Surf Scientist
Photo: Grégoire Gyselinck

“How can I protect this place?” Photo: Grégoire Gyselinck

The Inertia

The ocean is changing. Waves are changing. Surfers are on the front lines of these changes. Who better to help document, explain and predict these changes than surfers? This is what science4surfing is all about. First and foremost, science4surfing aims to give surfers the opportunity to contribute to understanding and protecting the ocean and coasts by sharing their wave knowledge. Our inaugural effort is an online wave knowledge survey, available here or through our website,

No one watches the ocean more carefully than surfers. Indeed, few other recreational activities require as much or as careful observation of nature as surfing. Subtracting the time spent actually riding waves and the slightly larger amount of time paddling out again, most of what we do as surfers is, quite simply, observe the ocean. It is a skill unto itself: as groms, we learn wave knowledge in order that we can eventually learn wave riding. Using a “citizen science” approach, we’re hoping to share in this knowledge in order to improve our understanding of the ocean.

A classic example of citizen science is Audubon’s annual Bird Count. Recreational birder watchers count the birds around them and submit their data to Audubon scientists. They use that data to study the patterns and changes in bird distributions and to educate their members. Reef Check International has a similar approach using recreational divers to monitoring coral reefs. The formula is simple: regular people who love observing nature are given a structured way to record their observations; working together, new discoveries are made from the data and shared with the communities who care most.

This is what science4surfing is all about. And we need your help! Please take a few minutes to take our online survey and to share it with other surfers you know. The results of this survey will help predict the places and surf breaks at greatest risk from the impacts of climate change and, for the first time, will establish surfers’ credentials as citizen scientists.


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