I am going to talk about one of my favorite sports, surfing, a water sport in which a person rides a surfboard trying to get a wave.
The origin of Surfing came from a part of Polynesian culture. Surfing was first observed by Europeans at Hawaii in 1767. Later, the military James King wrote about the art to complete the journals of the British explorer, navigator and cartographer, Captain James Cook. The American author and humorist Mark Twain visited Hawaii in 1866 and 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.” The International Surfing Day is celebrated on June 20.
The surfers’ classification is divided in three categories: Professional (Pro), Average and Kook. A professional surfer is someone who is very good at it and is usually paid. An average surfer is anyone who enjoys the sport of surfing and a kook is someone who is just a terrible surfer.
Surfing begins when the surfer is able to ride a wave on the beach and try to match its speed. Once the wave starts to carry the surfer forward, the surfer stands up and proceeds to ride down the face of the wave, generally staying just ahead of the white water of the wave. 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 can’t.
There are two major subdivisions of surfing, longboarding and shortboarding. And there are some differences in surfboard’s design and length and also riding style such as tow-in surfing or big wave surfing, which one the surfer needs to match a large wave’s higher speed.
In the beginning, surfboards were made of solid wood and were large and heavy. Modern surfboards are made of polyurethane foam, wooden strips, fiberglass cloth, and polyester resin. The boards can also be made of carbon fiber and variable flex composites.
Surfing is related with sports like paddleboarding and sea kayaking. But, they don’t require waves, and other derivative sports like kitesurfing and windsurfing need wind for power, but can also be used to ride waves.
Local wind conditions affect wave quality. Ideal conditions include a light to moderate wind, because it blows into the front of the wave, making a “barrel” or a “tube” wave. The weather and the ocean plus the great desire for the best possible types of waves for surfing, make surfers dependent on weather conditions that may change quickly.
The most important influence on wave shape is the topography of the seabed. The contours of the reef get stretched and each break of the wave is different from each other. At beach breaks, sandbanks change its shape from week to week. Through advanced technology and mathematical graphs, surfing receives informations about sizes and directions of swells around the globe.
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About the waves, swell is a term used to refer a wave generated when wind blows 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. That’s the reason of surfing tends to be larger and more prevalent on coastlines.
Swell regularity can vary many times and in many parts of the world. During winter, waves tend to be largest on west and east coasts and also arrive in pulses and are generated by cyclones. The variables of fetch and duration influence how long the wind acts over a wave as it goes.
During summer, heavy swells are generated in the tropics by cyclones too. Their movements are unpredictable like in 1979, when Tropical Cyclone “Kerry” has been for three weeks across the Coral Sea and into Queensland before dissipating.
The value of good surf has even prompted the construction of artificial reefs and sand bars to attract surf tourism. Artificial surfing reefs can be built with durable sandbags or concrete to be similar to the real one. These artificial reefs not only provide a surfing location, but also protect the coastline from erosion. Wave pools aim to solve that problem, by controlling all the elements that go into creating perfect surf. The Sea Gaia Ocean Dome, located in Miyazaki, Japan, is a prime example of a surfable wave pool, able to generate powerful waves for rippable surf and for barrel rides. Many professional surfers have demonstrated how hard the simulated waves can be “ripped” or difficult. But the Ocean Dome is expensive to build and maintain.
An 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. In India, an artificial reef was constructed and has provided the local community a successful quality. A New Zealand company constructed a reef and is working on another in England.
Another interesting subject into Surfing is talking about Surfers and Surf culture. Some people practice surfing as a recreational activity while others make it the central focus of their lives. In the United States, surfing culture is most dominant in California, Florida and Hawaii. Some historical markers of the culture included the station wagon used to carry surfers’ boards and the long swim shorts typically worn while surfing.
When the waves aren’t good, some surfers practice skateboarding. To create the feel of the wave, surfers “play” in an empty backyard swimming pool to ride in, known as pool skating. Another sport practiced is snowboarding, which one is very similar to surfing.
The culture began in the 20th century. Some aspects of 1960’s surf culture came from Southern California, where it was first popularized and nowadays it continues to evolve. It affected fashion, music, literature, films, expressions, and more.
The culture of beach life influenced surfers. Localism or territorialism is a part of the development of surf culture in which individuals or groups of surfers designate certain key surfing spots as their own.
A surf break that forms great surfable waves may easily become a very nice place for the surfers, especially if the wave only breaks there rarely. Regular surfers who live around a desirable surf break may often guard it jealously, using the common expression “locals only” for the surfers and “shoobie” for the non-locals. These sayings belong to the territorialism in the beach culture. Localism is expressed when surfers are involved in verbal or physical threats or abuse to keep out non-surfers from surfing. It used to be common in 1960’s to describe territorial and authoritarian surfers in place such as Malibu, Hawaii, Venice and Santa Monica beaches.
There are terms used by surfers around the world such as “stoked” that refers to a mixed feeling of anxiety and happiness towards the waves breaking.
Some issues like environmental damage and oil spills can increase pressure on the surfing regions. The artificial reefs have been built in recent years and have been spred enthusiasm in the global surfing community for additional projects.
The spirituality is also important among surfers who combine their love of the sport with their own religious or spiritual beliefs. In Huntington Beach, California for example, a local Christian, non-denominational church occasionally meets on the beach for Sunday early-morning services. In addition, many surfing communities organize and take part in memorial services for fallen surfers, like the current one taken for Andy Irons, the three times world champion surfer, dead by overdose, according to the news.
The participants usually get into a circular formation, hold hands, and silently pray in the services. After that, they go to the beach to begin their surf session. Often, these services take place at sunrise or sunset. In locations with a pier, such as Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, any non-surfers can watch and participate.
Surf culture is reflected in surf music like rock, pop, R &B and blues genres. This includes artists as “The Beach Boys”, “The Shadows” and “Jack Johnson”, who is former professional surfer.
The sport of surfing now represents a very rich industry especially in clothing and fashion markets. Some people make a career out of surfing by receiving corporate sponsorships. Surfwear is a popular style of casual clothing. Many surf brands supply local surfers with boardshorts, wetsuits, surfboards, leashes, etc. Some clothing brands include Quiksilver, Roxy, Billabong, O’Neill, Hurley, Reef, Rip Curl, Volcom, Element, Oakley and Mormaii, which brand is from Brazil.
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Surfing contests has became an extremely popular and lucrative activity for the participants and the sponsors. Riders, competing in pairs or small groups, are allocated a certain amount of time to ride waves. The competitors are judged according to how competently the wave is ridden, including the level of difficulty, as well as frequency of maneuvers. Annually, some world surfing championship series have been broken around the world: Billabong Pro, Pipe Masters, Red Bull Big Wave Africa and Surfabout, etc. The mainly surfing organization is ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals).
Surfers’ skills are not tested only in their ability to control their board in challenging conditions and ride challenging waves, but by their ability to execute maneuvers.
The tube ride is a maneuver when a wave begins to break and creates an empty section, removing the sandbank from its surface and enabling the experienced surfer to position himself or herself in the empty part of the wave, also known as the tube or the barrel. The surfer can be completely surrounded by water for several seconds until the wave forces him or her to exit the tube and go back out onto the open wave face. Given the degree of difficulty experienced while riding a tube, surfers often fall off their surfboards before exiting the tube. Strong tube riding skills can only be acquired by years of experience riding hollow waves and learning to anticipate how the wave will break, enabling you to stay inside the tube for a long time or exit quickly. Some of the world’s best known waves for tube riding include Pipeline in Hawaii and Teahupoo in Tahiti.
Many popular surfing destinations, such as Hawaii, California, Mexico, Florida, Chile, Ireland, Australia and Costa Rica, have surf schools and surf camps that offer lessons. Surf camps for beginners and intermediates are lessons that focus on surfing fundamentals. They are designed to take new surfers and help them become professionals. All, inclusive surf camps offer overnight accommodations, meals, lessons and surfboards. Most surf lessons begin on longboards. The longboard is considered the ideal surfboard for learning, due to the fact it has more stability than shorter boards. Funboards (midsize) 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-by-one, but can also be done in a group. Popular surf locations such as Hawaii, Mexico and Costa Rica offer perfect surfing conditions for beginners, as well as challenging breaks for advanced students.
Surfing can be broken into several skills. A preferred positioning on the wave is determined by experience at reading wave features including where the wave is breaking. The surfers need balance training exercises to have a good preparation.
The surfing equipments include surfboards, longboards, bodyboards, wave skis, a leash (to stop the board), surf wax, traction pads (to keep the surfer’s feet from slipping off) and fins, which can be permanently attached.
Some locations became famous among the surfers:
Mavericks, in California: the waves can routinely crest at 25 feet (8m) and 50 feet (15m), caused by an unusual underwater rock formation;
Pipeline, in Hawaii;
Teahupo’o, in Tahiti: known for its heavy and higher waves;
Zicatela Beach (Mexican Pipeline), in Puerto Escondido, Mexico: where a number of international competitors have taken place.
All water sports carry the danger of drowning. In surfing case, the board can be separated from the user. The leash can hold the surfer underwater and in very large waves, the water can drag the board for long distances, holding the surfer underneath the wave.
Another danger is collision. In wrong conditions, it can put a surfer’s body in contact with a sand bar, a rock, a reef, a surfboard and other surfers. Some collisions or wipe out can cause unconsciousness or death. Besides, a large number of injuries can open the surfers’ skin to infections from the sea and diseases.
About sea life, some injuries and even fatalities can be caused by animals such as sharks and jellyfish.
Surfing has influences in boardsports like skateboarding (surfing on land), bodyboarding, wakeboarding, snowboarding, kiteboarding, sandboarding, etc. They all are competitive sports now.
The surf culture is reflected in multimedia. The movie “Blue Crush” (2002) is about surfer girls on Hawaii with the actress Kate Bosworth. Another movie is “Surf Adventures” (2002), a kind of documentary that shows a routine of Pro surfers, with Teco Padaratz. Other TV documentary series are: “Clay Marzo: Just add water” (2008). It talks about Clay’s life through his surfing and his Asperger’s Syndrome and “Young Guns” with the Pro surfers Clay Marzo, Dan Reynolds, Julian Wilson, etc.
In television shows, there is “On Surfari”, an Australian travel surf show by Shane and Shannon McIntyre on Fuel TV and National Geographic International.
The surf multimedia had been included in episodes of “The Flintstones” (1965), “Charlie’s Angels” (1977) and “Beverly Hills, 90210”, during the first season.
In addition, there are television advertisers to the surfing with commercials such as the “Coca-Cola” and “Kashi” food, a commercial featuring the surfer Jeff Johnson, in 2006.
Some magazines publish lots of informations about surfing, like the famous and specific ones “Hardcore”, “Surfers Magazine”, which one was founded in the 1960’s when surfing had gained popularity with teenagers, “Surf Girl Magazine” and “Surfing Magazine”.
The surfing in multimedia includes video games such as “Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer” in 2002. Kelly has been considered the best surfer in the world. He is compared to Michael Jordan on basketball. He has been the ASP World Champion for 10 times, in this year, 2010. Kelly is one of my favorite Pro surfers because he is able to show amazing maneuvers and he has been a surfer for more than 20 years. But the new generation of Pro surfers has proved they can take part of Surfing History.
It’s not easy to get informations about Surfing, because I live far from beach places. Even though I am not able to go surfing, I enjoy watching videos about it. I have talked to some Pro surfers and increased my knowledge about this extreme sport. Surfing is more than a sport, is a lifestyle that involves different cultures and people from many parts of the world, feelings and is able to build an amazing professional career.
I hope I can try to surf. Then, I will have my own experience to tell everyone.
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