Surfing: a spectator-friendly sport | Photo: Rowland/WSL

Surfing attracts thousands of fans to the beach. But how can a water sport captivate more people than many elite football games?

The randomness factor that is inherent to the sport is one of the reasons why many of the world's most famous surf spots and beaches get packed during surf events.

Surfing is a game of multiple variables, and people like that.

You don't have to be a surfer or an avid follower of the Championship Tour to enjoy a great time in the sand watching a competition or at home, on the couch, eating popcorn, and drinking a beer.

Surfing is tremendously visual, and it quickly becomes fun to watch. All you need is high-end performers and good-to-great ocean conditions.

Let's break down the top 10 factors that make surfing such a unique and spectator-friendly sport:

1. Surfing Takes Place in the Ocean, and Waves are Ridden Near the Shore

Is there a more beautiful place to look at than the sea?

As a surfing spectator, you're invited to watch athletes doing their dance in the waves, which almost always break a few yards from the shore.

The action is taking place in front of your eyes, and you can even hear them landing aerials moves in the flats or throwing buckets of water after a powerful cutback.

2. Access to the Beach is Free of Charge

You don't have to pay a ticket to watch the world's best surfers performing in some of the greatest surf breaks on the planet.

The beach is the ultimate natural amphitheater. You're free to choose the place where you want to sit, and you can leave it any time you want.

Surfing: a sport that attracts thousands of fans to the beach | Photo: Rowland/WSL

3. Waves Are Always Different

You will never see two identical waves, not even in the same set. And that randomness, from a competitor's perspective, results in diversity, creativity, and heterogeneity.

Surfers never perform the exact maneuver the same way in two different waves. You'll always notice more or less subtle approaches from wave to wave.

Moreover, we never know what Mother Nature is up to next. Will she deliver a huge set or an uncontrolled freak wave? Will there be a long lull in the action?

4. There's Interaction Between Surfers and Fans

It's interesting to know that you will be given the opportunity to exchange a few words with a world champion and get a signed autograph from one of your idols.

When you're at the beach, watching your favorite surfers, there are always meet-and-greet moments that may change your perception of the venue, the athletes, and the sport as a whole.

5. The Basic Rules of Competitive Surfing Are Extremely Simple

If you have never witnessed a surf competition in your life, there's nothing to worry about - you'll be able to learn the basic rules of the sport in a couple of minutes.

Basically, surfers compete in two-, three-, or four-man heats that run for around 30 minutes.

The surfer (or top 2 surfers) with the best two-wave score wins the heat and moves through to the following round in a ladder tournament-style format.

Surfing: an adrenaline-fueled sport that can be watched online, on a television set, or at the beach | Photo: Kirstin/ASP

6. Heats Are Short and Highly Competitive

In competitive surfing, things can change pretty quickly. The surfer in the yellow jersey may hold the lead for 99 percent of the time and then lose it in the dying seconds of a heat to the man/woman in the red shirt.

Everything is in constant change, and the winner is sometimes announced when the competitors are already in terra firma, adding extra unpredictability to the contest.

7. Tricks and Maneuvers Are Eye-Catching

In professional surfing, it's all about speed, power, and flow. That's what wins heats.

Therefore, athletes are compelled to perform a broad range of maneuvers which may include barrel riding, airs, and various tricks on the face of the waves.

From a spectator's point of view, the combination of all these skills results in a surprising, exciting, and colorful canvas that is pleasing to watch.

8. Paddle Battles, Positioning, Priorities, and Tactics Spice Up the Game

The goal of competitive surfing is to catch and ride the best waves, but there's more than that in each heat.

In order to get the best waves, athletes have to make choices, paddle faster than their opponents, play with the clock, and burn others' opportunities.

Crowds: Brazilians adore surfing and their national idols | Photo: WSL

9. Anyone Can Win the Heat, the Event, and the World Title

Forget pre-determined winners. In competitive surfing, anything can happen.

There will be surfers who prefer right-hand barrels and others who feel more comfortable in high-performance left-handers with plenty of working space and ramps.

As with any other sport, there will always be favorites. But underdogs and inspired surfers often beat world title contenders, adding the right amount of drama to the whole show.

10. Live Broadcasts Are Fun to Watch

With the turn of the millennium, surf contest organizers started developing a successful broadcast model that keeps the spectator entertained.

It's not all about the surf. There are people on the beach, side events, interviews with heat winners, statistics, fans cheering their idols, historical insights, replays, marine life doing their thing, etc.

Whether you're watching the show online or on TV, you'll rarely get bored.

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