What is Surfing?

Surfing is a competitive water sport played above the surface in which athletes compete to surf the largest waves or perform tricks to receive the most points from a panel of judges.

Types of Surfing

  1. Stand-up surfing
  2. Bodyboarding
  3. Longboarding
  4. Shortboarding

Stand-up Surfing

Stand-up Surfing has many sub-sports within it including bodyboarding, longboarding, and shortboarding.


Bodyboarding is the only one of the three which doesn't require a board and utilizes the surfer's body to ride the wave.


Longboarding and Shortboarding also vary in more ways than just the length of their board. Longboards are equipped with one fin and have thick rounded ends, this is so that they glide more efficiently over the wave.


Shortboards are often thinner, have three fins, and have pointed ends. Shortboards are most commonly used in rough waters since they are easier to maneuver and faster than longboards due to their size and weight.

Surfers usually paddle themselves out into the competition area but in some cases, a practice called tow-in surfing is used where a motor vehicle brings the surfers back to the wave pool after each run.


The equipment needed to start surfing is fairly minimal, with a wetsuit and a surfboard anyone can be entered into a competition. Originally surfboards were carved from pure wood and were exorbitantly heavy, however, now they are primarily made of a combination of fiberglass and resin which is far lighter. Most surfboards come with removable fins which are interchangeable but can be permanently attached to the board. Most surfboards also come with a leash to keep the board attached to your wetsuit during a failed run.

Surfing competitions

Surfing competitions are usually held in the ocean but are often played in rivers, lakes, and in artificial wave pools. In a competition, there are 16+ contestants with five regular judges and one head judge in charge of monitoring the other judges.


The surfers are split into groups of four with their competitors called heats. Once the heat begins, the surfers paddle out into the water and are given ten minutes to try and ride the best waves possible. After the heat is over and all of the point conversions have been made, the athlete receives a combined score of their two best waves out of 10. The waves are scored in a variety of categories such as the difficulty of the wave, the creativeness and variety of their tricks, and their overall control over the wave.

The scoring is averaged, a qualifying score to move onto to the next round is between a 6.0 and 10.0. Surfing competitions usually go for three to four rounds and the top performer of the competition is awarded recognition.

World Surfing League

The highest level of competition in surfing is found in the World Surfing League. Originally started in California by Randy Rarick and Fred Hemmings in the late 1970s, they established it with an intent to bring together the most talented surfer's in the world to let them compete for a world championship. With surfing's rising popularity it makes sense that the sport is now being added to Olympic competition in 2020.

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