The contemporary surfboard is a combination of technological ingenuity and compromises made with Mother Nature. Where car designers look at aerodynamics, board shapers study hydrodynamics. Example: seen from the side, how much a board goes up at either end is known as the rocker. An aggressive rocker allows for tighter turns, a flatter board gives better straight-line speed.

Surfers tend to be environmentally aware, so makers are looking to more eco-friendly materials. Fast-growing plantation wood, like cedar, is becoming popular. Not that the bros are averse to burning jet fuel. The truly dedicated will travel the world in search of the perfect tube and to compete.

Professionals can earn $200,000 a year in prize money-even more in endorsements. Kelly Slater and Laird Hamilton have entered the realm of celebrity. Not bad for $459, the price of a decent longboard.

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