Surfing is the sport of riding on waves either using a floating apparatus of some kind or by using only the body. It is comparable to downhill skiing in winter, because of the skills that are used. The most popular form of this sport involves using a surfboard. The average surfboard is about 9 to 12 feet long, 22- 23 inches wide and about 3 or 4 inches thick. The most popular material for these boards is polyurethane foam that is covered with layers of fiberglass and resin. The board is tapered at both ends and weighs approximately 25 pounds. All boards have a small tail fin for stabilization.
Surfing was popular with the natives of Hawaii when Captain James Cook landed there in 1778. Competition between the Hawaiian noblemen often included wagers of land or cattle. The early surfboards weighed as much as 150 pounds and were much longer than they are today, ranging from 14 to 18 feet long. Surfing was introduced to Australia and the United States, but because the boards were so cumbersome, the sport was slow to catch on. When surfing became a tourist attraction in Hawaii in the 1920’s, enthusiasts for the sport began to come up with ideas for designing new boards and using different materials. With the development of a new board made from balsa wood and later plastic foam, the sport caught on and is now popular wherever there are large waves. Movies about surfing, usually in Hawaii, also brought a lot of attention to the sport, as many people were eager to try the tricks they saw on the screen.
When someone is surfing, the surfer paddles the board out to sea anywhere from 50 yards to a half a mile out from shore to the point where the waves break. At this point, the surfer waits on the board for the next wave. The board points toward shore as the wave should break at the back of the board. As the wave begins to move under the board and the board begins to slide down the face of the wave, the surfer rises to his/her feet and stands on the board while it is riding downhill over the wave. It is possible to steer the board with the feet by shifting the weight to one side or the other with the rear foot while always keeping the front foot in the center of the board. The surfer gets the fastest ride by riding as close as possible to the breaking point of the wave.
Because of the dangers associated with surfing, it has been banned on many beaches. There have been incidents where surfers have been hit in the head by their boards and have been seriously injured and some have been killed. Some people have also lost their lives surfing too close to shore where there were large rocks under the water. If a surfer falls off the board, he/she should remain underwater until the wave and the board have passed overhead. No one should attempt surfing without being a proficient swimmer and be in excellent health. You also have to know the area so you are aware of any hidden shoals or rocks.
A suitable site for surfing depends on the winds and the geographic area. Although surfing can be done on small waves, seasoned surfers require waves of up to 15 feet high. Ideal surfing conditions are found in Hawaii, but they care also found in many other parts of the world, such as Australia, France, New Zealand, South Africa and California. Major competitions are held in many of these locations each year with the surfers being judges on form and skill.