Surfing is a surface water sport in which the participant, referred to as a “surfer”, rides a surfboard on the forward face of a wave, which is most often carrying the surfer towards shore. Waves suitable for surfing are found primarily in the ocean, but can occur in some lakes, or in rivers in the form a of a standing wave or tidal bore. Surfing can also be done in manmade sources such as wave pools and boat wakes.
There are many variations of the sport, and the definitions of what constitutes a suitable wave and craft have expanded over the years. Bodysurfing involves riding the wave without a board, and is considered by some to be the purest form of surfing. Other variations that have existed for centuries include paipo boarding, stand up paddle surfing, and the use of boats or canoes to ride waves. More modern craft that are used include bodyboards, inflatable mats (surfmatting), and foils. As documented in various surfing documentaries (including “Fair Bits”) other objects have occasionally been used instead of surfboards, including water skiis, wakeboards, desks, guitars, and doors. When more than one person uses the same craft to ride a wave together, it is known as “tandem” surfing.
Three major subdivisions within stand-up surfing are longboarding, shortboarding, and stand up paddle surfing (SUP), reflecting differences in board design, including surfboard length, riding style, and the kind of wave that is ridden.
In tow-in surfing (most often, but not exclusively, associated with big wave surfing), a motorized water vehicle, such as a personal watercraft, tows the surfer into the wave front, helping the surfer match a large wave’s higher speed, which is generally a higher speed than a self-propelled surfer can obtain.
Surfing-related sports such as paddleboarding and sea kayaking do not require waves, and other derivative sports such as kitesurfing and windsurfing rely primarily on wind for power, yet all of these platforms may also be used to ride waves.
Recently with the use of V-drive boats, wakesurfing, in which one surfs on the wake of a boat, has emerged.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized a 78 foot wave ride filmed by ESPN as the largest wave ever surfed.