The Mechanics Of Rhythm, Part 2

The Mechanics Of Rhythm, Part 2

By Drew Kampion

Spread a blanket on the floor. Kneel at one end and take the edge of the blanket in your hands, then slowly snap waves down its length. The blanket doesn’t move, the waves ripple through it. The energy crosses the blanket in an oscillating wave pattern, diminishing (or decaying) as it moves toward the opposite end.

An ocean wave passing through deep water causes a particle on the surface to move in a roughly circular orbit, drawing the particle first toward the advancing wave, then up into the wave, then forward with it, then – as the wave leaves the particle behind – back to its starting point.

Because the speed is greater at the top of the orbit than at the bottom, the particle is not returned exactly to its original position after the passing of a wave, but has moved slightly in the direction of the wave motion. The radius of this circular orbit decreases with depth. In shallower water the orbits become increasingly elliptical until, in very shallow water – at a beach – the vertical motion disappears almost completely.

Its final destruction in shallow water culminates the three phases in the life of a wave. From birth to maturity to death, a wave is subject to the same laws as any other “living” thing, and – like other living things – each wave assumes for a time a miraculous individuality that, in the end, is reabsorbed into the great ocean of life.

“The Great Escape”, a painting by Ken Auster, Courtesy of the McKibben Gallery. Click Here to see more.


DREW KAMPION is the author of ”The Book of Waves” ”The Art of Christian Riese Lassen”, and ”Stoked: A History of Surf Culture”, the number-one selling book on the history of surf. He is a regular contributor to The Surfer’s Journal, Adrenalin, Longboard, and many other magazines. His website features some of his abundant and thoughtful work.

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