Today is International Surfing Day. Why surf?

It's International Surfing Day, so let the experts dive into the sport's appeal

Today is International Surfing Day.  But, really, what's so special about surfing?

Surfrider Foundation started the celebration 10 years ago -- a day for groms, newbs and pro-surfers alike to salute their sport and the ocean itself.

"Get out and enjoy it," Surfrider's Katie Ferguson encouraged via email Friday with the Los Angeles Times. The activist group uses the day to promote the protection of oceans and beaches and "to ensure ... there's clean water to paddle in and waves to surf."

The popularity of surfing is growing around the world. A 2012 report shows the number of surfers (or at least, those who claim to be surfers) worldwide grew from 26 million in 2001 to 35 million in 2011. 

Why do so many people want to surf? We asked a couple of guys who are deep into the sport.

"It's something that people from all walks of life can do," said Zach Weisberg, editor and publisher of the Inertia. And it's not just Spicolis in the California surf. "All sorts of amazing people" are giving it a try.

Matt Warshaw, who wrote the book on surfing -- the Encyclopedia of Surfing -- has been a surfer for the greater part of 45 years. Before writing the encyclopedia, he worked for Surfer Magazine from 1985 to 1990 and served as its editor in his last year there.

Back in the 1960s, Warshaw said, surfing "really meant something. It was a choice you had to make to surf a lot ... because people didn't understand it. It didn't have a place.

"Your teachers didn't know about it, your parents didn't know about it. You had to make a choice to be a surfer." 

Today, Warshaw sees more and more of surf culture being co-opted by sportswear companies and extreme sports media. But at the end of the day, "it’s too great a sport not to be popular."

Both men talked about what it takes to become a surfer -- and it's not  buying the latest brand fashions or shelling out thousands for the newest board. What it takes is time.

"Becoming a surfer really requires one giant thing, that moment, or that session, that you fall in love with the ocean," Weisberg said. "After that, it’s a matter of persistence. Because it takes a long time to become comfortable in the ocean."

Warshaw said after decades of surfing that he still loved to hunt down a good wave: "I still want to go down now and again, take my clothes off and ride waves.

"It's not complicated, it's a really simple thing to do."

Warshaw added that you have to be willing to look silly. "If you're going to start surfing, find the best surf school around, put on the same dopey wetsuit as everyone else and go out and learn."

Surfing, they said, is about how it makes you feel.

However you get into it, if you "really want to do it," Warshaw said, "all the stuff about surfing that is important and lasting will make itself known to you."

Twitter: @SLeasca

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