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Surf's up: Why?
Have you ever wondered why people surf? Or dolphins for that matter?

By Patricia Rust

© photos: Twain Newhart, Hawaii, and Felix Gmünder, Switzerland

   Have you ever wondered why people surf? Or dolphins for that matter? To watch waves breaking at the beach is so beautiful, all the more so when you see humans or dolphins gliding, playing, and enjoying the ride nature provides for free. But what are waves and where do they come from?
   Have you ever built a sandcastle near the shore of an ocean? Sometimes you feel warm and sometimes you might feel cold while you play in the sun and sand. This is because the sun heats the earth unevenly, so the air is made out of both warm and cold winds and the warm winds rise. The cold air whooshes in to replace the warm air, which is called convection.
   Convection causes wind. And, as we know, the earth is always rotating from morning until night and from night until morning. The earth's rotation spins the wind into circles which is called the Coriolis effect. That is why storms spiral. Some things that seem to be still are moving all the time -- such as the earth and air.
   If the wind blows hard enough over the ocean, ocean swells may form. Swells travel across the oceans as their powers combine and smooth out. The smooth water is powered across the ocean and breaks on the ocean's shore to create waves. These are the waves surfers, dolphins, and seals love to ride and we love to watch.
   The sound and smell of the breaking waves is like no other and some people find the process very interesting. Scientists who measure these waves and study there are called oceanographers, and scientists who study the wind are called meteorologists. Giant buoys are placed in oceans and lakes around the world to gather information for weather reports, marine information, and wave size. If this is a subject of interest to you, you might grow up to become a meteorologist or oceanographer. And, you might just learn to surf the waves you study!
   So now you know that there is much to learn about waves. The next time you are at the beach or see a picture of the beach, you will know lots of good information.

Surf's up article


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Patricia Rust Productions (2003)


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