Question Sheet: Surf Watch


Before reading:

  1. What are two reasons why people would need to know or want to predict the

    types of waves approaching a beach? 

  2. Have you ever tried surfing? If you haven’t, would you like to try it? Why

    or why not? If you have tried surfing, what do you like about it?

During reading:

  1. How do surfers learn about waves and surf conditions? 
  2. Why is wind important when making wave predictions? 
  3. When did wave forecasting begin? Why? 
  4. What does NOAA stand for? What role does this agency have in predicting


  5. Why is it hard to predict waves more than 36 hours in advance? 
  6. Why does Julie Cox say that surfers often end up being “kind of like


After reading:

  1. What sorts of roles can science play in sports? Give an example of a sport

    other than surfing in which science helps athletes perform better. How does

    science help? 

  2. What kinds of waves are best for surfing? How would the seasons affect surf

    conditions? See ( or 

  3. Why are waves typically bigger in oceans than they are in lakes? In which

    regions of the world would you expect to find the largest waves? Why? See Online). 

  4. Besides making wave predictions, what other roles does NOAA have? See Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). 
  5. Using a fan or some other means of producing wind, generate waves in a bowl

    or tub filled with water. What factors seem to affect the size of the waves?

    Test such variables as water depth, fan (wind) speed, water surface area, and

    the length of time the fan is on. Under what conditions do you produce the

    largest waves? 

  6. Waves can move around and wash away sand at a beach. What factors affect the

    movement of sand? See (


Certain beaches around the world are famous for their waves. Where are some of these beaches? Why are their waves of particular interest to surfers? Why are the conditions for surfing generally better along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean than along the coasts of the

Atlantic Ocean? See

(Paddler Online) and,3295,462_TRAVELOCITY,00.html (Travelocity).


  1. What would you expect to find at a surfing museum? Go to the Web site of the

    International Surfing Museum at

    Write a review of the Web site. Is it easy to use? What sort of information does

    the site include? Is there anything on the science of surfing or waves? How

    would you improve the Web site? 

  2. Write a script for a short movie about a surfing adventure or about someone

    learning to surf.


A wave’s speed is the distance traveled by a given point on the wave (such as a crest) in a given interval of time. If the crest of an ocean wave moves a distance of 20 meters in 5 seconds, what is the wave’s speed?