Podcast

The Slick Trick Sea Ducks and Surfers Use to Avoid Getting Smashed by Waves

Surf Scoters forage for food where waves break with the greatest violence.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

Transcript:

This is BirdNote.

The sea ducks called Surf Scoters are perfectly at home in the element they’re named for. Male Surf Scoters are black with massive orange bills, and they swim alongside brown females among the waves — smack in the middle of what surfers call the impact zone. Just where the waves break with greatest violence.

Why risk the harshest waves when there’s calmer water close by? Because the intense churning action of crashing waves can expose small clams and small crabs that scoters eat. 

A more crucial question: how do Surf Scoters avoid getting mashed by the sea? When a towering wave is about to crash down, the scoter deftly dives and swims under the crest of the foaming breaker, then pops up on the other side. Very slick.

Surfers, the human counterpart of Surf Scoters, share something vital with the ducks. A surfer swimming out from shore to find that perfect wave may need to pass through some prodigious breakers without being smacked backwards. To accomplish this, the surfer shoves the tip of the surfboard down below the surface, dives under snug to the board, and swims safely under the wave’s crest. Just like a scoter.

It’s a move that surfers call “duck diving.”

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

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Credits:

Written by Bob Sundstrom

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie

Narrator: Michael Stein

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2017 Tune In to Nature.org  March 2017  

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