Heroes

See the surfboard that reads the ocean in a way many scientists haven't been able to.

You don't need a background in science to contribute to science. But in this case, you may want to know how to surf.

This surfboard is so smart, it may change what we know about the ocean.

This may look like an ordinary surfboard but nope — it's the future. Image via Smartfin.


It's called a Smartfin (formerly known as Smartphin), and it's mixing technology with surfing to answer questions about the hardest-to-reach part of the ocean: the area closest to us.

Scientists have a heck of a time figuring out what's going on in the ocean waters nearest to the shore.

It turns out that the part of the ocean that's most accessible for swimming, surfing, and having fun is also the hardest area to collect data from. Who would have thought?

As described in Wired, the effects of constant waves crashing on the shore make it difficult to use equipment that'll last and properly track the waters. Sounds rough.

The water is so mysterious. Image via Thinkstock.

That's where Dr. Andrew Stern and Benjamin Thompson come in.

Stern, an environmental filmmaker and former professor, and Thompson, a surfboard engineer, have developed what they call the Smartfin: a surfboard fin that's embedded with a data-collecting chip that can track crucial data on nearshore waters. According to Wired, it can determine a surfer's location and then measure the temperature, salinity, and acidity of the water.

That sounds like a pretty cool development in itself, but two little words remind you that the effect might be much bigger: climate change.

Nearshore waters can tell us a lot about the kind of effect climate change is having on our oceans.

From a feature in Outside:

"Oceans have absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide we've emitted since the dawn of the industrial age, making them around 25 percent more acidic than they were then. That lower pH (higher acidity) impedes the growth of calcium carbonate and is already harming shellfish fisheries and coral reefs."

The Smartfin produces data the science community can use to understand what's happening to our nearshore waters, which tells us about the impact of climate change over periods of time. It can also tell surfers where to find the best waves. A double win!

You may be able to buy one soon. Image via Smartfin.

Smartfin is coming soon to California.

Smartfin plans to pilot its device with 150 participants in San Diego starting in November 2015, says Design Indaba. After a two-month testing period, it should be available for people to buy. So stay tuned!

Surfers and scientists working together on one of the biggest issues of our time? Yes, yes, and yes. A+ teamwork.

Just makes you wonder: What will the next big idea be?