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Surf Science: The Physics of Noseriding

How Lauren L. Hill Can Help You (Me) Stop Sucking at Noseriding

// Mar 3, 2023
Words by Corina Stephens
Reading Time: 4 minutes

There are many things in this world that mystify me.

Interior design, Centigrade to Fahrenheit conversion, how airs happen… I’m aware of their existence; I admire people who are good at them; But I have no comprehension of how they actually work. 

To my credit, though, I’ve never devoted a significant amount of time or energy to understanding any of the aforementioned skill sets or concepts. I have, on the other hand, spent countless hours of my life in the ocean, on a longboard – fade-turning, cross-stepping, and cutting back to my heart’s content. But something’s been missing. After nearly two decades of devotion to the sport of lazy kings (and queens), I’m ashamed to admit that I still don’t know how to nose ride.

Maths was never my strong suit.

*collective gasp*

I know, I know. It’s a deeply shameful surf sin that I have yet to rectify with the Stab pod gods.

What’s worse is that I’ve devoted an embarrassing amount of time and effort to the elusive art of suspending my lower digits past the forward-most edge of a long surfboard, with no real success to speak of. I’ve watched innumerable hours of more nasally-proficient surfers clock tip time or cheat five but the theory has remained enigmatic. Speed + running = tip time? Hmm… I must be doing something wrong.

Lauren, doing her own research.

But, as most community college-educated surfers like myself know, hypotheses and practical execution are rarely the same thing (ie. Watching Belinda Baggs be excellent at putting her piggies over does not, by obsession or Osmosis, make me excellent at the said endeavor).

However (thankfully), there are a few scientific principles that come into play in what is arguably surfing’s most magical maneuver. Newtonian Physics, the Coanda Effect, and the newly-discovered Vegemite-and-Peanut-Butter principle are a few, and each is stylishly featured front and center in Lauren L. Hill‘s newest short film, The Physics of Noseriding.

According to Tom Wegener, “Suction + tension = hang ten.” Lola Mignot, here, doing some advanced equations.

In her trademark, charming and cheeky style, the author, podcast co-host, and sage storyteller of surfing’s less *ahem* exposed nuances explains the inexplicable, demystifying the dance of forward trim by breaking it down into the digestible (mm, peanut butter) elements that work in concert to achieve such apparent waterborne witchcraft.

Part of me always thought this was a conspiracy, kind of like birds.

“This film really started simply with me wanting to intellectually understand how noseriding works,” Hill says about the project’s origin. I imagine that many are now grateful for her curiosity.

Along with a cast of surfing’s most expert toe-dangling enthusiasts and starring Namaala Slab, Lauren and Co. nimbly illustrate this supernatural niche of surf science through playful vignettes, elegant diagrams, and excellent surfing.

Behold, the Coandă effect (the tendency of a fluid jet to stay attached to a convex surface).

Sitting at just over ten minutes, Physics is as entertaining as it is informative and leaves the nasally challenged with a clearer understanding of simple concepts that can be implemented as soon as your next knee paddle. But, more importantly, the film offers a sense of potential redemption for those of us afraid to take that extra step forward and the hope that we, too, can one day achieve blissful levitation.

A professional freesurfer and an aquatic wombat in their mutual natural habitat. Photo via Waterpeople Podcast

Moving forward, Lauren plans to delve deeper into the world of motion pictures. When asked what was next on her to-do, she replied, “Physics was really a jumping-off point to gather some skills for visual storytelling so I can do a better job next time. I typically work just in the written word, or in audio, so it was a challenge to bring in visuals, music, and directing and make them somewhat all work together. I have deep respect for the folks who do it well. I do have another surf-science exploration in mind, but right now I’m working on a screenplay about a forgotten story from surfing’s past.”

We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for that but, in the meantime, you can follow Lauren on Instagram, learn more about her work at www.laurenlhill.com or listen to the highly-regarded Waterpeople Pod, which she creates alongside her husband and sea unicorn, Dave Rastovich.

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