Surf's Up

The clear blue water matches the cloudless sky. The sun beats down, but the water keeps you cool. The wave rises up and you lie on your board, paddling hard. As the wave begins to curl, you pop up, find your balance and stand. The power of the wave carries you, and you enjoy the ride all the way to the shore.

It's easy to see why surfing is a popular sport. Even if you don't live near the ocean, surfing can still be thrilling to watch and learn about. Surfing requires athletic ability and the ocean provides a beautiful background for the sport.

History: Surfing has long been an essential part of island culture in places like Hawaii, Tahiti and many Polynesian islands. Legend has it that in many island villages, the best surfer became the chief. Surfing essentially reached America in the early 1900s, and was centered around Virginia Beach. Its popularity reached California, which has become the surfing capital of the United States. The sport remains popular in the islands, and is also very big in Australia, New Zealand and beaches in Latin America.

Pro Surfing: By the 1960s, surfing grew into a professional sport. Its governing body is the Association of Surfing Professionals, which stages competitions for the world's best surfers throughout the year. Each year, the surfer who earns the most points is named the World Surfing Champion. The ASP schedule lasts throughout the year and competitions take place all over the world. This year, there are competitions in Hawaii, Australia, Brazil, California, Portugal, Tahiti, South Africa, Spain, Peru and France. This gives fans all over the world a chance to watch their favorite surfers.

Famous Surfers: Perhaps the most famous surfer in the world is Kelly Slater. He has won the World Surfing Championship a record nine times between 1992 and 2008. The best female surfer is Layne Beachley, an Australian who has won the women's World Surfing Championship seven times. Both of these athletes are amazing to watch. They are simply the best in the world.

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