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A Look Back at the History of Surfing

A Look Back at the History of Surfing

Duke Kahanamoku Statue in Waikiki Beach

Everybody here already knows about how exhilarating and rewarding of an experience surfing is. It’s a sport like no other and one so addictive that some have dedicated their lives to it.

Some people will uproot their lives and move to a different city to be closer to surfing-friendly beaches and find spots where the surfing community gravitates towards.

And hey, if you’re going to base your life and your personality around an activity, there are few better ones to choose from than surfing. It is endlessly fun and thrilling, but it also comes with several physical and mental health benefits.

It’s a good workout, serving a wide variety of different muscles as well as being great for your cardio. It gets you out in the sun to get a good dose of Vitamin D. The saltwater is good for your skin and hair and can also help relieve stress.

So, where did it all begin for what is now a globally known and practiced sport? Let’s find out and take a look back at the history of surfing:

 

Origins

Polynesian IslandA beautiful Polynesian island where the first record of surfing took place.

When we talk about the history of surfing, first records of it date back to 1767. In this year, European explorers traversing the Polynesian islands spotted natives surfing off the coast of the island of Tahiti.

It doesn’t seem all that recent to us, seeing as all you need for surfing is a wooden board and a suitable beach, and by this point of the 18th Century, the Industrial Revolution was already well underway.

It would be a little strange to think it took until that point in human history for at least one society to figure out the joy of such a sport, but keep in mind that the Polynesian islands weren’t even known to the rest of the world until 1722.

And it is widely theorized that surfing has been a substantial part of their culture, dating back thousands of years. There are 12th Century cave paintings in Hawaii that display people riding the waves.

The prevailing evidence would seem to suggest that to these early surfers, it wasn’t just a mere sport. It was also a massive, integral part of their culture and who they were. Many people in modern times have an almost religious dedication to surfing, but it was an actual spiritual practice in ancient Polynesia.

There is a belief that the Chief of a Polynesian tribe was the one who was the most skilled surfer, and the construction of one's surfboard was a spiritual experience and almost like a rite of passage in becoming an adult.

It’s understandable how something like this could take on such strong, religious importance. To these primitive civilizations, the ocean was like a powerful, dangerous God, and conquering the waves was like conquering God.

The American Revolution came not long after the first observation from Europeans. So it wasn’t for about a hundred years before surfing slowly started to take over America and subsequently the world.

20th Century Rise

In the early 1900s, surfing exploded in America, but it first came to the United States a little earlier than that. Some cases were already on the West Coast of America, mainly California when Hawaiians traveled to demonstrate to the locals.

And it then took off in the East Coast thanks to James Matthias Jordan Jr., who brought a redwood board he’d crafted in Hawaii over to Virginia Beach in Florida to display the sport he’d learned from Hawaiian natives.

Ever since then, Virginia Beach has been one of the most popular spots globally for surfers, who travel from all over to get a taste of those epic Florida waves. Though, a ton of the credit for surfing’s popularity has to go to the legendary Duke Kahanamoku.

The Duke was a native of Hawaii, a freestyle swimmer who won a gold medal in the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. He became a global superstar because of this, and when he was a part of the first-ever public surfing exhibition in Sydney, Australia, in 1914, even more people noticed.

Statue of Duke KahanamokuThis statue was erected as a tribute to Duke Kahanamoku—the Father of Modern Surfing, and is the first person to be inducted in both the Surfing and Swimming Halls of Fame.

Now that it was present in a couple of places, surfing’s rise in popularity continued throughout the 20th Century and saw an even greater boom in the 1960s. Thanks to the ‘Beach Party’ genre of Hollywood films and mainstream surf music like The Beach Boys, there were more eyes on surfing than ever before.

It became a global phenomenon in that decade, and the world has never looked back.

Surfing Today

Surfing has now spread out worldwide, and in any country with beaches suited to it, you can guarantee there is a huge surfing community in the towns and cities surrounding those beaches.

And in 2021, we saw what is perhaps the most significant advancement surfing had ever had when it made its debut as an official Olympic sport in the Tokyo games. It is something that will change the face of surfing forever.

It will be taken even more seriously going forward. More so than ever, dedicated surfers can feel justified in putting so much time and effort into it—getting themselves into good surfing shape and spending hours practicing.

Having the proper diet to be able to reach your full potential is essential in surfing. A ketogenic diet suits it well, and because surfers tend to always be on the go, finding fast food keto options is a good idea. And, of course, investing in a good, personalized board.

There are a ton of resources out there for surfers now. There are specific stores. There are blogs and informational websites and an abundance of ways to connect with other surfers. There has never been a better time to pursue it as a hobby or even something more.

As we have established, surfing is only getting more popular and more respected as time goes by. It’s a sport with a rich history and an even richer history still being written in 2021. And to think it all started on those tiny, isolated islands tucked away in the sprawling Pacific.

Guest post by: Veronica Lane

 

 

 

More Wave Tribe Reads:

Glossary of Surfing Terms and Surf Slang
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What Causes Waves In The Ocean? (Every Surfer’s Friend)

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