I thought surfing was all about being one with nature and leaving technology alongside your cares on the shore. Apparently not. In conjunction with Benjamin Thompson’s PhD research into the science of surfboards, a group of University of California San Diego mechanical engineering students have decked their deck with an onboard computer. Their purpose? To help Thompson discover whether there is an optimal flexibility – board stiffness – for the ultimate ride. The students fixed a small, watertight computer and eight sensors into the core of the board, then sealed it up against the elements. As they surfed, the computer recorded water velocity and sent it in real time to a laptop on shore. Yes, they did receive grants for this. The computer also saved the data on an in-built memory card. Surfboard flex affects how springy your board feels in the water, but it has not been scientifically measured or analyzed, until now.
Thompson wants to determine the degree to which flexibility enhances the performance of a surfboard, and to what extent the surfers’ experience or wave conditions affect the quality of the ride. His findings could herald the future for surf, skate and snowboard design.