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More to surfing than good vibrations - scientists

posted 27 Apr 2011, 12:55 by Mpelembe
Researchers in Spain have teamed up with a surfboard manufacturer to unravel the scientific mysteries of surfing. It's thought to be the first time that the dynamics of a surfboard have been analysed in such detail and the researchers hope it will lead to the design of better boards in the future. Stuart McDill dropped in for a look.
REUTERS / PUKAS-TECNALIA VNR - The art of surfing is going hi-tech.

Researchers in Spain have designed a surfboard with a whole host of sensors to turn feelings into facts.

The project is a joint effort between Tecnalia researchers and surfboard maker Pukas and aims to understand how a surfboard works, according to computer scientist, Inigo Lazkanotegi.


"What we are trying to do is define patterns - the behaviour of the board with the actions of the surfer - so that can improve the manufacturing of the board as well as the tricks the surfer does in the water."

The data collected records the board's position and movement along with the pressure being applied by the surfer - all in real-time.

The current classic surfboard has evolved over several decades of trial and error - and is more an art than a science - and its that uncertainty that Pukas wants to eliminate, says production manager, Ignacio Abaitua.


"What we are trying to do is to measure the sensations -- we want to know why this type of board works the best, we want to measure how it works, to measure also how the surfer uses it."

Tecnalia want to be able to predict how any changes to the design will affect its performance - and allow designers to produce better boards - even the perfect board, according to material scientist Riccardo Mezzacasa.


"We are putting together the knowledge and tools that will enable us, lets say in a short period of time, hopefully, to be able to develop the perfect or the optimised board for each surfer because maybe there is not really a best board for all of the surfers."

The project could yet see the kind of electronic connectivity now commonplace in Formula One motor-racing being applied to the beach, and give surfing competition judges more than just good vibrations to pick a winner.

Stuart McDill, Reuters, San Sebastian