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Surfing is the sport of riding waves atop a narrow board called a surfboard, made from fibreglass, wood, foam, polyurethane, cellulose paints, and other materials.

Surfboards vary in size from 2-2.5 metres (6 feet 6 to 8 feet) in length, to 55 centimetres (22 inches) wide and 10 centimetres (3 inches) thick.

Accessories used for surfing could include fins on the board, a leash, wax, and often a wetsuit is worn, but for casual surfing, swimwear is sufficient.

The object of competitive surfing is to win points, based on style and skill. Surfing can also be participated a leisure activity with no competitive aspects, but for the purposes of this site, the sporting side will be explained.



There are two main formats used in surfing contests.

The first is the one-on-one type, where the winner progresses to the next round, and the four-person type, with the top-scoring two progressing.

There is usually a panel of five judges, and surfers are judged on how many manoeuvres they can perform in the critical part of the wave. They lose points for deliberately interfering with other competitors.

The heats usually last for 15 to 25 minutes, with the surfers allowed to catch as many waves as they wish in that time. The total waves counted to add together for the score may be 3, 4, or 5. The best times are used for scoring. The scores are added together, and the judges points are added together to provide the results.

Scoring criteria

Competitors are awarded points for each wave they ride. They score between 0.1 and 10 points per wave, with 0.1 increments. Riders are given maximum points for performing in the most difficult part of the wave, selected for quality and size, for the longest time at the fastest speed using the widest range of manoeuvers.

Fouls and misconduct

It is bad surfing etiquette to ride on someone else's wave, and it is against the rules in many competitions.

If a surfer takes off on the same wave as the surfer with priority, then it is classed as an interference.

Similarly, if a surfer is riding waves after the end of a heat, this has the same penalty.

A surfer who commits one of the above fouls will be either disqualified, or they can have their highest score cancelled.

Wave possession
Where possible, a wave should only be ridden by one competitor. A surfer is entitled to priority on a wave if they are closest to the curl, stands up before any other competitor paddles towards that wave, or is nearest the peak on a peak wave. If there is a surfer on each side of a peak wave, each surfer has possession of their own side.


There is no restriction on the length or weight of surfboard used. In fact, many surfers will have several boards, and will select one according to conditions.

In competitions, a coin will be tossed to decide which competitor will go first. Surfers will choose the wave they think will a long one, to give them a chance to display their manoeuvres.

The next competitor will then go on the next good wave, and so on. When both (or all) surfers are in the water, they will go around a priority buoy to decide who goes next.

Surfers can only take off ten times in a heat. Once their hands have left the rails, it is considered a ride by the judges. They may stop their turn, but only as long as their hands do not leave the board.

Whoever paddles around the priority buoy first gains the right to go first on the next waves.

An ideal scenario for a surfer would be to catch a big wave, and surf all the way back onto the beach, while displaying their moves. Obviously, more difficult, and more impressive manoeuvres gain more points than simpler ones.

In the finals of professional contests, a best-of-three sets system is used, with two sets being required for eventual victory.

Because waves are not uniform sizes, there is a set minimum for surf waves. The ASP has set it at half a metre (18 inches).


Two of the main surfing organisations run surfing tours, which take place all around theworld, with surfers travelling to different locations to build up their total score for the overall tour.

The ISA (International Surfing Association) runs an amateur tour every two years, with the winner generally turning professional, usually with the aid of a lucrative sponsorship deal or contract.

On turning professional, surfers then compete in the ASP World Tour events (Association of Surfing Professionals).

Most of these events are A rated and have prize money and 1000 points for the winner. Some events are AA rated which means 2000 points and increased prize money. The points awarded decrease by a percentage lower down the ratings.

At the end of the year, the professional surfers have their best 75% of points calculated, with the highest scorer winning the Championship.

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