The Science of Skimboarding

Tell us about an activity that is important to you, and why.


As I stood on the wet beach assessing the oncoming wave, I threw the skimboard onto the sand, and jumped on. “How could I generate more speed?” I thought to myself. Calling upon inspiration from Mr. Harvie, my AP Physics teacher, I envisioned a homemade tow-rope that would allow for a skimmer to gain more momentum by being pulled down the beach by two runners. The ‘Y’ design of my new invention allowed for nearly all of the wasted horizontal vector to be eliminated, as both runners could run as close together as possible in order to maximize the forward force. As we experimented with the prototype, we enjoyed being whipped around into the wave to catch maximum air. I began to address the need for more acceleration during the ‘whip’ as I applied the law of circular motion, which states that circular acceleration is inversely proportional to the radius, or length of the rope. Therefore, a shorter rope would generate the greatest degree of acceleration while launching into the wave. As I sat in the sun working with the rope, pondering mixed vectors, tension forces, and circular acceleration, I knew Mr. Harvie would be pleased. I have continued my quest for improvements to this device and other ways to generate more thrill. I have...

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