The Stoke of a Lifetime: Surfing and the Effect of Negative Ions | The Beachside Resident

“Only a surfer knows the feeling”. If you surf you have definitely heard this saying before. As a surfer, we know this to be true. But did you ever stop to ask…why? Well, there are scientifically based reasons why this saying is actually true, and the answer can be found in negative ions.

What are negative ions you ask? Simple, they are negatively charged particles. We all learned about these guys in basic Chemistry but for those of you who don’t keep up with it, I introduce Chem 101. An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving the atom a net positive or negative electrical charge. If it has more protons (pos charged) it’s called a Cation. If it has more electrons (negatively charged) it is called an Anion or Negative ion. Simple enough. Ions are odorless, tasteless and invisible. They are constantly being inhaled and taken into our bodies. Positive ions are also referred to as “free radicals”, which we all know have adverse effects on our bodies. So it would seem natural that negative ions would have beneficial effects on our bodies, which they do.

These ions, when taken into our bodies, produce biochemical reactions in our bloodstream that help to increase the levels of serotonin, which help to alleviate depression, stress, and boost our metabolism and diurnal or daytime energy. “Negative ions increase the flow of Oxygen to the brain which results in a higher alertness, a decrease in drowsiness and more mental energy”, says Pierce J Howard, PhD, director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, NC.

Turbulence created by waves alters the physical structure of air and water, breaking apart water molecules and releasing charged ions into the air, most of them negatively charged. So, for those who experience “surf stoke”, you are actually in fact, enjoying a chemical cocktail triggered by the negatively charged particles found in the atmosphere around turbulent water.

It is commonly believed that adrenaline and dopamine cause the “stoke”. Adrenaline is a chemical neurotransmitter that helps to regulate several bodily functions. The one we are most familiar with is the release of adrenaline or Epinephrine as it’s scientifically called, as a part of the “fight or flight” response of the sympathetic nervous system. In other words, Adrenaline gives you a “rush”, a quick, short lived one. Dopamine is also a neurotransmitter that is released when people are doing things that they enjoy. It gives you that “feel good” feeling, and can last much longer than the adrenaline rush we experience but it still subsides. The best explanation for the long lasting effects of “surf stoke” is negative ions.

Negative ions are not only found near pounding surf, but are also in high concentrations around waterfalls, mountains and during thunderstorms, particularly in the spring and summer when the air is warmer and more humid. Not everyone, however, responds to negative ions in the same manner. In fact, research shows that only 1 in 3 of us is sensitive to their effects. One way to find out if you are sensitive or not is to take a home test. First, stay inside with your windows shut for about 5 minutes. Then, open the windows and take in a breath of fresh, humid air. Are you instantly refreshed? Or next time you are indoors and the A/C is running, step outside, A/C actually produces positive ions. Again, do you feel instantly refreshed? And if you surf, do you often experience the “surf stoke” after you have ended your session? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you are most likely either sensitive or highly sensitive to the positive effect of negative ions. So get outside, go surf or kayak or climb a mountain. Go out and capture the positive vibes riding on the negative ions and experience the Stoke of a Lifetime!

Sandy Beach of Sandybeachsurfing, LLC

www.sandybeachsurfing.com

Credits
Wade, L.G. Organic Chemistry, 5th Edition. Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ. 2003

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