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Surfin' Scientist Sets Up Surfboard With Sensors and Sails Sick Swells

testing the wired surfboard
Who says all surfers are gnarly? A University of California at San Diego engineering graduate student (and amateur surfer) is using his two loves -- science and surfing -- to figure out what makes the perfect board. According to Wired, Benjamin Thompson equipped a surfboard with eight sensors and a microprocessor that gathers data, like water velocity, and relays it back to an onshore laptop. Thompson and his team want to figure out what makes for optimal flexibility -- the point at which a board bends perfectly for a surfer on a wave.

In the surfing community, there are two schools of thought; some prefer a rigid board and others like a more flexible one. But, the problem is, there's no system informed by hard data that can let surfers know whether or not a board will meet their standards before buying it. Thompson wants to change that by correlating the hard data his surfboard collects with a rider's reported experience. This, he hopes, will provide surfers with a foolproof way to rank boards. In his next trial, Thompson will attach 50 sensors, accelerometers, strain transducers and gyroscopic instruments to a surfboard, which will then store the data on an attached flash drive, in order to get a better idea of what makes the "perfect surfboard."

Thompson should be careful about bringing science to this zen hobby, though. If his experiment is a success, people might start taking surfers more seriously, and the slacker image that surfers have (barely) worked to cultivate since the '60s could be destroyed.

Tags: accelerometer, sports, surf, surfboard, surfer, surfing, top, waves