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The development of early modern marine science brought intellectual innovations into contact with physical encounters in oceanic environments. Many important scientific developments took shape from the decks of ships, or during the disorienting moments when human bodies immersed themselves in salt water. Prolonged physical encounters with the ocean were essential to intellectual history. This essay joins together experiential elements of premodern science with modern surfing culture and in particular a body-surfing excursion featuring a group of humanities academics in California in 2014. Both the early modern and the twenty-first-century histories reveal the interplay of watery encounters and scientific thinking.