Science exists in several elements of surfing, including wave mechanics, swell models, weather patterns, athlete performance, and a long list of other areas. The technology that is being developed to advance surfing intends to improve athlete performance in an environment where conditions can be harsh and variable.
According to Red Bull High Performance team member Brandon Larson, “Technology is another tool that you can use in a series of things you do. The tribal knowledge, the experiential knowledge, the gut feelings, the collaboration between surfers and coaches will always come first. But having this data allows you to monitor progress, and correct any necessary changes.”
Below, watch the surfing innovations coming out of the Red Bull High Performance team, and discover three developments that are already being used in the water by pro surfers like Ian Walsh.
THE HEART (Effort)
Although it may look like a simple Band-Aid, this thin, flexible, waterproof, self-adhesive pad actually conceals a tiny microchip that’s busy gathering data before, during, and after a surfer’s ride: body temperature, heart rate, and respiration. The device collects and stores this information onboard locally but also zaps it via Bluetooth in real time back to coaches on shore.
THE FEET (Pressure/Control)
In an effort to quantify the pressure distribution used by pro surfers as they pump a board down the line of a wave, researchers inserted custom-built insoles from SoCal- based Pressure Profile Systems into surfers’ wetsuit booties. These insoles included sensors that measure the percentage of pressure from the front foot on the board versus the back foot. That info can be logged locally into an onboard microchip but also broadcast via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to the team’s high-speed cameras. Researchers are thus able to visually analyze what a surfer’s feet are doing as the board moves along the wave.
THE HANDS (Stroke/Power)
How far, how fast, and how hard a surfer paddles used to be pure conjecture. But now, by employing slim rubberized wristbands equipped with tiny accelerometers inside, researchers are able to measure output. Attached tightly to the wrist, this band is aligned precisely with the arm axis to analyze the cyclical stroke pattern of surfing. This data is then recorded locally onto the attached microchip and will give physiologists the ability to create a training regime based on the unique arm length, upper body and shoulder strength necessary to paddle into waves.