CM – Surf science: Depending on the weather, defined by the sea


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July 24, 2021

by Sally Ho

The debut of Olympic surfing makes it clear that these surfers are unsung masters of science – in climatology, meteorology and oceanography to be precise.

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Serious wave hunters are by default atmospheric science junkies, because there are few, if any, sports that are both dependent on an uncontrollable variable – the weather – and a literally uneven playing field – the ocean. </ "Whenever the wind blows, 'Which direction is the wind blowing?'" said Owen Wright, 31, who competes for the Australian team. “We don't just look at the weather and say, 'Oh, it's nice and sunny' when we know (the wind) is likely offshore. It's never just 'Oh, it's raining'. It always has to do with how the surf is. "

At the Olympics, organizers prepare for at least three days of competition over an eight-day period starting on July 25. Surfing competitions are day and based on the weather forecast, wave height, wind direction, tidal movement and temperature, among other scientific data points.

« Everyone who goes into the sea, whether surfer or not, is an amateur meteorologist and oceanographer, » says Kurt Korte, chief forecaster at Surigible and Official Olympic Surf Forecaster.

But the numbers can only say so much. The meteorological data is only part of the equation for assessing what the mighty ocean will deliver as it competes in 30-minute heat can switch to 30 minute heat.

Waves are created by the way the swells interact with the bottom contours of the ocean, known as breaks. Beach breaks – like Mount Olympus The beach at Tsurigasaki – happens due to sandbars that can shift over time or due to storms.

In short, competitive surfing is about deciding which wave to take and which movement or movements get the best out of the sea. Surfers need to stay prepared and constantly watch the waves to get the best guess which wave they will ride.

“How often do the waves come? How many waves in a set? Which wave of the set has the best wave? ”Said Richard Schmidt, a retired professional surfer who now runs a surf school in Santa Cruz, California. « The first wave of the set gets a little choppy, but the second and third waves are a little bit more great because the tops are groomed from that first wave of the set. So you watch the waves for a while and are kind of finding out where the quality waves go first « 

Surglich, the US-based surf forecasting service, was a key part of the International Surfing Association’s decision to make the sport’s Olympic debut on Tsurigasaki Beach, 90 miles east of Tokyo. Surglich has been researching local conditions since 2015 and is currently forecasting big waves early in the competition period thanks to a brown typhoon.

Korte said he will be on the beach at 4 a.m. every day before sunrise to see and see the conditions feel. He will advise officials of the ISA, the Olympic umbrella organization and event managers. The call for entries to hold the competition is open daily until around 7 a.m. tropical weather systems stay hundreds of miles offshore. They calculate where the storm will hit and how fast it is moving, and then reverse engineer how many miles it will be from a particular beach to determine which days those waves will make it ashore.

Current weather trends are a huge asset to the Olympics as Tsurigasaki is generally not known for having strong waves. The beach is popular for surfing in Japan, but hardly a world-class location like Hawaii or Tahiti. Korte said Tsurigasaki typically has surfing conditions similar to those found on the North Carolina coast.

Many surfers have voiced their concerns that their big world debut will be blunted by mediocre waves, despite Korte rejecting the notion that the world’s best athletes can do so beautiful, visually stunning sport could potentially disappoint.

« They take a wave that the average surfer might not even surf and make it look amazing, » said Korte. « I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to see surfing in all conditions. »

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.

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