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Articles: Surfing


Surfing is the sport of riding the face of an ocean wave using a board. Competitions are judged and participants get point for various aspects of their ride.

The sport traces its origins back to Polynesia, where the pacific islanders have been surfing waves for centuries. The first European to write about surfing was Lt James King in 1779. Surfing was brought into the limelight in 1907, when industrialist Henry Huntington hired Hawaiian surfer George Freeth to perform 2 surfing demonstrations at his Redondo Beach Hotel.

The sport currently enjoys an adventurous image and has a well-developed global professional tour. It is popular in the USA, Australia, South Africa, and Brazil amongst other countries. Currently, the sport is governed by the World Surf League, which was formed in 1983 as the Association of Surfing Professionals. The organization changed its name at the beginning of 2015.

The sport of surfing

Both men and women surf, and competitions are organised at junior and senior levels. To participate in surf, riders use a board which is made of Styrofoam and coated in fiberglass. The board attaches to the surfers’ ankle via a tether. There are various sizes and styles of board that enable the surfer to perform different actions and to ride different heights of waves. Surfers coat their boards with a wax substance to give them more grip than the fibreglass surface.

Surfers normally wear long shorts called board shorts. They wear a short or long sleeved tight shirt called a rash vest, which serves to protect the surfer’s skin from rashes caused by the rubbing of their skin against the waxed board surface.

Most surfing competitions are held at beaches that do not have massive waves, but ones that offer a moderate wave height and prolonged wave length to give the opportunity for surfers to demonstrate their skills and tricks. However, there are some big wave competitions that take place at beaches with much bigger waves than customary.

Beginning of play

Surfing is conducted as a series of rounds with individual heats, comprising two to four surfers. Surfers head to the water based upon their randomly assigned starting order. Once in the water, the surfers will head out to just beyond the wave break zone and then wait. During the heat, the surfer aims to lock in his highest two scoring rides out of as many waves as he wishes to take in the allotted time.

Rules of surfing competitions

Surfing competitions are judged by a panel of 5 judges who judge each surfer ride based on the commitment and difficulty of the ride, the speed and flow of the ride, and the variety, innovations, and combinations of manoeuvres. The judges award points from 1 to 10, then the lowest and highest judges’ scores are discarded so that the surfer is awarded the average of the other three judges’ scores. There are some rules regarding priority and interference where a surfer has priority to catch a wave without the fear of interfering with another surfer. Interference with a surfer’s ride who has priority is punished with a point penalty.

Flow and tactics of surf rides

There are very little flow and tactics in surfing since it is a points scoring exercise. Surfers will generally go out and try and score the maximum points they can each time since winners are decided by the total points scored.

The main roles for coaching in surfing are physical preparation, consultancy and technique development. During a competition, there is no coaching possible due to the distance involved between the surfers and the beach.

Surfing competitions

The WSL’s Word Championship tour is the premier surfing event globally and hosts competitions in many countries worldwide. Some of the bigger competitions are events hosted at famous surf beaches such as Waikiki. There is no single event World Championship; instead, similar to tennis, each surfer wins points depending on his finishing position at each event, and the points are tallied at the end of the season, when the rider with the most points is declared World Champion. The most successful surfer in history is the American Kelly Slater.

Surfing competitions are organised in rounds, with each round having several heats. Depending on the competition, a given number of the highest scoring surfers from each round progresses to the next round.

Betting on surfing

The betting market for surfing is not very well developed. Most betting on surfing tends to be straight up bets on either the overall competition winner, or on each heat’s winner.