised by they ASP. In each individual country, applicants are awarded points by the World Qualifying System (WQS) for the WCT (World Championship Tour). The surfers are scored on a scale of 1 to 10 points by a judging panel of five professional judges that have been appointed by the ASP.
As the WQS level, surfers go through four person heats. In the WCT levels of competitions, surfers compete in one on one competitions in the majority of heats. The highest and lowest scores for each surfer are discarded, and the 3 middle scores are combined to create an average. Each surfer in a competition is only allowed to ride so many waves, 3 in the preliminary rounds and 4 in the final rounds.

Surfing history

Surfing is believed to have originated in Pacific Ocean islands. In Hawaii, surfing has not only been a popular sport, but part of the history and culture. It was the British explorer, Captain James Cook who was the first European to see surfing in Hawaii in 1778. In the 19th Century surfing was un encouraged by Christian missionaries who saw it as a frivolous activity. However, it did start reappearing in the early 20th century.

One of the pioneers in spreading the word of surfing was Duke Kahanamoku in the early part of the 20th Century. He broke the world record in the 100m freestyle swimming competition in the Olympic Games in 1912. Kahanamoku’s travels enabled him to introduce surfing to many parts of the world. More recently, Kelly Slater and Lisa Anderson from Florida, US, and Mark Richards, popularized a twin fin surfboard design.

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