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Oceanside's Surf Museum explores science of surfing

KPBS North County reporter Alexander Nguyen shows viewers a new exhibit that reveals the science behind surfing at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.

A new exhibit at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside delves into the science of surfing; how waves are formed and forecasted.

“This long tapestry here shows from when you get a lot of storms that generates waves, the waves come through and then they build and build,” said president of the California Surf Museum Jim Kempton.

The exhibit was funded by a grant from the city of Oceanside and features all elements of STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.


Many would say surfing is an art, but this exhibit also shows the science behind it, like why Black's Beach in San Diego is a perfect place to catch the waves.

“'The Science of Surfing' has a number of different components. One of them is about the shape of the shoreline and whether it's a reef or a beach break, or a cobblestone point," he said. "And all of those have different properties in terms of how waves break. So you learn about why the waves break certain ways in different places.”

There are exhibits showcasing how math can help surfers improve their skills, as well as the engineering marvel behind the surfboard.

"We talk about the length of a board, the width of a board, the thickness and volume, the concave, the rocker, the rails, the nose and tail and the fin placement,” Kempton said.

On display are a replica surfboard workshop, and the tools of the trade so museum-goers can see the engineering that goes into the making of a surfboard.


“If you have a board that you want to be really fast on, you have a different kind of shape," Kempton said. "If you have a board that's made for really big waves or really small waves, you'll design a different board.”

"The Science of Surfing" exhibit is on display until the end of the year. The California Surf Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

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