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Science backs up the claim: The best waves are created by winds

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Scientists who study waves have confirmed what surfers already know - the best waves are created by winds. Falk Feddersen is a professor at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

FALK FEDDERSEN: The wind doesn't just affect how much the wave tubes, but it also affects at what location the wave breaks and how much turbulence the wave generates.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Feddersen and his team of researchers wanted to know more about how that works, so they took a trip to the Kelly Slater Wave Company Surf Ranch. Yes, there really is a surf ranch on the central California coast.

FEDDERSEN: It's essentially - can be treated as a laboratory. We can control the waves but then the wind naturally varied.

INSKEEP: They found offshore winds make the best tube or barrel waves. You can picture them now - the top of the wave curving downward, maybe a surfer in there, looking tiny.

FEDDERSEN: Offshore wind is when the wind blows from land straight out to sea. Onshore wind is when wind blows from sea straight onto land.

FADEL: The researcher will help create wave models that can be used to predict and track coastal flooding and shore erosion.

INSKEEP: And if surfers should also get some clues from all this, they'll surely be stoked.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.