When the Water Meets the Land
by Paul Finley
There are many factors to consider when looking at waves and their
quality. This article is going to take a general look into storms and
wind, generated swell lines, and the waves which end up on our shores
Storms and wind are a surfer's friend if located in the right place
at the right time. The higher quality waves that we surf are
generated by winds moving rapidly out to sea. When the offshore seas
have a low pressure system building, there are a few things that
surfers need to tune into. Is there good wind speed? Is the storm or
front developed and enduring for a long period? What is the "fetch," or
size of the system? We are looking for more power and time in these
areas in order to create a solid swell. Unlike our "have it all and
have it now" cultural mentality, these are things that we must
patiently wait for as we see them developing.
Swell lines are formed as they exit the storm or front's intense power
core. These sets, or "wave trains," will be groomed and more organized
as they travel. The waves that we long for the most have traveled
well beyond the affected wind area or fetch and are now defined as a
ground swell. Waves that we dream about and unashamedly shirk duties
for to surf, are made when these swell lines are pushed on to a change
in elevation along the ocean floor.
When waves move closer to shore, the elevated sea floor will cause the
moving water to rise. When the lower half of this moving water is
slowed by dragging against the ocean floor's contours or shelfs, the
raised water quickly outruns it's lower half, causing it to break,
which gives us the phenomenal opportunity to ride a piece of water on
any new fangled or old school device of our choosing. This is
surfing. Riding something that may have originated thousands of
miles away and many days prior to its destination is pretty amazing to
think about while out in the water.
When wind blows from the land out towards the sea (off shore), this
causes the wave tops to slow down enough to prolong the top of the
waves from outrunning the dragging bottom until it reaches a more
shallow area of the ocean floor. This typically makes for a larger
wave face that will pack more of a punch. The same reason that waves
are more powerful when breaking over shallow water applies to reef
breaks. When the moving water rapidly shifts from deep to shallow on
an ocean shelf, it causes the waves to quickly rise and intensely
pitch itself over. Being in the right place at the right time on
waves like this is the difference between a trip to the chiropractor
or a smile on your face while eating a post-session burrito at Taco De
There are, of course, many things that determine the fun factor of a
surf session: local weather and temperatures, swell size and
direction, the people or animals that are around (sometimes it's hard
to tell the difference), or the zanny and creative instrument that you
choose to ride. Please always remember that any wave, no matter where
it comes from, how it got there, or what it is breaking on, is a gift
and you should consider yourself blessed to be given the opportunity
to enjoy it.
Project Surf Camp has been selected as one of four finalists in the Pepsi Refresh Project and the Today Show’s "What Do You Care About TODAY."
Beginning July 1, 2010, the four finalists will be featured on the Today Show. Viewers will be able to vote on their favorite not-for-profit organization. The organization that receives the most votes will receive a grant of $100,000. Voting runs from July 1 to 9:00 PM EDT July 6, 2010. Votes can be cast on the Today Show website.
Project Surf Camp is a local 501(c)(3) charitable and educational, nonprofit organization designed specifically for individuals with special needs. While great strides have been made in recent years to increase access to goods and services for special needs individuals, opportunities for leisure or recreational activities are often still difficult to access. Sometimes we forget, especially living on the coast, that not everyone has experienced the ocean. One group in particular that has been deprived of such a privilege is those persons with disabilities. Our hope is to introduce people to the water who would otherwise never receive such an opportunity.
Project Surf Camp uses surfing, the beach, and other ocean activities as an educational modality to build self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy in individuals with special needs. We further provide opportunities to build social skills, improve physical fitness, develop healthy outlets for stress reduction, and foster independence.
The Project Surf Camp Board of Directors