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Activity: Locating Surf Breaks

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:

Materials

  • Table 5.1
  • Computer with internet access
  • Google Earth browser computer plug-in or other similar geo-referencing software

Procedure

A. Characterize a surf break.

  1. Using your prior knowledge about waves, wave properties, and surfing, make a list of the features of a good surf spot.
     
  2. Open Google Earth or other geo-referencing software on a computer with an Internet connection.
     
  3. Choose one of the surf breaks listed in Table 5.1. Using Google Earth, locate the surf break and zoom in to see the break clearly.
     
  4. Write a general description of what you see.
    1. What shape is the beach?
    2. Do you see waves breaking in the image? If so, what kind (e.g., spilling or plunging breakers)?
    3. Are there any patterns to how the waves are breaking?
       
  5. Sketch the coastline and surf break, labeling any important features. Include a scale on your drawing.
     
  6. Hypothesize the reasons that this surf break is good for surfing. Consider topography, substrate type, beach size, and shape.
     
  7. Test your hypothesis by researching why experts think your surf break is good for surfing. As part of your research, you may want to consult ocean floor (bathymetry) maps, look at weather maps, and examine the typical wind direction and tidal fluctuations in an area. Keep track of all your sources and make sure they are reputable.
     
  8. (Optional) Research additional information about the surf break you choose. Consider the following questions:
    1. When is the best time of year to surf at the break?
    2. Is the break affected by tides?
    3. How big are the waves on a typical surfing day?
       
  9. (Optional) Repeat Steps 3–8 for additional surf breaks listed in Table 5.1, or choose your favorite surf spot or a famous surfing location.
     
  10. Share what you found about your surf breaks with your classmates.

 

B. Discover a new surf break.

  1. Using Google Earth, apply what you know about surf breaks to try to predict where a good surf break might be somewhere in the world.
     
  2. Answer as many of the following questions as you can about your potential surf location:
    1. Where is it located (including GPS coordinates)?
    2. What shape is the coastline?
    3. How large is the surf break?
    4. What type of waves break on the shore? Are there any patterns to how the waves are the breaking?
    5. What type of surfing break do you think your surf location has (e.g., beach, point, reef, or river)?
    6. Include any additional observational information you feel is relevant to determine if your location is a good surf spot.
       
  3. Sketch the coastline and surf break, labeling any important features. Include a scale on your drawing.
     
  4. Test your hypothesis by researching your location. Do people surf in this area? How popular is the location? Why, or why not, is it a good surf spot? Keep track of all your sources and make sure they are reputable.
     
  5. Share your new surf break with your classmates.
     
  6. (Optional) Repeat Steps 2–5 to predict additional surf breaks.

 

Activity Questions: 
  1. Did you notice any patterns in surf locations researched by you and your classmates? What do you think makes a good surf spot?
     
  2. Was your hypothesis about why a beach was a good surfing location (in Part A) supported by your research? Why or why not?
     
  3. Was your predication about if location was good for surfing (in Part B) supported by your research? Why or why not?
     
  4. What sources did you use to research your hypotheses? How did you check that they were reputable?

Table of Contents:

Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.