Surfing: finding the wave's sweet spot is finding speed | Photo: Moran/Red Bull

A postdoctoral researcher, who also happens to be a surfer, has identified the precise location on the wave where a surfer finds the greatest speed.

According to the physics of a wave, the mathematical sweet spot is right inside the curl, in an area commonly known as the "pocket."

"I was surprised that I finally figured out how to do this because this is something that I've been thinking about for a long time," notes Nick Pizzo, a physical oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Pizzo studied the area of the wave where air and water meet because the corresponding results also have an impact on the prediction of hurricanes and storms.

"The study is motivated by the oceanographic things that I discuss, but in reality, there's quite a bit of motivation from me surfing."

The wave's sweet spot: there's a mathematical formula that explains speed in surfing

The study "Surfing Surface Gravity Waves" has been published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics.

"My research focuses on waves and their role in air-sea interaction. So I drew the analogy between the particles that I'm theoretically describing and a surfer because it allows us to use our intuition."

"The theory was saying two things: the first is that to catch the wave, you should be traveling near the speed of the underlying wave. And secondly, it was a quantification of the sweet spot, so where is the maximum horizontal acceleration."

"And again this is something that surfers also know - it's right in the curl of the wave that is right below where the wave is breaking," concludes Pizzo.

Want to know more about waves? Learn how waves are formed, and why do they break. Discover the four types of breaking waves.