Surfing, Science, and the Impact of New Surf Technologies

For our next Blogpost, you will have several options to choose from as you essentially range about some of the material we’re covering during Unit Two (on the science and technology of surfing).  To do so, I want you to let you thoughts go and explore TWO of three science-related topic options.  For each topic you choose to tackle, you should write a paragraph — so, two total paragraphs is the goal. 

Here are the three topic options that you might choose from:  1)  Environmental impacts are prevalent as a result of surf technologies, such as the rubber used to make wetsuits and the Styrofoam that fills most of the world’s surfboards. Yet few surfers choose to acknowledge the “elephant of the room” in terms of surfing and the environment, favoring the notion that the surf community is essentially attuned to the waves and one with the ocean.  How do we reconcile our surfing enjoyment with its real-world impacts?  2)  Address the age-old question of whether shaping is truly an “artform.”  You might consider such things as:  Is board shaping really an “art”?  Why or why not?  And who cares if it is “artistic” or not – what difference does it make? Is it “wrong” somehow to ride a mass-produced surfboard?  3)  For your final option, you should consider the controversial “Surf Ranch”.  What do you think of Kelly Slater’s famous man-made wave (and others like it)?  Is this technological development the latest, greatest example that surfing today has “lost it soul”, or does it represent an ingenious example of forward progress? 

17 thoughts on “Surfing, Science, and the Impact of New Surf Technologies

  1. 2.) Board shaping takes lots of skill and practice to perfect. I believe board shaping is “Art” in a way, Board-shapers have some sort of creative inspiration to their boards. Each board is different in its own special way, such as thickness, length, durability, and material. Just light painting or drawing, board-shapers start with an idea and turn it into a ridable surfboard, I think they deserve more credit than they are given because it is in a way gift and skill. I believe people who ride custom made boards should respect the creator of that board and the board itself, it shouldn’t be mishandled by younger children.

  2. Question 1: Few surfers tend to see the impact the materials used harm the ocean and the world. Styrofoam unfortunatly takes up approximately thirteen hundred tons of the space in landfills. Rubber on the other hand, will not decompose and give off harmful chemicals into the air. We can try to reconcile our surfing enjoyment with its real-world impacts by taking into account the materials we use and looking for alternative materials to try and eliminate some of the issues. Considering both of these materials have been used for years upon years, making changes now may not have quick resolutions but changes will help in the long run. Surfers can experiment with materials that resemble styrofoam and wetsuit materials and see which will decompose and protect the shores.

    Question 2: Board shaping can be seen as an art from to some, and not to others. Board happening should be seen as an art form due to some artists hand crafting, and designing their surfboards. These artists utilize their hands and tools to make their boards while others take mass produced boards but either board is acceptable. There can be no difference between a hand made board versus a mass produced one, but the idea that one has a one of a kind board. I dont think it’s wrong to ride a mass produced surfboard. In terms of cost, one singular board shaping can be more expensive, where a mass produced board can be cheaper based on the over production. I dont think it’s wrong for someone to use a mass produced board because not everyone can afford to put thousands of dollars into a hand crafted board but they still want to enjoy the surf.

  3. 3.) Are man-made waves looking down on? Kelly Slater is easily one of the best surfers this planet has seen, since 1992 he has won 55 championship tour events and 11 world titles. Slater has earned his name in the surf world and gotten his share of money while being apart of WSL. With Kelly Slater being worth $25 million dollars, why wouldn’t he build his own man-made wave? If someone is so driven to the sport such a Slater, they should be able to create something crazy like a man-made wave to improve their skills. Waves are naturally generated and depend on the surf forecast, but with the ranch you get a picture perfect barrel every time in activates. I don’t think people should criticize how a professional surfer spends his money especially if it’s to improve his skill in the sport.

  4. 2. For me I one hundred percent believe that surf board shaping is an art. A surfboard shaper by definition is someone who designs and builds surfboards. The start of shaping was not always easy or effective, the process of surfboard shaping has evolved and come a long way over the years. Now in today day and the shaper can even personalize his or her work to meet the standards or requirements of a client for there suited wave riding. People may say that mass produced surfboards from large companies may not be an art, but when you have someone who works day and night by hand to create the perfect board they are most definitely an artist. They use there craft and skill to create something that is unique, functional, and beautiful. Anything that requires such skill and love for what they are doing is an art to me.

    3. I don’t believe Kelly Slater’s famous man-made wave is represetning any negative effect on surf culture or surfing going forward. This technological development is the new for that surfing has “lost it soul”. But, I believe it represent an ingenious example of forward progress. To start, in 2007, he founded and created the Kelly Slater Wave Company. Kelly Slater named this project the Surf Ranch. Since, then he has been able to his dream of designing and creating a surf pool that allows surfers to ride waves indefinitely. Surfers from all around the world have come to use it and love it. It may be a little costly at around $100 an entry but people are willing to pay. The Surf Ranch is a great use of new surfing technology and the surfing community became really fond of it due to the fact there was really nothing like this any where else. Therefor, the wave pool was an innovative and forward thinking project that had a positive response from the surfing community.

  5. The environmental impact that surfing has is one that not many people think about when they are buying their wetsuit or new surfboard. When you buy a new surfboard, you are impacting the environment because of the poisonous emissions that come from the process of making a new surfboard along with leftover polyurethane foam that gets sent to a landfill to sit there for hundreds of years. Furthermore, when you break or don’t want a surfboard anymore, you may just throw it away for it to sit in the landfill and ruin the environment. I think now surfers are getting more aware of this problem and are trying to find surfboards that are more eco-friendly. When I was on the market for a new surfboard, the one I got said that it was made with this new technology called “Eco-Impact”. With Eco-Impact technology, they changed the foam used in the board to a more durable and environmentally friendly foam with a new process that is less impactful on the environment. Buying surfboards that are made with the environment in mind a good way to help stop the problem that we’ve been having. Another way is to buy used boards to give them a new life, or instead of throwing away your board when your done with it simply pass it on or sell it to someone else that could give it a new life. We know eventually it will end up in the landfill, but if you could delay that time and give someone a used board instead them buying a new one could help stop the problem.

    Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch is a brand-new groundbreaking wave pool in the world of surfing. It has been controversial on whether the wave pool has been good or bad for surfing. I think it is personally good for the surfing community as it gives them a new and unique experience to surfing. I don’t think these wave pools will ever be preferred over the ocean, and it adds a new element to surfing in sense that people can ride the exact same wave repeatedly and because of how long and perfect the wave is. One thing that helps this cause is since the wave pool is so expensive to ride, it is not something that people will be going to everyday and is a once in a lifetime experience. The argument against the Surf Ranch is that it takes the soul out of surfing and in some ways they are right. The Surf Ranch does take away from surfing because you are not in the open water by the beach, fighting to get out the out the back, but at the same time you are still surfing. If it was a place that completely replaced the ocean I think I would be strongly against it but since people don’t go there often I think it adds to surfing.

  6. 1.) The issues surrounding environmental pollution and surfing are becoming more and more prevalent as the years pass. We have to stop ignoring this problem and work to find a solution. Surfers commonly use products either in their board or in their wet suit that are not suitable for the environment. I feel as though we need to find a better surfboard technology. Many years ago, people surfed on wooden planks. Not saying that we need to do that now a days but there is definitely a type of surfboard that can be produced that will cause the least environmental damage. As far as wet suits go, wet suits are a huge issue with the environment. If you feel the need to surf, go surfing without the swim suit. If it’s too cold to surf without it, for the safety of our environment and the preservation of our planet, don’t use the swim suit.

    2.) Board shaping is one hundred percent a form of art. An art is basically defined as the application of human skill. With that being said, shaping and creating a surfboard is not doubt an art form. The amount of time, skill, and precision it takes to do so is remarkable. Someone who shapes the board can decide whether or not to add specific details in the design of the board which adds to the artistry of the board. For someone who lives to surf and takes a lot of pride in surfing, it is most likely morally wrong to buy a mass produced surf board. Plus, the person who makes the handcrafted board can add a touch that allows the surfer more control over the board if they please. Taking pride in your board and surfing is easy to do when your board has been hand crafted and created with passion, for what you love to do.

  7. 2. Personally, I believe that shaping is an art form. It requires creativity and attention to details. Pure masterpieces are created out of slabs of styrofoam. What many people don’t realize is that when a board is custom and handcrafted it feels special and moves different than mass produced ones. Surf boards are sort of like pizza in my opinion. You have mass produced big corporations like Papa Johns or Dominoes making consistent cheap pizza. Then you have the Ma and Pa shops where the products are more of an art and more passion is put into creating them. This relates to custom shapers’s boards and mass produced boards. Surf shapers are all about quality where companies that mass produce boards are focused on quantity. However, just like theres no such thing as bad pizza, there aren’t any bad boards. There’s nothing wrong with surfing with a mass produced board. I’m all about giving business to local businesses and supporting creators but I have also used a mass produced board from Lost. They both are great and it depends on what the surfer wants. If a surfer is just looking for something cheap, they make look at a mass produced board. If they want something that will suit their body type and style, they may look toward a shaper’s board.

    3. Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch is a manmade surf pool. Waves are artificially generated and perfect barrels and tubes can be created. I don’t believe that this or any man made surf pool causes the surf to lose its “soul”. If anything i think it is beneficial to the surf community. For example, there is a new man made surf pool in New Jersey similar to Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch which will allow people to take surf lessons. This technology allows non-surfers to go into a safer alternative to learn the basics which could be dangerous in the ocean. Also, Kelly Slater’s technology gives a place for surfers and pro surfers to practice. The ocean’s swells, currents, and tides are all unpredictable. Consistency and perfection is made available with Slater’s technology.

  8. 2. Shaping a board in my opinion is incredibly hard and requires an immense amount of skill to do. In the area of a mass produced surfboard it’s not really the case. Nowadays technology has significantly improved since the first Hawaiian’s began shaping boards. In my opinion, shaping a board by hand and taking time to make sure the detail is perfect, is a true art. Something that will take someone only a short amount of time to make, will not have the same quality and soul put into the boards production.

    3. I think it is amazing that they were able to create a man made wave. However, I feel that it gets rid of the thrill of not knowing when your next big wave will be. It helps build anticipation for the potential of a sweet ride. You don’t get the smell of the saltwater and wake from the wind. You miss all of the perks of being in the ocean all for catching a definite wave. Of course there are also perks for having a man made wave. It would be more for beginners but pros could use it as well to practice catching waves. Even if you fall, you don’t have to wait for a long time before you could catch another one.

  9. 1. I think the best way to reconcile is just to do our part in keeping our area trash free. Eventually if enough people start doing their part to clean up the world, it will eventually be clean. I also believe that there has to be an eco friendly solution to surfboards and wetsuits that we just haven’t figured out yet. Eventually we will though, and then we won’t have to worry about it anymore. Until then, and even then, we just have to keep taking care of our own local areas.

    3. I don’t see anything wrong with Kelly Slaters wave ranch personally. I don’t think it will ever be the equal of real surfing in nature, but there’s nothing wrong with spreading the stoke to places with no stoke. I don’t think it has taken the soul out of surfing either, I think its actually just getting bigger. even though I think it is a really cool invention, it wouldn’t be any of my top choices for a surf trip. I would still much rather travel to a real beach and ocean.

  10. 1. I think that surf board designers and the people behind the creative ideas of making the boards need to find a new material to work with. When I learned how long it takes a board to eventually decompose, I was shocked. Yes, the materials used to make the boards make surfing convenient and more accessible to most people, but the question then becomes is it all worth it? The environment takes massive hits as it is from every corner of the world and for many many different reasons. Surfing used to be as simple as riding on a wooden plank, and the new technologies are not really NEEDED to surf. For this reason, new technologies and more environmentally safe materials should be considered for such a mass produced item.

    2. Board shaping is absolutely an art form. If wood carving and sculpting are considered art forms, then I believe that this is too. I really like the idea of having hand crafted items over mass produced items, and I have a few fishing poles and pieces of furniture in my house that are handmade holding up better than a anything mass produced ever could. This being said, there is nothing wrong with buying massed produced items. It is all really a preference, and if someone is okay with have a cookie-cutter version of a product then that is their choice. For many, as long as you are riding the waves then it is all good, and I support that idea.

  11. Q1. A major problem that is rising within the surf community is the pollution it is doing to the Earth. Surfboards and wetsuits are made out of rubbers and plastics that can not be broken down into the environment. For decades surfing has been a pastime that connected you to the environment and the majority of surf culture was very caring and appreciative of the environment. The old wooden boards caused no problems to the environment but the rise of these new surfboards has caused a lot of pollution. One of the ways to reconcile this is by repurposing the old boards to make newer ones. Also by being careful about what equipment you are throwing away. You could ask yourself these questions: “Can I give this to someone else?”, “Can I fix this, or get someone else to fix it?”, “Can I find another use for this?”.

    Q2. Board shaping should most definitely be considered an art. Anything that involves specific and unique skills when creating something, is a perfect explanation of what art is. Just like any art, buying the original versus the mass-produced version has a lot more sentiment. This is why hand-crafted boards are much more expensive than mass-produced ones; they take time and have a lot more originality. Riding a mass-produced board is not a bad thing. It all depends on the surfer. If they prefer the originality and the “soul surfer image”, a handcrafted board would suit them a lot better, rather than a beginner surfer or someone who just wants to do it as a hobby would be better off on a mass-produced board.

  12. Question #1
    The technology that we used today while surfing is quite detrimental to the environment and reefs in the ocean. I do believe that some surfers are oblivious or ignorant when it comes to the oceans safety. They continue to wear and use products made of silicone and Styrofoam that are easily put into the ocean if rips or breakage occurs. But there is a handful of surfers that are aware of the dangers we bestow on the ocean, this community is starting to create products such as sunscreen, that are 100% reef safe and affordable. We can still continue to spread the word and keep the ocean and animals safe, it will take time.
    Question #3
    Kelly Slater had created a man made wave pool for surfing. At first I was quite skeptical, I kept comparing it to the ocean and how it couldn’t be realistic enough and add to the stoke of surfing. I started to realize quickly that this wave pool is a good alternative for those in training who need consistent waves that saves time, this is also a great way to surf during certain seasons that don’t produce enough waves. And finally, this pool may be beneficial for the environment as well, less and less waste from surf boards and suits will end up in the ocean as well.

  13. 2. I would definitely say that shaping is an artform. Art can be found almost anywhere in the world so designing and building a surfboard is certainly part of that. Surfboards come in all shapes and sizes with different materials they’re made of as well. Many even love the joy of shaping a board more than riding the actual waves themselves. Surfboards can also come with different designs and colors that make the board unique to you along with a shaper even knowing more of the type of board you need than what you might think yourself. It’s a true passion one can hold that isn’t always the easiest either with all of the work that comes into it. Mass-producing boards may not be as artistic but there will always be some type of way where it is still known as an artform.

    3. Kelly Slater’s man-made wave is for sure an impactful creation in the surfing industry, but not everyone loves the idea of it. True surfers may say that it’s too fake and you’re not actually surfing, while beginners may think it’s great because it’s an easier way to learn when you’re first starting. I agree that it is perfect for people beginning their surfing career but it definitely is steering towards “losing its soul.” It is another way of showing how the technological industry is taking over the world and people are losing out on reality. Waves from the ocean are a true part of nature that real surfers will always choose that over. Wave-pools may definitely be fun and cheaper, but should not take away from the ocean.

  14. 2. I strongly believe that board shaping is an art form. Shaping is unique in that no board is ever exactly the same. Every board has a different length, height, and weight. Board shapers take countless hours making boards to be able to ride smoothly on waves. There are some shapers who make boards for peoples liking and style of riding. This takes a ton of skill to be able to know where to cut and shape a board. For all these reasons shaping should be considered an art just like an artist painting a picture. For your average person they could careless wether its an art or not. But every surfer understands and respects it as an art. Board shaping making a lot of difference to surfers. Without them they wouldn’t be able to do half the stuff they do in the water. Shaping creates a whole new world of possibilities for surfers. I believe that mass producing boards is somewhat wrong. I think that mass produced boards are good for beginner level riders but not for your casually rider. Its a chapter alternative and gives more people the opportunity to try out the sport. But I don’t believe its an art and it takes money away from shapers.

    3. I believe that Kelly Slaters famous man made wave pool is great for the sport and has no bad effect on it. Wave pools like Kelly Slaters help surfers have a fun time and at the end of the day thats what the sport is about. Its very efficient as you don’t have to wait long for waves, you have clean and ridable waves every time, and its great for practice. These waves help let pro level surfers get better. I do understand that its fairly expensive and hard to get into one of these pools unless you are a pro level surfer or have money. I wish there was a way to let more of the public into these pool, that is the only bad thing. I believe that this shouldn’t be considered bad or cheating in anyway. The world of surfing has grown so quickly over the years with new technology and is still growing. There are different forms of surfing and I think technology is only helping the sport regardless of what critics have to say.

  15. The Art of Shaping and Environmental Impact
    Many say shaping a board is an art and others believe it is just some silly thing because they do not realize what goes on when shaping a surfboard. During class at least with the activity to create a surfboard of our own using our own materials to shape the boards compared to the amount of time it took for the technology to mass-produce the surfboards. Creating a surfboard and shaping it by hand is unique shaping each board differently compared to the mass production of the shaping molds. It takes more time for the person who’s shaping it by hand more time and the amount at which the board would be sold would be different. The idea that the shaper is shaping a board for someone and getting to know the person who wants the surfboard and shape the board for particularly their style. In contrast to the mass-produced ones that are molded with the help of technology to look a certain way and to surf a certain way.
    The environmental impacts of the surfboards using polyurethane foam are dangerous. The polyurethane its self is hazardous produce to be smelled through the air with all the toxin being heated together than to be molded. This releases bad chemicals into the air in which we breathe and not only that but everything to do with creating the boards hazardous. The surfboard itself is not compostable so over time it ends up just sitting in a landfill not being touched. Imagine all the broken surfboards in the world just piled up together and then the pile continues to grow. No one could do anything about the materials because it is helpful in the waves but people now are finding environmentally friendly products to use on those surfboards.

  16. 2) Address the age-old question of whether shaping is truly an “artform.” You might consider such things as: Is board shaping really an “art”? Why or why not? And who cares if it is “artistic” or not – what difference does it make? Is it “wrong” somehow to ride a mass-produced surfboard?
    I believe that shaping is one hundred percent an artform. This is because when shaping a board each person shapes it a little different, and there are no two handmade boards that are exactly the same. When shaping a board the artist tunes their board the way they want it so I truly believe that it is an art form and it takes an artist to shape a board correctly. Although I don’t believe that it is wrong to surf a mass produced board, this is because some people do not have access to hand shaped boards, and some may even prefer riding them. At the end of the day I believe you should be able to surf whatever you prefer as long as you are enjoying the sport.

    3) For your final option, you should consider the controversial “Surf Ranch”. What do you think of Kelly Slater’s famous man-made wave (and others like it)? Is this technological development the latest, greatest example that surfing today has “lost it soul”, or does it represent an ingenious example of forward progress?
    I think that Kelly Slater’s man made wave is very cool, and I have no problem with him making it. I don’t believe that surfing has lost its soul, I believe that it is forward progress that allows surfers to train on perfect waves every time without having to stay out all day looking for good waves to find. I believe that it can introduce a new generation of skilled surfers and allow the skill ceiling to increase very much.

  17. Most surfers tend to ignore the environmental impact of their sport. Looking the other way about micro-plastics and Styrofoam that get released every time a wet suit is used or washed. I think its hard for a group of people who spend so much time in nature to admit they are destroying it. However I believe that people and especially surfers will pick more sustainable options should they be presented.

    Board shaping, in my opinion, is both an art and a science- it has elements of both. The actual cutting and shaping of the board, the physical aspect of doing so, would be the artistic part of the process, due to the skill and experience it takes to do so. However, science is also heavily involved in the process, as the dynamics of the board’s material/weight/density/shape/etc against the water will heavily impact how it surfs, and determining those factors is a scientific endeavor. Really, the only important difference between a hand-crafted board or a mass-produced one is how the consumer feels about the product- there are definitely some surfer’s who care about the art and care behind the making of the board, and other’s who care more about the surfing itself.

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