The history of surfing

The origin of surfing

A compact info about the origin, history and development of surfing

The origin

The origin of the history of surfing is attributed to the Polynesians. Already in the 12th century, they drew cave paintings with “surfers” on waves. The Polynesians were very hospitable & fun-loving people who lived in harmony with the sea. As a pastime, they spent a lot of time already surfing the waves with planks or a canoe.

With their sea voyages, they eventually brought surfing to Hawaii around 1720. For the Hawaiians, surfing was not just a “hobby” but quickly became an important part of their religion. When building a surfboard, they took great care in choosing the right tree and the work on the board was accompanied by religious rituals to secure the protection and goodwill of the gods.

Written traditions

The first written records of surfing are attributed to the discoverer of the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook. In 1778, he came across the archipelago and expressed in his diary his amazement at the skill of the natives who surfed the surf with a wooden board.

With the arrival of missionaries around 1820, pagan customs were replaced by strict church customs. Since both sexes surfed together at that time, it was immediately considered a superfluous, pagan and, above all, immoral waste of time. Then, in 1823, it was summarily banned. The cultural integration of surfing was lost from then on, so that surfing disappeared from most places in Hawaii and Polynesia around 1829.

19th century

Other famous explorers such as Mark Twain (1866) and also Jack London (1907) reported on the sport of kings and thus aroused great interest among the population. Jack London met A.H. Ford in Hawaii, who taught him to surf. Shortly thereafter, he founded the world’s first surf club, the Waikiki Outrigger Canoe and Surfboard Club, in 1908. One of his many reports, “A Royal Sport: Surfing at Waikiki,” published in an English women’s magazine, brought surfing its greatest publicity to date.

When in 1900 the Hawaiian Islands were appointed the 51st state of the USA, more and more vacationers traveled to the archipelago. The beaches were always “full” and swimming in the sea often became a dangerous adventure for the inexperienced tourists. In the course of this, the first lifeguards were deployed on the beach – and it quickly turned out that surfboards were the ideal rescue equipment. The lifeguards were mostly from Hawaiian families who were naturally familiar with the waves.

The Dude

Probably the most famous “surfer dude” , named “The Duke”, was born as one of six brothers on August 24, 1890. He was an excellent swimmer and one of the best surfers of all the islands. In 1912, he competed in the Stockholm Olympics and won the 100m freestyle in a superior world record time, due in no small part to his new crawl style derived from surfing.

From here on, surfing became more and more popular…

50s and 60s

In the 50s and 60s, surfing spread all over the world. The sport quickly developed into a lifestyle. Freedom and life in harmony with nature are the charms of surfing that intoxicate every surfer. Surfing experienced its first real boom with the movie “Gidget” in the 60s. After the film’s release, the number of active surfers increased tenfold in the U.S. alone. Another well-known film from this period is Bruce Brown’s “Endless Summer.” Both films show that the lifestyle associated with surfing is the biggest part of surfing.

Surfing today

Today’s surfing is more diverse and vibrant than ever. Over the last half century, surfing has evolved from a fancy extreme sport for the initiated few to a popular sport for young and old. The surfboards are smaller and weigh only a few kilos. The maneuvers in surfing are more radical and partly copied from other board sports. This is quite interesting, because all other board sports originate from surfing.

Surfing has now become a well-paid professional sport and the lifestyle around surfing has become a billion-dollar business for a newly formed industry.

Nevertheless, surfing has not lost its magic. On the contrary, more than ever surfers around the globe go surfing enthusiastically.

And this will not change in the future…

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