What is Surfing?

A quick definition of the popular water sport

Flickr/Duncan Rawlinson

Surfing in Tahiti

Surfing is a water sport that involves riding breaking waves to shore on a piece of equipment called a surfboard. Surfing is usually done in the ocean, but developments in technology have made it possible to create waves in pools and rivers as an alternative.

When it comes to ocean surfing, California, Hawaii and Australia are synonymous with the sport and culture. Though these are hot spots for catching waves, surfing is practiced all over the world, in places many people would never expect.

Related: The World’s Most Surprising Surf Spots

Surfing is considered dynamic and accessible, meaning adults, children and even dogs can learn. The popular sport has also inspired several variations, including windsurfing, wakeboarding and skim boarding.

The origin of the sport is said to date back thousands of years, to Polynesia and pre-modern Hawaii, but it’s difficult to pinpoint when exactly it began. Some say fishermen began surfing as a means to move more quickly on the water and then surfing gradually became a leisure activity.

Today it has evolved into more than just a sport; recreational surfing has developed it’s own subculture. Interestingly, the attitude of that culture often clashes with the concept of competitive surfing. Athletes from each side tend to have very different ideas about the sport and lifestyle.

If you’re looking to try surfing for the first time, it’s best to rent the equipment and seek out a qualified instructor. Remember to wear a wetsuit if the water is cold and to have fun with it. Very few people master surfing during their first lesson, but those who stick with it quickly develop the skills and passion for the sport.

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