Surfing entails riding waves towards the shore on buoyant boards known as surfboards. These boards are made from polyurethane and fiberglass and typically contain different sized noses, tails and lengths that vary based on the type of riding. Longer boards tend to be used for cruising, whereas shorter boards are more maneuverable and can help surfers launch technical tricks like 360s and jumps.

The sport of surfing traces its roots back to Hawaii and Polynesia. The first competitive surf event on record was held in 1953 by the Waikiki Surf Club in Hawaii. Points were awarded based on the length of ride, waves caught, sportsmanship, skill, and grace.

In the 20th century, surfing expanded beyond Hawaii and found its way to the continental U.S. in California. The International Surfing Association (ISA) was formed in the year 1964. And in 1997, the International Olympic Committee began recognizing surfing as a sport, though it wouldn’t host its first sanctioned event for several years.  Through the early 2000s, the sport struggled to gain support from the required amount of countries for Olympic status. However, in 2015, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee proposed its inclusion. And in August 2016, the IOC unanimously confirmed its inclusion. Surfing will debut for the first time as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. Despite talk of potentially using wave pools to create an even playing field, surfing’s Olympic debut in Japan will rely on natural waves on a beach outside of Tokyo. 

The biggest name in the sport is the World Surf League. WSL was formed out of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), which was founded in 1982. WSL events began replacing ASP World Tour events in 2016. Today, the league operates both the Championship Tour (its top-level circuit) and the Qualifying Series (which can earn surfers a spot in the following year’s Championship Tour). WSL also offers junior and big wave events. 

Typical judging format:

•    A six-judges panel is installed to evaluate a surfer's performance in a particular heat. 

•    A heat is judged between 1 to 10 with 2 decimal places.

•    The two highest scoring waves are selected for each surfer. The highest and lowest of the five scores are thrown out, and surfers are awarded a ranking based on the average of the three remaining scores. 

•    A perfect heat = 20 points.


Chengdu, China

Bali, Indonesia

Queensland, Australia

Cornwall, England

Bahia, Brazil

Maui, Hawaii

Lemoore, CA

Anglet, France

Landes, France

New South Wales, Australia

Huanchaco, Peru

Porto, Portugal

Maui, Hawaii

Banyuwangi, Indonesia

Huntington Beach, California

RJ, Brazil

Florianopolis, Brazil

Perth WA, Australia

Nazare, Portugal

Teahupoʻo, Tahiti

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