How Surfboards Work

There is a lot of physics going on behind the scenes of how surfboards work. Most parts of surfing, from the need to duck dive to staying afloat on waves connects to basic physics principals.

  1. Newton’s Law of Motion in Surfing. Movement of matter, which contributes heavily to maneuvering a surfing board and staying afloat on waves falls under Newton’s third law of motion. According to Newton’s third law, every action has an equal reaction in the opposite direction. For example, when a surfer pushes down on the edge of the surfing board into the water, the water pushes back against the board propelling the board to turn.
  2. Buoyancy. Density is the reason why surfboards work in staying afloat and are buoyant in the ocean. The ocean’s water carries more density than surfing boards. Anything less dense than water will float and surfing boards’ waterproof coatings also prevent the board from absorbing water and sinking.
  3. Surface Tension. In science, like molecules attract like molecules, to create strong bonds. Water molecules form a strong and highly impermeable bond or film at the surface. This film helps water keep it’s shape even when waves are form, which helps surfboards stay afloat as well.
  4. Surfboard Fins. While surfboards fit into two categories, long boards and short boards. Both types of boards have removable or either permanent fins on the underside of the board. Surfboard fins help surfboards work to stabilize and keep it from moving to either side.
  5. Surfboard Concave. The concave of a surfboard is another part which helps the surfboard work in maneuvering waves in conjunction with surfboard fins. The concave consists of a set of grooves and contours underneath the surfing board. The concave funnels water with the fins of the board and influences speed and guidance of the board.
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